2023 Variety Selection

ARIZONA |Randy Norton

Randy Norton
Randy Norton

Variety selection is probably one of the most important decisions contributing to the success of a cotton crop. As part of our University of Arizona variety testing program, we have observed as much as a bale per acre difference in performance between the highest-yielding variety and the lowest-yielding variety at a given location in a single year. This indicates the potential impact of an improperly selected variety. 

Differences in fiber quality have also resulted in premium/discount ranges reaching as high as 5 cents to 6 cents per pound among varieties at a given location. The combination of both lint yield differences and fiber quality differences demonstrate the importance of evaluating cotton variety testing results as part of the decision-making process for variety selection. 

New varieties are entering the marketplace each year, and it’s uncommon to have a single variety around for more than four to five years before it’s replaced. New technology and germplasm improvements have driven this turnover in varieties. If you look at beltwide cotton yields over the past 20 years, a clear, positive trend of increasing yield is observed. A lot of this increase is due to new and innovative pest control technologies, but we can’t discount the improvements made in germplasm for both yield and fiber quality.

Due to the high turnover rate of varieties, the decision of variety selection can often be confusing. The University of Arizona conducts an aggressive variety testing program consisting of small and large plot trials conducted across the state from Willcox at 4000-foot elevation to Yuma at just above sea level.

This testing program is funded through various sources including Arizona Cotton Growers state support monies from Cotton Incorporated as well as core funding through Cotton Incorporated. It’s also funded in large part by the seed companies themselves. This testing program evaluates both commercially available varieties and also experimental lines that are being tested prior to commercial release. The results from these trials are published each year and distributed in meetings around the state. They can also be found online at extension.arizona.edu/crops-soils under the cotton variety section.

Another important aspect of variety performance is stability. High performance in a variety over locations and across years is a good indicator of one that will likely do well regardless of year-to-year environmental variation. The more information you can gather about the performance of a variety, from whatever source is available, will help you make an informed decision. rnorton@cals.arizona.edu

TEXAS | Ben McKnight

View Cotton Farming’s 2023 Seed Variety Guide here.
ben mcknight
Ben McKnight,
Texas A&M

As I write this Dec. 2, the 2022 growing season is quickly coming to an end, and the 2023 growing season will be here before we know it. As we start to shape up our plans for 2023, I believe it’s important to note that many of the decisions made prior to planting will have a resounding impact on the subsequent management decisions made throughout the upcoming growing season. We have all heard at least a hundred times or more that variety decision is probably the most important decision made all year, but this statement still holds true in many ways. 

The varieties that you select to grow for the upcoming year will be the foundational driving force for other important decisions including weed, disease and insect pest management. The trait packages in modern, commercial cotton varieties can be a valuable tool to protect your crop from yield-robbing pests, but yield potential and fiber quality characteristics should still remain important considerations when making variety decisions as well. 

With the number of varieties and trait packages available, arriving at a decision that will impact the remainder of the growing season may seem like a very challenging task. Variety testing results from the RACE trials can offer some insight to growers regarding variety performance within their growing region. Drought conditions severely impacted Texas cotton production in 2022, including many of our on-farm variety trials. Therefore, I always encourage producers to look over the results from previous years to include within their decision-making process. This may help identify varieties with yield stability across different years and growing environments.

By the time you are reading this in January, the results for the South, Central and East Texas RACE trials will be available online at varietytesting.tamu.edu. I hope everyone has a great holiday season, and I look forward to seeing you Jan. 10-12 at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans! bmcknight@tamu.edu 

OKLAHOMA | Seth Byrd

Seth Byrd, Oklahoma
Seth Byrd,

As we wind down the 2022 cotton season in Oklahoma, plans have already been in the works for weeks to get the 2023 season started. Variety selection is always a hot topic as we near harvest as this is a great opportunity for producers to identify varieties that are strong performers on their farm — as well as make note of the varieties they would like to avoid. 

Unfortunately, for many acres in Oklahoma, there was little to be learned this year beyond how varieties handle a drought. While many of our irrigated producers may have had a successful year, relatively speaking, it’s still difficult to make many assumptions regarding variety performance in a year where we experienced extreme conditions for so long.

