THIS IS WHAT FIVE-BALE COTTON looks like at harvest. Gaines County, Texas, farmer John Friesen, 34, adjusted management to reach the production goal.
John Friesen got into farming the hard way—starting from scratch with no family land or equipment to ease his way into a fulltime solo operation.
“I had to accumulate equipment and pay too much to lease land,” says Friesen, 34, from his farm near Seminole, Texas. He says the timing was good. “I started in 2006 so I had some good years, even though the first two or three were hard starting from scratch.”
Equipment costs, he says, are particularly tough on even established farmers. “We need a lot of equipment to farm the acreage we need to make a living,” he says.
He made some decent cotton yields from 2006 until 2011 and for part of that time cotton prices were also good. “The last three years were tough,” he says. “Good yields earlier helped us get through and insurance helped keep us in business.”
Most of his 2013 crop—the third drought year in a row—was significantly less than expected, a 1.5 bale per acre average on irrigated land where he typically makes from 2.5 to 3 bales per acre.
“It was the worst year I’ve had,” he says. He expected a lot of weed pressure so added yellow herbicide applications and was not happy with the results. He thinks planting shallow, in ground packed by cattle grazing, may have caused some damage. “We have to be aware of the soil condition,” he says.
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He admits that he’s had little experience with pre-plant herbicides. “I grew up relying on Roundup,” he says. “The older farmers around had used yellows before and then folks got away from them. I wish we had all stayed with them. We wouldn’t have the problems we do now.”
He is concerned about herbicide resistant weeds. He says the yellow herbicides did control weeds and will use them again next year, but he’ll be a bit more cautious with application. He plans to apply a pre-plant from four to six weeks ahead of planting and then come back with a “shot of yellow or Dual later, maybe through the pivot.”