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Your Great-Grandaddy’s Cotton Varieties

Carroll Smith

Carroll Smith

Christmas presents from my friend, Cheryl – a Louisiana native, are always a combination of the eclectic and the unexpected. Last year, my loot included an antique tintype of a steamboat rolling down the Mississippi River, a rhinestone-studded LSU ball cap and a copy of the 1936 Yearbook of Agriculture.

I have always had the utmost respect for our cotton breeders. After delving into the thick yearbook, I discovered that the 1936 U.S. Department of Agriculture apparently did, too. It dedicated almost 100 pages to “Plant Breeding in the Cotton Industry” by J.O. Ware, senior agronomist, Division of Cotton and Other Fiber Crops and Diseases, Bureau of Plant Industry. Ware not only discussed current cotton varieties but also paid homage to varieties dating as far back as the early 1800s. One of the first things that caught my attention was the colorful names. I am not astute enough to know when the industry began using letters and numbers to identify cotton varieties, but “back in the day,” breeders gave them proper names. Since variety selection is on everyone’s mind, I thought it would be interesting to share a few excerpts that mention some of the “old school” monikers.

Mexican stock was introduced by Walter Burling at Natchez, Miss., in 1806 and was later bred as Mexican Big Boll by J.D. Hope of Sharon, S.C., in 1914. Between 1830 and 1840, H.W. Vick of Vicksburg, Miss., worked with a variety called Belle Creole from which he selected a new variety, Jethro. This variety eventually made its way to Georgia and became the parent stock of Jones Long Staple and Six-Oaks. About 1840, Vick introduced another variety called Petit Gulf.

In 1865, a Texas settler named Supak, who lived near Austin, introduced a variety known as Bohemian, which became the parent stock of Rowden and Express. Other famous varieties from the early days include Parker, Bancroft Herlong and Peterkin. And out West, the New Mexico Agricultural Experiment Station introduced a strain of Acala in 1923 that was bred from stock that originated in California and became known as College Acala.

“The Stoneville type of cotton is descended from Lone Star 65, selected in 1916 by H.B. Brown….Lone Star 65 was thought by Brown to be a natural cross with Mississippi Station Trice,” Ware says. In another section, he says, “H.B. Tisdale worked on the breeding and distribution in Alabama of the wilt-resistant varieties Dixie, Dixie-Cook and Dixie-Triumph from 1914-1920.”

Although the cotton variety naming system has changed, today’s cotton breeders’ pursuit of excellence is stronger than ever. Hats off to all of you!

If you have comments, please send them to: Cotton Farming Magazine, 7201 Eastern Ave., Germantown, TN, 38138. Contact Carroll Smith via email at csmith@onegrower.com.