“We were one of the first in Terrell County to adopt strip-till and no-till planting practices, eventually helping educate and inform neighboring growers about the benefits of those practices,” says Lee. “Now, however, we’ve had to modify our system somewhat due to glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth pigweed.”

Lee believes strongly that farmers need to set the example when it comes to environmental stewardship. The adoption of conservation-tillage practices on his farm had a ripple effect, with other growers in the area soon taking notice and trying it successfully in their fields.

Mid-South Region winner Ray Makamson, a veteran of 38 years of farming, produces 3,050 acres of cotton and 700 acres of soybeans on his farming operation near Itta Bena, which is located in the middle of the Mississippi Delta.

Observers say Makamson’s attention to detail in conservation practices is evident in the appearance of his farming operation. “The one thing that strikes you is Ray’s meticulous nature,” Trey Cooke, executive director of Delta Wildlife, told Delta Farm Press’ Elton Robinson.

“He is probably the most esthetically-astute farmer that I’m aware of in the Delta. His shop is clean. The grass is clipped, there are no piles of containers or irrigation pipe lying around. If you were to ever want to take somebody to a farming operation to see one of the best actors in the farming community, Ray’s farm would be one you want them to see.”

“Ray runs one of the cleanest operations of almost anyone I know,” said Jerry Singleton, area Extension agent, LeFlore County. “From the shop floor to his equipment, it always clean.”

“My shop, my equipment, my tractors, that’s all the money I’ve banked through the years,” Makamson explains. “I’m invested in it. The people who work for me take pride in it, too. We take good care of things. I like things neat and orderly.”

Makamson’s conservation efforts mesh perfectly with his forward-looking style.

As a member of Delta Wildlife, Makamson participated in the Monsanto Mississippi River Partnership Project, created to determine the effectiveness of conservation measures on improving wildlife habitat and water quality. He installed numerous water control structures for use in reducing nutrient and sediment loss from his cropland to benefit water quality in adjacent water bodies.

Southwest winner Eric Seidenberger has also been working to handle water more efficiently on his 2,950 acres, 2,150 of them in cotton and the rest in wheat and grazing land. He is working toward installing drip irrigation on much of his acreage.

Drip irrigation, reduced tillage, terracing and grassed waterways all are critical parts of his production and conservation programs, which are aimed at achieving the highest yields at the lowest costs while protecting the land and water.

Seidenberger installed his first drip irrigation in 2003, a 45-acre block. He says drip offers at least three advantages: Consistently, high yields; improved water efficiency; and cost savings through reduced-tillage.

But the main advantage, he told Southwest Farm Press Editor Ron Smith, is labor savings. “We were moving pipe all day long for furrow irrigation. We’re also using less tillage on drip irrigated fields. We’re not cultivating four or five times in the summer as we do with furrow irrigation. We cultivate one time. We spray Roundup early and cultivate once.”