Robert Douglas Sims, whose pioneer efforts in commercial crop consulting and entomology research earned him the reputation “best in his field,” died Feb. 15 at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, Ark. He was 76.
A native of Philadelphia, Miss., Sims served in the United States Navy during World War II, despite being 16 at the time of America's entrance into the war.
Following the war's end, Sims attended Mississippi State University where he received his Master's degree and conducted research projects in a field which would eventually take him on crop consulting jaunts across the Mississippi Delta, Texas, Mexico, Central America and Canada.
By all accounts, Sims was a non-assuming man, known for walking the fields with a quiet confidence. With an uncanny ability to assess and memorize large acreages and pinpoint exactly where potential insect problems would occur, he quickly became known as “conscientious, systematic, thorough and one of the very best.”
Sims career in the Mississippi Delta began in 1953 when he persuaded a group of local landowners in Tallahatchie and surrounding counties to adopt his novel approaches and he began to “scout the fields for insects.” Many in the Mississippi farming communities of Webb and Sumner watched as Sims spent his first year in the fields identifying areas with insect problems and making recommendations for treating the problems.
“He walked the fields from dawn until dusk, and lost 30 pounds checking 40 acres for boll weevils that first year,” recalls longtime friend and client Bill Pierson. He became known as a “good boll-weevil man.” Instrumental in his approach was field border spraying “before it was fashionable,” “controlling the June worms,” and introducing the concept of ultra low volume (ULV) sprays for worm control.
Sims mentored numerous students through the years, hiring them to assist as his workload increased. After walking the fields together, many under his tutelage went on to earn degrees and start their own commercial crop consulting businesses.
Tucker Miller, who worked alongside Sims for many years, credits his calm manner, easygoing ways and commonsense approach for much of Sims' business success. Prior to widespread chemical application, Sims' methods for controlling insect infestations were considered “groundbreaking.,” said Miller.
Another longtime believer in Sims methods was Frank Mitchner, who says Sims was “highly interested” in the well-being of his clients' crops. “He was always doing some kind of research in entomology…and he knew the fields like the back of his hand.”
Becky Hathcock is a freelance writer affiliated with HALO Design Group in Lexington, Miss.