As we move into a new year with more, new varieties coming and others leaving the market, it will be difficult for many to apply much of what they experienced this year to future variety selection. However, if you have an area that’s more prone to drought conditions, this year may have at least shed some light on what varieties are tougher or more resilient in these conditions. It’s also likely that most producers will make variety decisions well before harvest, but we can still be strategic in placement of varieties. 

Coming off what we hope is an outlier year, use your previous experience with varieties to guide your selection and placement decisions in 2023. As I’m sure many of my colleagues will also recommend, find out as much as you can about new varieties, including the various variety trials conducted by universities, private consultants and industry groups close by or in similar production environments. 

Request information about the varieties and seed lots, such as seed quality data, to help guide you with placement or determining planting order of varieties in an attempt to target conditions that will help optimize stand establishment based on seed characteristics.

Hopefully the new year will bring better growing conditions for the Oklahoma cotton crop, but since we can’t do much to control the weather, the best way for us to optimize yield potential is still to do everything we can to mitigate risk. Good luck in 2023. seth.byrd@okstate.edu

ARKANSAS |Bill Robertson

Bill Robertson, University of Arkansas
Bill Robertson,

Plans for 2023 should be falling into place. Variety selection is one of the most important decisions a producer makes. Once planted, no amount of effort can make up for a poor decision. Many producers have booked their main varieties but may still be evaluating some of the new varieties in new technologies that are worthy of a look. 

There are many sources of variety testing results. When selecting varieties for planting, don’t simply choose the top-yielding variety at any single testing location or year — look at the averages of several years and locations. Each variety has its strengths and weaknesses. The challenge is to identify these characteristics and adjust management strategies to enhance strengths while minimizing the weaknesses. 

The best experience for new varieties is based on first-hand, on-farm knowledge. Evaluate yield and quality parameters of unbiased testing programs to learn more about new varieties. Plantings of new varieties should be limited to no more than 10% of the farm. Acreage of a variety may be expanded slightly if it performs well the first year. Consider planting the bulk of the farm to three or four proven varieties of different maturities to reduce the risk of weather interactions and to spread harvest timings.

Information to assist in variety evaluation may be found at the University of Arkansas System Division of Ag Variety Testing webpage at https://aaes.uada.edu/variety-testing/ for variety testing results from county and official variety trials. brobertson@uada.edu

LOUISIANA |Matt Foster

matt foster
Matt Foster,

One of the most important decisions producers make is variety selection. With numerous transgenic traits currently available, selecting a variety can oftentimes be a difficult process. It’s valuable for a producer to have as much information on a variety as possible to make a more informed decision. With proper variety selection, producers increase their chances to be profitable and sustainable. 

To aid in this process, the LSU AgCenter annually conducts official variety trials at the Northeast Research Station in St. Joseph, Macon Ridge Research Station in Winnsboro, Dean Lee Research Station in Alexandria and Red River Research Station in Bossier City. This past year, 41 cotton varieties were evaluated at these locations. 

In addition to the official cotton variety trials, nine on-farm cotton variety trials were conducted with producers throughout the state. The main objective of these trials is to provide as much information as possible concerning a cotton variety’s performance over a range of soil types, growing conditions and management practices. 

As a new growing season approaches, variety selection plays a major role in the planning process. Now is a great time to review the past year’s results. Results of the 2022 LSU AgCenter cotton variety trials are located at https://www.lsuagcenter.com/topics/crops/cotton. Happy New Year, and best of luck during the upcoming season. mfoster@agcenter.lsu.edu

MISSISSIPPI |Brian Pieralisi

brian pieralisi
Brian Pieralisi,

Variety selection is a difficult decision. It’s just as important as it was last year, and possibly more important moving into 2023. Considering varietal placement for your region or agronomic practices — plus disease packages and herbicide technology — influences overall management for the entire season. Not to mention, improper variety placement can cost you up to 200 or more pounds of lint per acre. 

