“We rotate our bean and rice ground,” Ransom says, “and have been including corn in the rotation since we got out of cotton about six years ago.”

The move away from cotton, which had been grown on the farm going back for four generations, was Ransom’s idea, Abbott says.

“It has proved a great decision for us, given the strong grain prices in recent years. It allowed us to add more rice and to start growing corn, which has been beneficial for weed control and for helping build up the soil.

“The best cotton crop we ever made was 850 pounds — and we still didn’t make any money, plus there were always conflicts with labor for our other crops. On these heavy soils, I just don’t see us going back to cotton.”

Two of the best things that have happened for farming buckshot ground, Abbott says, “have been glyphosate and oversize tires on farm equipment. Our tractors are mostly John Deere, equipped with dual wheels on front and big flotation tires, and one has tracks. Our combines are CaseIH 8120s, two with flotation tires and one with tracks.

“We have a new Great Plains 3PYP 40-foot planter that drills 15-inch rows. It came with one wheel on the front and we added another. It is very efficient and very accurate. We also have a Great Plains drill that we use for rice and beans.

All of today’s equipment is so much more versatile and reliable than in years past.

 “We used to have to disk a lot of land; now, we plant everything we can minimum-till and no-till. We get better yields, need less equipment, use less energy and labor, and again, it’s more cost-effective. Behind corn and where we’re irrigating, we’ll apply Valor in the fall, then an application of Valor and 2,4-D in the spring, and plant.

“On our heavy soils, there is a much smaller window for planting, and when the ground is ready we have to be ready to go; we can’t wait.

“We buy everything in bulk: seed, fertilizer, chemicals, fuel. There is less handling and transporting — it’s much more efficient and cost-effective to get a truckload of seed than an equivalent number of bags, which cost more and then have to be disposed of.

“My father, Ransom A., had been planting on 38-inch rows, but the crop never would close up, so he changed to 30-inch rows in 1972. Where we can’t water, we broadcast beans on 10-inch rows.”

Abbott says his father began land forming his cotton land in the 1960s.

“Over the years, we’ve continued a systematic program of putting land to grade. In most instances, we move less than 1,000 yards of dirt per acre. In some places, as the land settles, we’ll have to come in and reform it.

“About 1,000 acres of the rice land is zero grade with straight levees, which is the most efficient way to grow rice. It uses much less water — there’s just no waste — and water is much easier to control. We can do all our fertilizer and chemical applications with ground equipment, you don’t have all those gates to contend with, and at harvesttime it cuts as easily as a wheat field.