He used only Roundup for weed control last year but will “use Treflan on every acre,” in 2013.

“I am concerned about weed resistance,” he says. Adding a preplant and pre-emerge herbicide is not expensive, “and we will see more of that. Last year I could see some resistant weeds in fields in the area. I’ll use Treflan and then something behind the planter this year. We need to get onto this quickly.”

Carlton says he got a bit excited last fall when he pulled the cotton stripper into the field and started pulling that five-bale cotton. “I had to go slow, about 0.8 miles per hour, and I had to dump often. If I tried to gun it, the stripper choked down.”

He said harvest conditions were near perfect. “After I defoliated, we had no wind and no rain. It was the prettiest cotton I’ve ever seen, white as far as I could see. I was impressed.”

Carlton owns about half his acreage and leases the rest. He bought the field near Idalou several years ago and spent considerable time bringing it into production. “It had a big prairie dog colony on it.

“Availability of land is an issue,” he says, especially for a farmer who comes into production without a family acreage base to get started. He’s built a little at a time, and now he’s working about as many acres as he wants. “I sometimes think about bringing in a few more acres but I really don’t want the aggravation of having to hire labor to manage more.”

At his current acreage he can manage with some seasonal harvest workers and help from his 20-year old daughter, a student at Texas Tech, and his 16-year old son, who he expects may want to farm some day.

Junior Carlton thinks about the challenges he’ll face in the future—declining water resources, price instability and high production costs. But he is content with his chosen vocation and seems to have no regrets about facing the challenges that are endemic to full-time farming

And over the past two years he’s set some high benchmarks—sold cotton for a dollar a pound and made five bales an acre. That’s enough to keep a farmer excited about what he’s doing and encouraged enough to keep on doing it.

rsmith@farmpress.com