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.