What is in this article?:
- Five-bale cotton rewards hard work, good management
- Limited rainfall
- Proper mix
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.
THIS IS WHAT FIVE-BALE COTTON looks like at harvest. Gaines County, Texas, farmer John Friesen, 34, adjusted management to reach the production goal.
He says that third straight year of limited rainfall also hurt prospects. “And irrigation water has been too salty.”
But Friesen hit a goal in 2013 that had eluded him, and many other cotton farmers, for years—five-bale cotton. He topped that on one 120-acre field under center pivot irrigation.
“Everything had to fall into place to make that yield,” he says. The variety, NG 1511 B2RF, played a big role, he says, as did the land and water.
“This was a new field and had been in Conservation Reserve for 10 or 20 years,” he says. “And a new well produced 700 gallons of water per minute. That’s as good as it gets in this area; it’s unusually good water.”
Friesen says that combination—a variety that was capable of producing high yields, new soil and ample water—provided the incentive to manage the field a bit more aggressively than usual. “I like the variety,” he says. “And I set a goal, or a dream, of five bales per acre.”
He applied more fertilizer than he did for fields with less potential—300 pounds of pre-plant nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium mix. “I can’t recall the exact blend,” he says. “And I added another 250 units of nitrogen through the pivot in season. That’s about 100 more than usual but I knew I had the water.”
Then everything went wrong.
“I had trouble establishing a cover crop, which we have to use in this part of the country to protect crops from sand. I planted hay grazer late to get cover and the hay grazer competed with cotton. Then I had to replant part of the field after a blowout.”
With the delays and setbacks, Friesen adjusted expectations to about four bales per acre. “I know it might sound foolish,” he says, “but I think we could have made more than five bales. About half the field made less than a five-bale average. With the right conditions, I think we can make six bales with this variety.