2022 Variety Selection

ben mcknight
Ben McKnight,
Texas A&M

As we think ahead to the upcoming year, variety selection is on everyone’s mind. I’m sure folks have heard this statement several times, but cotton variety selection is the most important decision we will make all year. In many ways, several management decisions are also determined when a variety choice is made.

Variety decisions will also be the driving force of how our pest control programs will shape up. Varieties with herbicide-tolerant traits will determine, in a lot of ways, what our core weed management programs will look like moving forward. This is especially important for growers combatting resistant weeds.

Insect resistance to once-viable Bt traits may shift our variety decision to growing a three-gene Bt variety. This can be an important decision on the front end of the growing season, especially with the rising costs associated with inputs and fuel. In fields with a history of bacterial blight, place priority on selecting a variety that has enhanced resistance to the pathogen.

thrips seed treatmentFinally, selecting a variety with good yield potential and fiber quality for your specific area is extremely important. To evaluate current commercial cotton varieties, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension annually conducts several replicated cotton variety trials across a large geography.

Results from these Replicated Agronomic Cotton Evaluation trials (RACE trials) are published every year in December at varietytesting.tamu.edu. Growers can use these results to identify which varieties performed well in their region. I encourage everyone to use this resource when making plans for the upcoming growing season.

I hope everyone has a fantastic holiday season, and I look forward to seeing you Jan. 4-6 at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in San Antonio! bmcknight@tamu.edu

seth byrd
Seth Byrd,

This time of year we typically start piecing together what we’ve learned from the past season and how it may influence our variety selection decisions moving forward. Looking back at my notes from 2021, maturity and storm tolerance were two of the big factors that seemed to make a difference in variety performance.

Given the start of the season, it is likely that seedling vigor will be a factor that was highlighted last year. The slow start resulting from cooler temperatures combined with beneficial rainfall the crop received throughout the months of July and August favored varieties that could achieve rapid stand establishment and initiated reproductive growth early.

These characteristics were not only successful in combating the early season conditions but also were typical of varieties that were easier to defoliate in the fall. Many of the defoliation issues resulted from delayed development from the first three to four weeks of the season.

Varieties that were more successful in establishing an adequate stand and reaching key early growth stages in a timely manner were typically also easier to defoliate.

Beyond these agronomic characteristics, be sure to take note of any issues encountered throughout the season, primarily due to weeds, insects or other pests. Determine how to best address these in the coming year. While some may be addressed through variety selection, others may influence control methods, such as seed treatments. Variety trial information is available at cotton.okstate.edu and will be updated as additional information becomes available. seth.byrd@okstate.edu

Bill Robertson, University of Arkansas
Bill Robertson,

Another calendar year is in the books. Unfortunately, 2021 brought a few records we could have done without. The biggest was the record rainfall received in much of central and southern Arkansas.

Rainfall patterns in southwest Arkansas resulted in greatly reducing cotton plantings. It appears that planting half our crop in the last half of May is becoming the norm. Fortunately, we had another great fall to go along with a late-planted crop that got even later as the season progressed.

Farmers in northeast Arkansas picked one of their best crops in many years. Excessive rainfall resulted in highly variable yields in the central and southeast parts of the state. It lowered farm yield averages not only in cotton but also in other crops. Many felt their yield averages were about 200 pounds of lint per acre off where they should have been.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service December crop production report estimated Arkansas production at 1.26 million bales, 17,000 bales down from 2020. Based on conditions as of Dec. 1, 2021, yield is expected to average 1,287 pounds lint on 470,000 harvested acres.

arkansas cotton harvest
Photo by Bill Robertson

Our previous five-year average is 1,150 pounds lint per acre. The current yield projection shatters our previous high of 1,185 pounds per acre established in 2019. It is not often we have exceptional yields and great prices occurring at the same time. Cotton acres are expected to increase in 2022.

