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Spring is in the air for editor as he emerges from hibernation

It's the first day of spring and it feels like it.

I was out at lunch time in balmy 70-degree weather and it seems warmer outside now than inside. Perhaps I should turn down the air conditioner. It's been nice all week, following the rainiest weekend we've witnessed in months, probably since way back in the fall. Not certain of the total accumulation, but it seemed like we got 3 inches or more.

But weather folk tell us we're still mired (probably not the proper word) in a prolonged drought and that the rain we had last week will help, but will certainly not replenish the soil. Lakes are at significantly low levels, too low to get a boat in with all the ramps now situated on dry land. Just as well, the right arm is still creaky from surgery and the doctor has not released me to fish around the country yet.

I did get out earlier this week to visit a few farmers, just a short jaunt over into Collin and Grayson counties. I came home with a notebook full of good information, a sunburned face (I forgot to move my hat from my truck to IPM specialist and great American Jim Swart's pickup.) and a sore shoulder from scribbling notes. I never did learn to write left-handed.

But the adventure was worth the small bit of pain endured. The day was sunny — hence the sunburn — warm and pleasant. Farm country looked good. We saw corn emerging from the recently wet soil. Wheat had begun to respond to late winter sidedress applications and was greening up nicely.

Jim stopped by to check a wheat field for greenbugs, an infestation that had popped up rather unexpectedly early in the week. And just as rapidly, the sucking insects had thinned out by the time Jim got there. A check of several locations showed only a few of the damaging pests and the farmer, Butch Aycock, was pleased to learn that no pesticide would be necessary.

Jim attributed the rapid demise to parasites that knock populations down quickly. He also said warmer weather doesn't favor greenbug survival.

The wheat looked quite good, by the way, and had responded to the recent rain. The field was uniform, clean and showed promise of a decent yield.

This first stop was in Collin County, just outside the McKinney city limits. From there we drove north to Grayson County where brothers Mike and Pat Fallon raise corn and a little wheat. They also do custom application work. Mike was available; Pat had a previous engagement, taking his family to Six Flags during spring break. He told me on a phone interview later that Six Flags during spring break may not be the best idea he'd ever had.

But he and Mike have had some pretty good ideas about their farm. They're using a lot of new technology to discover where the weak spots in fields are and moving toward variable rate application of chemicals, fertilizer and seed to apply the proper amounts of inputs to specific locations.

Mike said he is amazed at how much they learn about their farms from technology. They figure they're saving money, time, and wear and tear on their bodies with technology. They use auto-steer, automatic shut-off on sprayers and are beginning to use mapping to increase efficiency.

They say operator stress is significantly less than it used to be when they had to eyeball everything.

We stood in the yard at the farm shop to talk about technology and crop progress. That's where I got the sunburn. But I also got to see a lot of equipment, how they've adapted technology, and what's ready to roll into the field next.

As I mentioned, I got some good information in my notebook, but just getting out of the house and into the country for most of the day and having a chance to talk to these guys after being cooped up for a month was like a breath of spring.

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