Bringing new farm-based products and processes to cotton farmers is one of the most important goals Cotton Incorporated’s Agricultural and Environ-mental Research Division tries to achieve each year.
“When we are able to bring producers a product that we’ve developed from vision to fruition, it’s very gratifying,” says Kater Hake, vice president of the division.
That gratification is especially satisfying when the product has the potential to increase a producer’s bottom line after the cotton is sold.
Popularity Of Transgenics
In 2010, 99 percent of the cotton grown in the Mississippi Delta region was of transgenic varieties.
“As glyphosate resistance spread, strategies promoting resistance management were proposed,” says Dr. Don Jones, director of agricultural research at Cotton Incorporated. “Because some of those strategies involved herbicides other than glyphosate, some producers started looking at planting conventional cotton varieties.
“Our producers need improved fiber quality to stay competitive in this global market.”
Jones handles varietal breeding projects and is well aware that genotypes displaying superior fiber quality are often late to mature and often do not yield well.
After talking with Dr. Fred Bourland at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station and hearing his long-range plans for breeding a new conventional variety, Jones began funding some of Bourland’s research back in 2003 through Cotton Incorp-orated’s important Arkansas State Support Program.
Crosses leading to what eventually became known as UA48 were made at the Research & Extension Center in Keiser, Ark., and the subsequent generation was increased at the USDA-ARS Tecoman Cotton Winter Breeding Nursery in Mexico.
“In 2002/04, we selected bolls from visually superior individual plants after bacterial blight susceptible plants and plants having undesired morphological traits were removed,” says Bourland.
The subsequent line released as UA48 was evaluated in Arkansas progeny and strain tests from 2005-2010 and was included in the 2009 Regional Breeders’ Testing Network.
“Across those nine locations, UA48 produced longer fiber length than any other of the 31 entries,” says Jones.
Getting It To The Field
Eric Silhan of Morton, Texas, grew 70 acres of UA48 seed increase in 2010. Hake remembers how he thought Silhan was taking quite a risk growing a variety that had never been tested in the High Plains.
“Eric’s risk was rewarded after HVI data was collected on his 70 acres of cotton,” says Hake.
For the entire field, staple length was a whopping 39.2 (after stripper harvesting and commercial ginning). Fiber strength was a hearty 35.7 and, as with those length/strength parameters, uniformity was very high at 82.6. UA48 also has “low leaf and bract hair,” which means cleaner lint for a higher grade and more potential money for producers.
Eventually, a limited number of bags of UA48 from the 2010 Texas seed increase were sold to producers by the University of Arkansas’ Division of Agriculture for the 2011 crop.
That seed increase led to dialogue with Americot that eventually culminated in negotiations for licensing.
“The overriding goal of the Cotton Incorporated Arkansas State Support Program was to have a conventional variety made commercially available – initially in Arkansas and then to other states,” says Steve Stevens, Arkansas producer and chairman of the Arkan-sas State Support Program.
An agreement was reached in early 2011 that paved the way for Americot to have the right to sell and market UA48 and to start incorporating transgenes into the conventional cultivar.
According to Tom Brooks, seed breeder for Americot, “We are currently working with the variety to develop UA48 Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex, and we’re genuinely excited about its potential for our farmers.”
What started out as a Cotton Incorp-orated Arkansas State Support Program project has today turned into a promising cotton variety that can be used to help shore up the bottom lines of those producers who use it – whether it be for its ability to provide great HVI characteristics or help in the battle to manage glyphosate-resistant pigweed.
The Cotton Board, which administers Cotton Incorporated’s Research and Promotion Program, contributed information for this article. For more details, go to www.cottonboard.org.