James says he had some difficulty getting the system certified as solid planting. At first there were questions whether it constituted skip-row cotton or solid seeded. “Shawn Wade, with Plains Cotton Growers, helped get it settled,” he says. It is considered solid cotton.

He’s trying other means of stretching water, too. He grows some wheat and occasionally sunflowers for seed. “I didn’t plant any sunflowers this year.” All but a few acres of his wheat was “zeroed out and some rated as 1 bushel per acre.”

He has at times planted a wheat cover crop and then planted cotton into wheat straw. “I don’t do a lot of that. I don’t have land with adequate water to use on a cover crop. But I like a wheat rotation. I can harvest wheat and fallow the land then plant cotton the following spring.”

He also has some half-sections with two pivot systems. “I may leave one pivot out one year on the fallow land and then rotate back and forth.”

James has farmed on his own since 2003. “This is my tenth crop,” he says, “and I’ve had more good years than bad ones, so I can’t complain. And some of the good ones did not look promising early on.

“I had never seen a bad year that was actually worse than I thought it would be.” Until last year, which was much worse than he expected. “I expect to make at least two bales on drip irrigation. Last year, almost none of it made that much.”

He says making it through last year gives him “a little bit of hope. I survived. I got a stand of cotton on every acre of irrigated land, and I stripped all my irrigated cotton.” One field, he says, was questionable, but he “stripped it quickly and moved on.

“Some areas have been getting rain as planting winds down, so we think we could begin to get some, too. We’ve had some 80-degree days and some humidity, so we can turn pivots on and off. Last year we did not stop watering cotton and just tried to keep it alive from May through June. “We irrigated for 187 straight days.”

That’s a feat he hopes not to repeat this year.