The Richard family tried a fertilizer blend instead of straight urea on their rice this season. The move saved them money and helped increase their rice yields.

“We applied 500 pounds of 41-0-0-4 per acre and had a beautiful rice crop this year,” says Ronnie Richard of Shaw, Miss. “We still have everything in the bins and don't know the final yield yet, but we definitely made a high-yielding crop.”

“Fertilizer prices keep going up, and we had a little bit better price on that blend this year than we did with urea,” said Agriliance's Troy Odom, who recommended the blend. “The Richards were able to save about $25 to $30 per ton, and it seemed to work better.”

This family operation comprises Ronnie, his son, Rance, his brother, Tommy, and their father, Pervis.

They are basically a soybean/rice operation, normally rotating two years of beans and one of rice. This year they planted 2,100 acres of beans, 1,400 acres of Cocodrie, 355 acres of corn and 100 acres of milo.

This season was their first for corn. “Rance wanted to plant some corn so we tried it,” Ronnie says. “We had a good yield but a thunderstorm blew it down and made harvesting pretty rough.”

“If corn prices go up to $4 or $5, we'll probably plant another 355 acres in 2008,” says Rance.

The Richards plant Pioneer, DynaGro, Hornbeck and Garst soybeans. This year, they planted 675 acres of Group 4s and the remainder in Group 5s to stagger their harvest. Rance says, “We try to get the Group 4s out of the field before we cut rice and cut Group 5s following rice.”

“This year our soybeans will probably average in the mid-50s,” said Ronnie. “We figure the Group 4s cut in the 50s and the Group 5s are averaging 60 to 65 bushels.”

In their rice, the Richards use consultant Bill Killen from Cleveland, Miss., who makes the herbicide calls. “Bill has been consulting for a long time, and I credit a lot of our high yields to his checking,” says Ronnie.

The Richards also rely on Agriliance for other products and service. They use just about every service that Agriliance offers, including seed, fertilizer, chemicals and soil sampling. “I make sure the Richards get the products they need at the best price,” says Agriliance's Odom.

Ronnie says Troy backs up price with service. “My consultant gives me a field report, and I just call Troy and say I need a certain amount of a herbicide and he'll get it to the airport. I don't have to go back and check whether it was delivered because I know Troy will take care of me.

“Fertilizer is the same way. If we're going to put out 100 pounds of fertilizer, Troy will get it there. At certain times of the year, I can't load a truck and haul it somewhere. Troy has it done for me, which saves me time. At critical periods of the season, you can't put a price on time.”

Ronnie says he and Troy have been friends since high school, which makes their working relationship even better. “A friend has more interest in your operation than a normal salesman would.”

The Richards drill beans and rice on straight-levee'd, precision-leveled ground. They historically farm minimum-till, working the ground some in the fall and leaving it undisturbed in the spring.

“I like to plant rice and beans in a good, clean stale seedbed,” says Ronnie. “Farming minimum-till saves diesel, which saves us money.”

These Mississippi growers have had some occurrence of red rice, which they have controlled in the past with Clearfield rice. CL 131 had performed the best on their farm, but was not available this year. They are paying close attention to CL 171 and might try some in 2008.

To keep up on new varieties, products and practices, the Richards read agricultural publications, search the Internet, and listen to their consultant, salesmen, and fieldmen.

“I try to learn as much as I can in one year but by the time the next year rolls around, I'm starting all over,” says Rance. “Technology and products and practices change so much and so fast.”