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Multiple Year/Location Data = Priceless

ARKANSAS

Bill Robertson AR

Bill Robertson e-mail

Many producers have booked seed for 2017. There are several new varieties with new technologies worthy of a look, so do your homework to best place them on your farm.

Variety selection is perhaps the most important decision a producer makes. Once the seed is planted, no amount of worry, work or money can make up for a poor decision. Our recommendation is that roughly two-thirds of your acres be planted with varieties proven on your farm. Of the remaining acres, limit new varieties to no more than 10 percent of your total acreage. The remaining 25 percent should be dedicated to those varieties in which you have limited experience. This strategy provides stability while allowing for evaluation of new varieties.

There are a number of unbiased information sources available to assist in selecting new varieties. Our primary source is the University Variety Testing Program. Results from the Arkansas Trials conducted by Dr. Fred Bourland may be found at http://arkansasvarietytesting.com/home/cotton/

A great deal of information is collected and presented to help evaluate fiber quality, maturity, growth characteristics and other variety traits as well as yield. County demonstrations are another good source of information and are included with this publication.
Don’t restrict yourself to your home state or area. In Arkansas, it is appropriate to evaluate variety performance trials from neighboring states in the Mid-South. Evaluating the consistency of a variety under a wide array of conditions will be beneficial. Contact your local county Extension agent for assistance in obtaining or interpreting variety performance data and to get the date and
location of upcoming county production meetings.

ARIZONA

Randy Norton AZ

Randy Norton e-mail

Selecting an appropriate cotton variety can be one of the most difficult, yet important, decisions a grower faces. Recent years have seen the rapid development of varieties with new transgenic traits, making the options sometimes difficult to wade through. The days of having a single, known variety available for many years are now behind us. The average life span of a new cotton variety may only be five years, so it is important to keep abreast of variety performance in your particular region.

The University of Arizona conducts a statewide Upland and Pima cotton variety-testing program, which consists of different trial types. The first is a small-plot evaluation of commercially available varieties along with experimental varieties. It is conducted in three locations across Arizona, including Yuma, Maricopa and Safford. Another type is a large-plot, replicated strip trial conducted on grower cooperator farms in a wide variety of locations across the state. These large-plot strip trials consist of replicated plots extending the full length of the irrigation run at each location. Eight locations across the state were involved in 2016. The trial results are published both online and in a hard copy publication distributed throughout the state at Extension meetings and workshops. Seed companies also conduct their own sets of variety performance evaluations.

It is important to review as much information as possible to ensure a high-performing variety is selected for your farm. Evaluating the return on a particular variety has revealed that as much as $300-$400 per acre could be lost when a poor performing variety is planted. Analyzing fiber quality economics also reveals that $40-$50 per acre could be lost when a variety with poor fiber quality is planted.

FLORIDA

David Wright FL

David Wright e-mail

There are numerous variety trials to which farmers can refer that are close to where they are growing cotton. Most of the trials will have top varieties of the major cotton companies represented in the area. Universities, industry reps, consultants and Extension faculty conduct trials, and all are valuable.

The main considerations for any variety include high yield with good grades, ease of management and consistency across a large area. That usually means the variety is adapted to a wide range of growing conditions and soil types and can survive stress at different growth stages. We have seen new and expanded traits that make cotton easier to manage with fewer inputs. The goal is for the producer to make a profit while reducing inputs and management needed to grow the crop.

This past year was a reminder for many farmers why we grow cotton in the South on non-irrigated fields instead of corn or soybeans. Many growers had excellent cotton yields while corn and soybeans produced low yields.

LOUISIANA

Dan Fromme LA

Dan Fromme e-mail

Choosing cotton varieties can be difficult, and the availability of different transgenic traits often complicates the process. It is advantageous to have as much information about a variety as possible to help make a more informed decision pertaining to selection.

To assist in this process, the LSU AgCenter annually conducts official variety trials at the Red River Research Station at Bossier City, Dean Lee Research Station at Alexandria, Macon Ridge Research Station at Winnsboro and Northeast Research Station at St. Joseph. This past year, 40 cotton varieties were evaluated at these locations. In addition to the official cotton variety trials, on-farm trials are conducted with growers throughout the state. The objective of both the official variety trials and the on-farm trials is to provide as much information as possible concerning cotton variety performance over a range of soil textures and growing conditions.

