An important component of the Cotton Research and Promotion Program is the Producer State Support Program. Following the mission of Cotton Incorporated closely, the state program is charged with improving the demand for and profitability of cotton.
However, strategies and activities created under this program are designed to address specific needs of each cotton-producing state. State funds are allocated based on production numbers and dispersed to researchers for projects of local importance. Grower-led SSP committees meet each year to determine how their funds are best used. CI agricultural research staff oversee the execution of these projects and results.
“In addition to addressing cotton grower research needs in each state, the SSP helps guide Cotton Incorporated’s ag research staff investments in multi-state and longer-term research programs,” says Kater Hake, vice president of agricultural and environmental research at Cotton Incorporated.
Recently, the Texas SSP held a mid-year review of programs funded in 2017. Producer input regarding these projects is vital, since they are funded through program assessment dollars.
Fusarium Wilt Race 4
Projects in Texas are vast and cover many different issues. Some of the topics heard during the review included a discussion on Fusarium wilt race 4, which will receive increased Cotton Incorporated funding in 2018. Race 4 has become an emerging threat to the Cotton Belt. Currently, it mainly affects Pima cotton in California.
Jason Woodward, plant pathologist with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Service, says race 4 has the potential to affect Upland cotton throughout the entire United States. Woodward says race 4 has appeared in El Paso County, Texas, sparking discussion about future implications.
“The fungus, Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. vasinfectum, is seedborne and could be moved wherever seed, soil or other plant material is disseminated,” Woodward says. “This disease is different from other types of Fusarium wilt that affect cotton, in that it does not require damage from nematodes to cause substantial losses.
“Symptoms of the disease are first observed early in the season at the four- to seven-leaf stage. Early in the process, small areas of the field will exhibit these symptoms. But infected areas increase in size as populations of the fungus in the soil increase from year to year.”
Low Micronaire Cotton Uses
Another topic discussed was how to use lower micronaire cotton in high-demand products to reach a reasonable cost for the otherwise discounted cotton. Noureddine Abidi and Seshadri Ramkumar, both with Texas Tech University, are working with the SSP to expand uses of low micronaire cotton.
“Transforming low-grade cotton and cotton wastes to advanced materials could add value to cotton fibers and strengthen the competition against man-made fibers, especially polyesters,” Abidi says. “Dissolving cotton cellulose and transforming it into other materials such as films, fibers and disposable materials is of particular interest because cellulose is biodegradable, sustainable and biologically compatible.”
Abidi says he is hopeful that products of this nature would be of interest to the medical field, where they could be used as a bandage material for wounds and healing. In many areas of Texas, where weather creates less-than-desirable cotton grades, this prospect could be beneficial.
The projects funded through Cotton Incorporated’s SSP are vital, ensuring cotton stays competitive in the world market, sustainable throughout disease complications and useful in any field. Each state has worthwhile research opportunities.
For more information on region-specific projects, please contact a Cotton Board Regional Communication Manager. They can be found at: http://www.cottonboard.org/producers/regional-communication-managers/.
Christi Chadwell is the Cotton Board’s RCM for the Southwest (firstname.lastname@example.org). For more about Fusarium wilt race 4, contact Woodward at email@example.com.