Plans for this season should be falling in place. Variety evaluation information may be found at the University of Arkansas System Division of Ag Variety Testing webpage at https://arkansas-variety-testing.uark.edu/ for variety testing results from county and Official Variety Trials.

Rising input costs and input availability will become major limitations that will shape our management in 2022. Plan to attend your county Extension production meetings this spring. Contact your local county Extension agent for more information. brobertson@uaex.edu

David Wright, Florida
David Wright,

Harvest season was excellent in Florida this past year compared to most falls. Much of the cotton was planted later than normal due to weather, first dry and then too wet. Later-planted cotton did well as rain continued into September, and no hurricanes affected opened cotton.

In 2021, several companies had significant acreages of Bollgard 3 cotton. With excellent weather, good prices and new varieties, cotton is becoming exciting for farmers to grow again. Recent input price increases have dampened enthusiasm for cotton in 2022, but the memory of good cotton will linger.

The technology used in most new varieties is making an impact on farmers’ yield and economics. This past year has shown the potential for much higher yields when ideal weather occurs.

Late-planted cotton did best for our growers the past two years. But we never know when hurricanes or tropical storms will affect harvest. Cotton breeders with all the seed companies continue to take risk out of production for growers and reduce management intensity with genetics and technology.

Cotton production since 1995 has changed more than the previous 150 years at the farm level. I’m sure the changes will continue faster in the future and help growers keep ahead of any new issues that occur. wright@ufl.edu

matt foster
Matt Foster,

One of the most important decisions producers make is variety selection. With numerous transgenic traits currently available, this can often be difficult. A producer needs to have as much information 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 Louisiana State University 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, 48 cotton varieties were evaluated at these locations.

In addition to the official cotton variety trials, seven 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 performance. Results of the 2021 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

Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,

I expect the varieties selected for 2022 will likely represent the newest set we have planted in the past four years. Based on preliminary data from 2021 and data from 2020, I feel confident a number of these have top-end yield potential.

While I suspect a few are very stable and can tolerate a variety of stresses, we don’t yet have a thorough understanding of response to environment for all the new varieties. Your best opportunity to minimize risk is to select several of them. This prevents a big loss from choosing a variety that fails in the environmental unknowns of 2022 and gives you a great opportunity to see each of them on your own ground.

By the time you read this, the Tennessee Cotton Variety Trial data will have been released on news.utcrops.com. We had a great set of large-plot trials throughout Tennessee last year.

I was also pleased with the separations we generated within our small-plot trials. I encourage you to find a small-plot official variety trial near your location and specify varieties based on it. After identifying 15-20 entries, narrow down your selection more based on the large-plot trials (county standard tests) that closely match your growing environment.

One other comment on variety selection. Over the past several years, we have seen a few mid-maturing varieties perform in the top-tier. I encourage you to consider adding them to your mix IF you believe you can get them planted early in the planting window.
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions on selection or trial results and have a Happy New Year! traper@utk.edu

camp hand
Camp Hand,

Sometimes I struggle to make decisions. Just yesterday, I was talking about getting one of our upcoming agent trainings catered. Katie, my business manager, asked, “Well, what do you want? We can get barbeque or something.” I told her, “I’m not sure about barbecue because so many people have that at their meetings. I’m not sure what I want, but I can tell you what I don’t want.”

Before I decide, I’ll inevitably ask some folks who they think would be a good caterer and even look at online reviews before I decide who to go with.

Variety selection can be one of the most difficult decisions growers make. In reality, maximum yield potential is set once you choose a variety. Although yield is the major component in the process, there are other things to think about. A few considerations are weed control technology, nematode resistance packages, disease resistance packages, leaf pubescence, plant growth regulator responsiveness, fiber quality and others. These are factors Georgia growers should consider prior to settling on a variety.

To assist in the variety selection decision, the University of Georgia provides several resources. First is the on-farm variety evaluation program. In 2021, 12 commercial varieties were planted in grower fields in 25 locations across Georgia to look at variety stability across multiple environments.