As the new season approaches, variety selection is a key component in the planning process. Now is an excellent time to review last year’s results. Study public and private company tests in your area before making a variety decision. Results for the 2016 LSU AgCenter cotton variety trials are located at lsuagcenter.com. They can be found by clicking on crops>cotton>varieties. Best of luck in 2017!

MISSISSIPPI

Darrin Dodds MS

Darrin Dodds e-mail

The process of selecting a variety should not be taken lightly. Based on data from the 2016 Mississippi State University on-farm variety trials, improper variety selection can cost you between $88 and $189 per acre. When looking at variety trial data, several things should be considered. Examine the conditions under which the trial was conducted (irrigated versus dryland; soil texture, etc.) and put particular emphasis on trials conducted under growing conditions similar to your own.

In addition to looking strictly at yield data, spend time evaluating how a given variety performs under different conditions. Ranking varieties from first to last and then looking at those rankings from different trial locations will provide some idea of yield stability under different growing conditions. For example, if a given variety ranks high in all trials that were irrigated but falls toward the bottom in trials conducted under dryland conditions, that indicates a particular variety is better suited to irrigated conditions. On the opposite side of the coin, if a given variety ranks high under dryland conditions but not when irrigation was applied, that variety is probably better suited to dryland conditions.

Spend as much time as possible over the winter months evaluating variety performance data. Doing your homework on variety performance will pay dividends next fall.

MISSOURI

Mike Milam MO

Mike Milam e-mail

Missouri producers were able to get ahead of the weather and finish harvest. There are a few fields left, but very few. Overall, yields were above average. Farmers are now preparing for 2017.There are a lot of meetings scheduled, and pesticide applicator training is right around the corner.

As far as variety selection is concerned, there are a lot of choices. We have a few producers growing conventional ones, but most will grow genetically modified varieties. If everything goes according to plan, new dicamba and 2,4-D herbicides will be available. It will be interesting to see if growers take advantage of these new technologies. Again, many producers told me that they planted a dicamba variety in 2016 even though they did not use dicamba. Their reasoning was that they wanted to be protected from drift from their neighbors.

There are so many variations and combinations of traits to which producers will have access. They need to do their homework to make the best selection possible. We recommend growers look at the University of Missouri variety trials results for guidance. These varieties are grown at a number of locations with various soil types. Considering the smaller plots versus the larger plots has shown pretty remarkable consistency. Although many of the varieties have not been in university trials for long periods, a combination of locations and years is still helpful.

NEW MEXICO

John Idowu

John Idowu
e-mail

The 2016 cotton season in New Mexico was a good one. All the cotton has now been harvested, and many farmers are judging the year to be above-average for both Upland and Pima yields. Scattered hail damage early in the season led to some fields being replanted, but it was not too widespread. There were also some incidences of cotton rust in parts of the state, but not severe enough to affect the yields of many fields.

Early in the season, temperatures gradually warmed, leading to slow cotton development in many fields. Eventually, the temperature provided sufficient heat for rapid cotton growth.

The monsoon came later than expected, which led to a great dependence on irrigation from canals and wells. In the end, the season was a good one for cotton farmers in New Mexico.

NORTH CAROLINA

Keith Edmisten e-mail

Keith Edmisten
e-mail

Growers are likely evaluating yields and grades of the varieties they used in 2016 to make variety selection decisions for 2017. Producers need to make sure they consider as much information as possible and not rely solely on what happened on their farm in 2016. Using results from multiple locations helps them select varieties that are most stable and widely adapted to potential conditions for the coming year. The Cotton Variety Performance Calculator is an easy way to compare varieties over various environments in North Carolina. Access the site at: https://trials.ces.ncsu.edu/cotton/.

I often think we tend to overreact to what happened in the previous year. This past year tended to favor later varieties or practices that delayed maturity, as more of that cotton opened under dryer conditions than earlier cotton. It is perfectly natural for the results of the previous year to be on one’s mind, but next year’s results may be completely opposite. Spreading planting dates within reason and using multiple varieties and maturities, is a good form of risk management. This strategy is also why it is better to look at variety results over multiple years where possible.

TENNESSEE

Tyson Raper TN

Tyson Raper e-mail

Tennessee and the Mid-South as a whole will look back on 2016 as a cotton year. Record-setting cotton yields, very good fiber quality and a dry harvest season all contributed to many in Tennessee looking forward to growing more cotton during the 2017 season.

