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Cotton Incorporated Combats FOV4 In The Southwest

BY SHELLEY HEINRICH SLATON, TEXAS

By Shelley Heinrich
Slaton, Texas

Across the South Plains, Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma and Kansas, the vast diversity of challenges in this year’s crop is clearly noticeable. Weather conditions, seed varieties and weed control issues have brought growers together on the turnrow to discuss critical production practice decisions for the 2018 cotton crop.

In recent months, the discovery of Fusarium wilt race 4 (FOV4) in fields in the Southwest has been quite alarming in the cotton industry. This race of Fusarium devastated the Pima cotton industry until resistant varieties were screened, developed and made commercially available.

Acres and markets were lost, and financial viability was diminished. As quickly as FOV4 was discovered in the Southwest, Cotton Incorporated began developing a strategy to keep Upland cotton production protected and viable.

Tolerance And Containment

Fusarium race 4

Fusarium wilt race 4 can cause plant mortality. Cotton Incorporated is investing funds to
screen and breed for FOV4 tolerance and containment in Upland cotton — photo by Bob Hutmacher, University of California

“Even when FOV4 was predominately a Pima problem, we knew it could attack Upland cotton,” says Dr. Kater Hake, vice president of ag research for Cotton Incorporated. “Cotton Incorporated proactively invested in breeders and pathologists to address this threat.

“With FOV4 now expanding into the Upland production area, this investment has been substantially ramped up in both Upland screening/breeding for FOV4 tolerance and for FOV4 containment. Through Cotton Incorporated, growers are funding six scientists to screen and breed Upland varieties with FOV4 tolerance and four scientists to work on management and detection of FOV4.”

Cotton Incorporated is investing both core funds from the ag research department and funds from the Texas State Support program into combatting FOV4. Today, 17 programs are working diligently on genetic development and resistance, plant pathology and field research.

The goal is to minimize the financial impact to producers and maximize their knowledge of the influences of FOV4. Without this type of diligence and quick reaction, the pathogen’s spread could overcome existing cotton acres with no remedy or crop options.

“Hopefully in 2018, scientists will identify readily available commercial Upland varieties with good tolerance to FOV4. But if they don’t, we will have advanced the development of tolerant germplasm and learned more about FOV4 management practices under Southwest conditions,” Hake says.

Quick Reaction Pays Off

Scientists do not know how FOV4 was introduced in the field. However, it is a soil pathogen that can be spread from field to field. It can be carried on planting seed or in dirt on equipment, such as cotton harvesters or module haulers. Symptoms, such as dead seedlings and black streaks inside tap roots, have been seen in El Paso area screening trials.

Although there is still much work being done to combat and contain FOV4, cotton producers can be proud that Cotton Incorporated’s ag research team has reacted quickly when cotton production profitability, quality and viability are being threatened. A quality crop delivered to the marketplace is the end goal and that is where investment in the Cotton Research and Promotion Program pays dividends.

Shelley Heinrich is the Cotton Board Southern Plains regional communication manager. Email her at sheinrich@cottonboard.org.