For Louise, Miss., cotton producer Darrington Seward, precision farming isn’t a high-tech, futuristic method of farming. It’s standard operating procedure on the farm and has been for quite some time now.

The fourth generation farmer, his father Byron, and Scott Harris farm about 18,000 acres under two planting companies, Seward & Son Planting Co., and Seward & Harris Planting Co.

They have 5,000 acres of cotton, 7,000 acres of soybeans, 1,000 acres of rice, 4,500 acres of corn and 500 acres of wheat.

The history of precision agriculture for the Sewards started about 25 years ago, with Byron’s work on variable-rate applications of fertilizer.

“Back then, there weren’t any variable-rate controllers, so Jimmy Sanders, our fertilizer dealer, would flag the field so my father could put out different rates,” he says.

The Sewards have become old hands since then.

“Precision farming is not really an extraneous module to us. It’s not extracurricular,” Byron says. “It’s the way we farm — everything we do is focused around precision agriculture.

After cutting stalks after cotton harvest, Seward will make a variable-rate application of potash, phosphate, sulfur and zinc based on 2.5 acre grid sampling.

He writes the prescriptions on a Web-based software program called OptiGro owned by Jimmy Sanders, Inc., and created in partnership with AgJunction and MapShots.

“It gives me the ability to write variable-rate prescriptions for multiple controllers. The applications are made with either a GVM Prowler with a Viper Pro controller or an AirTractor 802 with a Hemisphere GPS controller.”

Seward burns down aggressively to keep resistant Palmer pigweed at bay.

“We don’t do a variable-rate burndown, but we’ll get started in November and work though February. We want to keep everything clean 24-7.

“This past year, we used some variable-rate Cotoran based on CEC. We put out higher rates where the soil type is heavier.”

For the last 10 years, Seward has run four John Deere 1720 cotton planters, but will be shifting to two 60-foot John Deere-Orthman planters with hydraulic drives that will allow for variable-rate seeding of the 2012 cotton crop.