By the time you read this, 2022 cotton variety performance data for both MSU small plot and on-farm trials will be posted to Mississippi-crops.com. At this point, some of the newer varieties have had two or three years of performance history, which helps in making selection decisions. Mississippi State small plot variety trials have evaluated approximately 40 varieties for the past two years under different irrigation practices in over nine locations and two regions. I recommend selecting a similar environment in the small plot trials to where you are placing a variety and comparing these varieties to a similar environment in a large plot situation. 

Finding a variety with two or more years of performance data is also important in strengthening your decision. Two-year performance data is available for both hill and delta regions in the MSU small plot variety trial publication.

Variety selection decisions are made earlier than in years past. Some farmers are booking seed before variety trials are harvested, which illustrates confidence in a variety’s repeat performance. Supply of certain varieties also caused earlier-than-usual selection decisions. To secure a particular variety, plan early and avoid late selection decisions that could result in poor varietal placement. As always, feel free to contact me with any variety selection questions or comments. Happy New Year! bkp4@msstate.edu

TENNESSEE |Tyson Raper

Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,

As I write this Dec. 5, the Tennessee small plot and large plot variety testing results are currently being compiled, and we are on track to deliver the final results several weeks earlier than normal. There is a considerable amount of statistical power in the trials this year — the ability of the trial to identify differences in performance between two varieties — but we need to exercise caution while interpreting these results as rainfall patterns in West Tennessee during 2022 varied considerably from location to location.  

Fortunately, if you consider the different rainfall patterns experienced at each Tennessee location, you’ll have tremendous insight on how to place and manage varieties for the 2023 season. Generally speaking, we saw outstanding performance from the early-mid and mid-maturing varieties. Early maturing varieties performed surprisingly well when planted late, but if planted early in drier conditions, performance suffered. Additionally, the preliminary analysis suggests every company has at least one variety in the top statistical tier.  

By the time you read this, our full report and a variety guide will be available on news.utcrops.com or utcrops.com. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions on placement during 2023 or results from 2022. I hope everyone has a Happy New Year! traper@utk.edu

ALABAMA Steve M. Brown

STEVE BROWN, alabama
Steve M. Brown,

In Alabama, as in most states, we conduct variety trials in multiple locations. The reason is obvious: production areas differ widely in terms of soils, weather trends, pest pressures, etc. We grow cotton in environments as diverse as any state in the Belt except Texas, and as a result, variety performance can differ significantly across our various production regions. 

In addition to large-scale on-farm trials scattered across the state, replicated, small-plot “official variety trials” (OVTs) are conducted at Auburn University research locations. In 2022, we added Brewton as a location to bring the OVT sites to six, which includes stations at Belle Mina, Fairhope, Headland, Prattville and Shorter. Altogether, 20 OVT experiments were planted at these research facilities, and 14 on-farm trials were initiated in grower fields. 

Yield data can be reviewed at https://aaes.auburn.edu/variety-tests/. 

Henry Jordan, AU Variety Testing Manager, in addition to making extraordinary efforts to publish information in a timely and efficient manner, has partnered with Medius Ag to develop the AU Variety Selection Platform. This tool enables an in-depth analysis of variety performance and serves as a collection site for production information, pest ratings, field pictures, weather data and calendar events. As with many sophisticated tools, the more you work with it, the more useful it becomes.

An early review of OVT yield data indicates different top performers by location, which underscores the value of “local” testing. Maybe it’s due to the fact that there are so many entries, but there’s also no absolute standout. We’ve had eras in which the opposite occurred; that is, a single star variety dominated large regions of the county. Most recently, it was DP 1646 B2XF, which still performs well in many trials. For most areas, the current portfolio of varieties offers several competitive but maybe not dominant picks — all the more reason to plant multiple varieties on a farm.

Study the data. Check your selections with the “coffee shop” chatter, but temper what you hear by the source and its credibility. Also, given what happened in West Texas in 2022 and the fact that they typically produce a lot of planting seed, you might want to early order. cottonbrown@auburn.edu


camp hand
Camp Hand,

Those who know me know I love to be in my garden. I grew up working in my Papaw’s garden with him, and it was then that I knew I wanted to work in the field of agriculture. When my wife and I bought our house in Tifton, there was already a huge garden, which I was thrilled about. Last spring was my second garden here, and as we were on the road doing production meetings, myself and my colleagues found ourselves in garden supply shops pretty frequently. 

