“We can do straight A-B guidance, or we can set up irregular patterns, or pivot circles. Pretty much whatever you need, you can do.”

He has the systems configured for various fields and crops and for various operations — fertilizing, planting, chemical applications, etc.

Davis’ main farm here is 2,000 acres, and he has another 750 acres in adjacent Grenada County that is rented out.

“My father bought the farm here in 1987, and I joined him in 1991 after I’d graduated from Mississippi State University with an ag economics degree. I bought the farm from his estate in 2005.”

There are three center pivots on the farm here — one covers 507 acres, another 249 acres, and another 161 acres — and a 37-acre field is furrow irrigated.

“All the acreage here is contiguous, and the fields are large, which gives us a lot of long rows.”

Davis says his family has been in farming “going back to my great-grandfather, and we’ve always grown cotton.” The only exception was 2009, “and it was just because the margins weren’t there. But, there’ve been a lot of years when cotton kept us in business.

“Last year was our first year with peanuts. We had 325 acres, which was somewhat more than I had intended, but I needed that much to make them pencil out.” The peanuts are trucked to Birdsong Peanuts, which has a buying point at Prairie, Miss.

“This year, we’ll go heavy on corn again, with a smaller acreage of peanuts, about 600 acres of cotton, and some shirttail acres of soybeans.”

“I do most of the combining myself, and these systems have sure made that less stressful than before.”

Davis says a pressing need in his operation is grain storage, and “as soon as I get over 2009, that’s the direction in which I’m going to be moving.”

Changing trends

The widespread and increasingly rapid adoption of GPS-based guidance systems has resulted in significant changes in Delta farming operations, says Jay Rose, agriculture sales specialist, Thompson Machinery, Greenwood, Miss., which sells Challenger tractors, Lexion combines and other farm equipment.

“Most of our customers are now using GPS-based systems,” he says. “They started with tractor units, then migrated to systems combines, sprayers, , and other equipment. In the last couple of years, RTK guidance systems for combines have really taken off.”

In addition to offering sub-inch accuracy in tillage, fertility, chemical application, and harvesting operations, Rose says, producers are able to realize greater efficiencies in fuel, equipment, and inputs. The result has been a reduction in equipment needs.

“Ten years ago, a 4,000-acre farmer might have eight or nine tractors; today, he does it with three or four. These systems allow him to extend the workday in critical spring/fall operations; now, he can go 24/7.

“Instead of running eight or nine tractors 10 hours a day to get the job done, he can now run three or four tractors 24 hours a day. You don’t see spare tractors sitting around any more; farmers are buying what they need and getting the most out of them.”

With the big move to corn in the Delta and wider combine headers — 40-foot headers are now commonplace — Rose says, the operator can’t watch everything at once.

“It’s more important than ever to have accurate alignment as the combine goes through the field. It’s practically impossible to eyeball it and keep it straight hour after hour. Not to mention that it’s extremely tiring.

“Without guidance, the combine may be missing as much as five feet of crop per trip down the field. Over the harvest season that adds up in time and fuel and yield loss. With guidance, trips across the field are precise. Because he doesn’t have to concentrate on steering, he’s better able to eyeball what’s happening behind the tractor or to monitor other functions.”