The dry spring may have helped the wheat.

“We haven’t seen much disease pressure,” Swart said. “But just about everyone sprayed a fungicide.” The Watsons used a helicopter to apply fungicide on some of their acreage. “It did a good job,” Roby said, “and stayed close to the ground, almost as close as a ground rig.”

In the past, this area has been a hotbed for aflatoxin contamination on corn crops, typically exacerbated by hot, droughty summers. For the past few years, however, they’ve applied an atoxigenic strain of the fungus to “out compete” the toxic strain.

“We put Aflaguard on all our corn,” James said. “It’s a $20 per acre expense that needs to be part of our system.”

He said one of the first loads he hauled to the elevator last year came in right behind another farmer’s truck carrying corn that had not been treated with Aflaguard. “His load tested about 400 parts per billion,” James said. “Mine was zero to 1 ppb. That’s low.”

Roby recalls a situation several years back with a field they could not get the material on. “The elevator didn’t even want it,” he said.

Swart said almost every acre of corn in the area is treated with Aflaguard. The Watson’s apply some by air and some with a ground rig. “I prefer to do everything by air,” Roby said. “We get less stalk damage.”

They hope for good weather to make a corn crop this year. It takes more to break even that it used to. “We used to think 45 bushels per acre was a good corn crop,” Billy said. “If we hit 60, that was something. Now, 45 bushels won’t pay for the seed. We need at least 100 bushels per acre and corn price at about $5 a bushel.”

They have better tools to work with than when they started. They recall that their fathers began using anhydrous to improve nutrient management.

They remember running an F-40 tractor and being able to judge a farmer’s ability by how straight he laid out his rows. GPS does that now.

But the farming DNA remains intact. James is the fourth generation to farm this area, and Billy’s son Billy Michael, also works in agriculture, near Fort Worth where he manages a cattle operation.

As they’ve done for the better part of seven decades, Roby and Billy Watson continue to battle pests, weeds and weather to earn a living from grain production. And, as they did back in their youth, they are still willing to go the extra mile, maybe not to rope calves at a rodeo any longer, but they do everything they can to take advantage of an early May rain that offers at least the hope of a bountiful yield.