As planning begins, the first topic that comes to mind is variety selection. It has been argued that this very well may be the most important decision one makes in cotton production.
Given its impact, my colleagues and I strongly emphasize variety testing within each of our programs. Chances are there are only a few miles between you and an Extension variety trial designed to provide unbiased data, which will represent your farm. I encourage you to use this data. Although there can be value in turnrow or field-to-field comparisons, most times it is impossible to isolate variety as the single factor that influenced realized yields. Instead, rely more closely on Extension’s unbiased tests. These trials are designed to remove all outside bias and highlight variety differences. For more on Tennessee’s trial results, keep an eye on news.utcrops.com or follow me on twitter (@TysonRaper) for trial updates and other news.

TEXAS

Galon Morgan TX

Gaylon Morgan e-mail

South and East Texas welcomed widespread rainfall over most of the Texas cotton production regions as producers were in need of soil moisture to replenish the soil profile for 2017 planting. The rain was less welcome in the Rolling Plains as it delayed cotton harvest but was needed for the wheat crop and to begin building the soil moisture profile.

Harvest in the Rolling Plains came to a halt in early December due to lingering wet weather and cloudy conditions. With the combination of wet and freezing temperatures, cotton fiber quality will likely decrease to some degree. The Southern Rolling Plains is about 65 percent harvested across dryland and irrigated fields. The irrigated fields in the Northern Rolling Plains are about 80 percent completed, but the dryland is estimated to be less than 50 percent. Yield and quality have been good for both dryland and irrigated fields.

As we plan for 2017, producers should seek as much information as possible on new products, varieties and technologies. Variety selection is the most important agronomic decision farmers will make all season. However, it can be overwhelming with more than 75 varieties with various traits available in 2017. The variety choices and their associated herbicide and insect traits will dictate crop, weed and insect management decisions all season. Variety yield stability and fiber quality should be the highest priorities, followed by herbicide, insect, nematode and disease traits. It is common to see a 15-25 percent difference in yield and gross returns from varieties, as proven by the on-farm large-plot replicated trials. A 15 percent difference in yield could easily equate to an additional gross return of $100-$200 per acre, depending on yield and price.

The other important consideration is variety diversification, which allows for spreading risks for unusual weather patterns, pest issues and staggering harvest. Off-target movement of herbicides applied to XtendFlex or Enlist cotton should also be a consideration for farmers and their neighbors. Cotton variety results for Texas and other management recommendation are available at cotton.tamu.edu.

VIRGINIA

Hunter Frame

Hunter Frame e-mail

The past two years have been hard to handle for Virginia cotton producers. State lint yields will be lower than they were in 2015 and will likely be in the 700-pound range. Rain that resumed at the end of September was the final nail in the coffin for the 2016 growing season. For 2017, producers should rely on multiple year/location data when making decisions on what variety to plant. I stress this to Virginia producers every year and encourage them to look at official variety trial data from neighboring states in areas that have similar soil types and climates as their farms.

As in 2015, variety performance was highly variable in Virginia with environment and management playing a significant role in variety performance across locations. Producers need to plant stable, high-yielding varieties. The only way to determine this is to evaluate multiple years and locations. This is difficult to do when variety turnover is high and seed companies have new traits and genetics coming to the market every year. When you shift a large portion of acreage to a relativity new variety, that shift has a certain level of risk. To minimize that risk, gather as much information across environments on the variety as possible. Finally, make sure variety data come from replicated trials. Replication, if done correctly by the researcher, is a statistical tool that ensures variability within a field is taken into account. This means yield potential and environment influence the trial, not soil variability or bias!

TEXAS

Seth Byrd TX

Seth Byrd e-mail

Harvest is cranking up again as of Dec. 8 after another system moved through the High Plains during the first weekend of the month. Current projections show harvest to be about 65 percent complete statewide, but a lot of cotton will be harvested through the end of December and perhaps into 2017. The later harvested crop has seen a slight reduction in some quality categories, but remains strong overall. It appears that 2016 will be a good year for both yield and grades.

Looking ahead to the 2017 season, variety selection remains a critical decision, particularly with the approval of new technologies and products for weed control. Variety trial results from the High Plains region will be available on cotton.tamu.edu in early 2017.

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