As we were nearing planting time for potatoes, we walked into a store in Laurens Co., Georgia, and they had lots of options to choose from in terms of potato varieties — some of which I was familiar with and others I was not. I wanted to get the most bang for my buck when selecting a variety, but wanted to make sure I was choosing a variety using accurate information and not just choosing one I was comfortable with. So, I did what I would hope any cotton grower would do in my situation, and called a trusted advisor that I was sure would know more about potato varieties than me – Dr. Steve Brown (that’s right, the Auburn University cotton agronomist). He walked me through the varieties I was thinking about buying and helped me make a final decision. 

As we approach the 2023 growing season, many cotton growers will go through the process I just described here. Choosing a cotton variety is complex, and a lot of things go into that choice. Herbicide traits, insect protection, nematode resistance, maturity, fiber quality and ultimately yield. Make the best decision for your farm with the best information available. UGA has multiple resources to help with that, including the UGA On-Farm Cotton Variety Evaluation Program and the Official Variety Testing Program (swvt.uga.edu). Results from both programs will be discussed at county production meetings in the spring of 2023. 

Speaking of which, the schedule for 2023 production meetings is now available at ugacotton.com, and your local UGA county Extension agent has that information as well. We are looking forward to getting back on the road, and as always, if you ever need anything, your local UGA county Extension agent and specialists are here to help! Don’t hesitate to reach out. camphand@uga.edu 


Guy Collins, North Carolina
Guy Collins,
North Carolina

As I write this Thanksgiving Eve, harvest is coming to a close. Nearly all cotton has been harvested at this point — and a lot of beans, too. Although this year brought its share of challenges, as does every year, we have a lot for which to be thankful. In many areas, we harvested a decent to exceptional crop. This is attributed to summer (July to early August) rains, although sparse, and a “clean” Fall with regard to harvest weather — as well as little to no damage from the tropical storm we experienced. Yields varied, as they always do, but many growers harvested a really good crop with good quality. 

By the time this is read, variety selection will probably be on everyone’s mind. Variety selection is, and always has been, one of the most important decisions a grower can make. The day seed is planted, the maximum genetic yield potential has been determined. Beyond planting, it’s up to management and the environment to maximize that yield potential. 

When observing the results of last year’s NC On-Farm Cotton Variety Evaluation Program, simply making a small error in variety selection could cost upwards of $170 per acre, which is over a $50 million economic impact statewide. Variety decisions should be made based on replicated trial data, from several locations and years, not just the closest trial to your farm. Making variety decisions based on field-by-field observations can be very dangerous, misleading and costly due to subtle variations in soils, rainfall, planting date, etc. 

Planting the majority of your acreage to varieties that have shown consistent performance at or near the top (compared to other varieties in the same trial) over a broad range of environments, years and variables within years (soils, planting dates, tillage systems, etc.) will aid in managing and minimizing risks.

Plant a smaller proportion of your acreage to varieties that have performed well across a broad range of environments but have only been in trials for a year. Plant the smallest fraction of your acreage to brand new varieties that have been in a few trials in a single year when tested experimentally. Planting varieties that have never been tested is the most risky practice. Therefore, it’s not advised to plant many acres to such varieties.

The results of the 2022 NC On-Farm Cotton Variety Evaluation Program, as well as the 2022 NCSU Official Variety Trials, will be shared once it’s available, and results for both programs will be included into the NCSU Cotton Variety Performance Calculator, which can be found at https://trials.ces.ncsu.edu/cotton/select_trials/. The results of both programs will also be covered in our upcoming 2023 Winter Cotton County Meetings. 

Check with your local county ag extension agent, or check the NCSU Cotton Portal website at https://cotton.ces.ncsu.edu/ for dates/times of your county meeting. guy_collins@ncsu.edu 

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