He credits improved varieties with making those yields achievable. “I always plant several varieties.” In addition to the NG1511, he planted some FiberMax cotton last year.

“I look for yield first,” in a variety, he says. “Then I look for quality. Quality is almost as important as yield. I also have some fields with Verticillium wilt and other disease problems, so I have to see what varieties fit in those situations. With consistent water, I have to deal with wilt.”

That has not been a problem the last two seasons under drought conditions.

Varieties are all Roundup Ready Flex and Bollgard selections.

“I look at field trials,” Carlton says,” and I talk to seed company salesmen.”

He typically will plant a new variety on just 40 or 50 acres the first year to see how well it does. Last year was the first time NexGen 1511 was commercially available and only in limited quantities.

“I’ll plant more in 2013,” he says. He also plans to look at other NexGen varieties, along with some FiberMax cotton. He says price may be a factor in selecting a variety.

Irrigation capacity also affects variety choices. Water in the field that made five bales last year and the adjacent field that’s under pivot irrigation holds up pretty well. “Water on farms north of here drops off late in the year. I try to put a quicker maturing variety, something like a FM2989 that seems “to hold on a little longer,” during dry weather.

Water availability on the drip irrigation field is about 4.5 gallons per acre per minute. He says that’s better than a lot of nearby wells can produce.

About one-third of Carlton’s irrigated acreage is in subsurface drip; the rest is under pivot irrigation. About half his acreage is irrigated and half is dryland. He’ll keep that ratio, or close to it, in 2013.

He’s not certain how much water he applied through drip irrigation last summer but knows that “we watered a lot. And after we turned the pivots on, we left them on.”

His drip lines are spaced 80 inches apart, between the cotton rows. “I thought about 40-inch spaces but with 4.5 gallons per minute, I felt like 80-inch spacing was better.”

A planting rain, about an inch-and-half, helped get the crop going. “Other than that, we had only about 4 inches of rain all year. We started pre-watering about a month ahead of planting.”

He managed the field that produced the five-bale yield no differently than his other irrigated cotton. “We put on about 110 units of nitrogen, 50 units of phosphorus and 20 units of potassium. That’s just a normal fertilization program.”

It got off to a good start, he says. The 1511 “jumped out of the ground.”

He had to spray late for plant bugs. “Besides that, we did nothing unusual.”

He applied a plant growth regulator three times, 2 ounces of Pentia and another 8 ounces 10 days later. He added 20 ounces of Pix later in the summer, after the cotton got a little growth. Carlton says he may have waited a bit long for the final application because conditions were so hot and dry he was afraid of setting the cotton back.

He does a little tillage, more this year than usual because of the heavy stalk residue left on his high-yielding fields. “I typically do some tillage about every third year,” he says. “I’d prefer not to touch it.”

He uses a stalk cutter ahead of shallow tillage.