Growing up, I learned a lot from my father who was a crop consultant and a professor at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. He taught me about damaging weed and insect pests and which products to use to control them. He also taught the chemical courses at Merigold Flying School in Merigold, Miss. Meeting the pilots and observing the planes flying on a regular basis ultimately influenced my decision to become a crop duster myself. I now own Cleveland Air Service Inc. and have flown many crops, but the main one is rice. I currently operate an Air Tractor AT-802A, which to my knowledge is the largest row crop aircraft available.
During the 2016 season, rice prices were still down, and hot, dry weather conditions resulted in some yield loss. However, harvest went well, and most farmers were able to get their land in good condition for the 2017 season.
Application Timing Is Paramount
Over the past few years, pigweed and barnyardgrass have become more difficult to manage in our area. Sprangletop also presents problems, especially when rice loses water due to hot, dry conditions. I have applied Grasp, RebelEX, Clincher and Grandstand, and in my opinion, they are all effective in controlling weeds if applied in a timely manner under the right conditions.
It’s important for farmers to have a knowledgable rice consultant to help them succeed in producing good quality, high-yielding rice. During the season, these consultants give me instructions on what herbicide to apply at what rate to achieve optimum weed control at a particular growth stage of the rice. In this business, timing is everything.
One of the challenges I face as an ag pilot is that some farmers plant earlier than others, which makes it difficult to clean up a field or apply certain herbicides if a crop is already emerging in an adjacent field. My advice to farmers is to communicate with each other about which crops are going where and what varieties will be planted. If farmers, consultants and ag pilots are all aware of the placement of adjoining crops, applications can be made in a timely manner to avoid the potential for drift damage.
As a pilot, it is my responsibility to install the latest software in my GPS system and understand the limits of my aircraft. I have to know how much the plane can handle on any given day and what to do in certain weather conditions to provide outstanding service for each of my growers.
As we go through the 2017 season, never lose faith in your ability to produce the best, most profitable crop you can. We have made it this far, and we are going to make rice farming great again!
Cleveland Air Service Inc.
Attended Delta State University, majoring in commercial
aviation and minoring in biology
- Has been an ag pilot for 27 years
- Currently owns and operates Cleveland Air Service Inc.
- Member of the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA), Mississippi Agricultural Aviation Association (MAAA), and Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation
- Received the MAAA L.D. “Nick” Nicholson Safety Award
Married to wife, Valerie. Two children: daughter Olivia, 21;
and son Ashton, 18
Enjoys flying, hunting, fishing, riding horses, cooking
and spending time with family and friends