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Cotton Variety Selection ABCs

Dr. Jane Dever specializes in cotton breeding at Texas A&M University in Lubbock.

Dr. Jane Dever specializes in cotton breeding at Texas A&M University in Lubbock.

By Jane Dever
Texas A&M University

The ABCs of variety selection may start with letters behind a variety name denoting insect resistance or herbicide tolerance technology, but they certainly do not end there.

Beyond the letters are complex characteristics controlled by multiple genes – yield, fiber quality, stress response, disease resistance, plant type and relative maturity.

“A” stands for area-appropriate. Consider performance data generated from the same area as your farm. Know specific field production constraints and choose varieties with appropriate disease resistance, nematode tolerance and moisture stress response.

“B” is for broadening risk with more than one variety in more than one maturity class so harvest on large farms can be staggered. Broadened risk improves the odds of catching beneficial rains and avoiding widespread hail damage.

“C” is for control. Stay grounded with input capabilities. Highhorsepower varieties in low-input situations can lead to quality problems. “Control” reminds me of the first cotton farmer to ask my advice on variety selection – my father, who passed away in May. Professional presentation of yield data did not impress him. He told me, “I can make these varieties yield. Show me something with the potential for good fiber quality. I have less control over that.”

Most blurbs on variety selection advise to consider “yield, yield and yield.” In honor of Dad, I’ll stick my neck out in today’s market environment and advise “quality, quality and yield.”

Match variety characteristics beyond the letters to the area, broaden risk by not planting the entire area to one variety and make both variety selection and late-season management decisions you can control to support fiber quality from A to $.

Dr. Jane Dever is Associate Professor, Soil and Crop Sciences, Texas A&M University, Lubbock, Texas. Contact Dever at (806) 746-6101 or jdever@ag.tamu.edu.