Secondly is the UGA Official Variety Trial program that evaluates a higher number of varieties in fewer locations. These two types of trials are conducted yearly to help with this complex decision. Find results for both at ugacotton.com.

While you refer to those resources for variety selection, I’ll be looking at catering reviews trying to make an important decision myself. As always, your local UGA county Extension agent and specialists are here to help! Reach out if you have any questions. camphand@uga.edu

Guy Collins, North Carolina
Guy Collins,
North Carolina

North Carolina experienced an incredible cotton year in 2021. Several growers reported very high yields and said it was their best crop or second best in some cases. Yields were variable across the state, as they always are, but were higher than average for most areas. Other crops performed well, too. Market prices, relative to 2021 input costs, have certainly been welcome, and last year will be remembered fondly for quite a while.

As we enter a new year, we have a lot to be thankful for. But wisdom, experience and the ability to remember challenging times while wisely looking forward will determine future profitability and financial stability. “Input costs” is all the chatter right now. Therefore, wise decisions regarding inputs will prove to be valuable, more so now than ever.

The first decision is variety selection. Thanks to our county agents and cooperating growers and support from seed companies and the North Carolina Cotton Producers Association, the North Carolina On-Farm Cotton Variety Evaluation Program and the NCSU Cotton Official Variety Trial program were big successes in 2021. Variety selection will be discussed in detail during our winter meetings (see “Events” on cotton.ces.ncsu.edu).

Additionally, all our replicated trial data can be found in the NCSU Cotton Variety Performance Calculator (trials.ces.ncsu.edu/cotton). Growers should make their variety decisions based on replicated trial data and focus on varieties with strong performance in multiple environments and years when possible. Field by field assessments of variety performance are very misleading and rife with confounding factors that also have a strong influence on yield for a particular variety.

Varieties with a high degree of stability across many environments and years, as seen from replicated trial data, should receive the most consideration. Lastly, no matter how tempting, always plant multiple varieties to mitigate risks because each one has its share of risks. The good news is we have several varieties from multiple brands that have proven to be competitive for North Carolina cotton growers. guy_collins@ncsu.edu

Randy Norton
Randy Norton

One of the most important decisions a producer will make each year is variety selection. Abundant information on performance is available from several sources to assist in making an informed decision.

Seed companies conduct testing programs across Arizona evaluating their varieties for local adaptability. The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension also has an aggressive testing program that includes evaluating commercially available varieties and pre-release experimental varieties from major seed companies.

Testing experimental varieties is part of UA’s Cooperative Extension Upland Cotton Advanced Strains Testing Program. It involves evaluating pre-commercial strains and varieties in three locations across Arizona, including Yuma, Maricopa and Safford counties.

Commercially available varieties are evaluated as part of Cooperative Extension’s Upland Cotton Variety Testing Program. This program involves evaluating varieties in eight different locations across the state. The trials are conducted on grower-cooperators’ fields and provide an unbiased evaluation of commercially available varieties. A similar testing program for Pima or extra-long staple cotton is also conducted in multiple locations in Arizona.

All the results including yield and fiber quality data are summarized each year in a Cooperative Extension publication titled “Cotton Variety Testing Results.” It can be found online at cals.arizona.edu/crops or at your local Cooperative Extension office. Funding for these testing programs comes from Cotton Incorporated, the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and participating seed companies.

Reviewing the information available on variety performance in your specific region can be critical in helping you make an appropriate decision on variety selection for your farm. rnorton@cals.arizona.edu

brian pieralisi
Brian Pieralisi,

It’s never too early to evaluate cotton variety performance. Each year, we have complexities during the growing season that exploit both strengths and weaknesses of varieties. Therefore, extensive variety performance research across environments and multiple years is encouraged when possible. With supply chain limitations and 2022 rushing in, it is a good idea to have crop mix and variety selection decisions made as soon as possible.

Based on Mississippi State University’s Official Variety Trial and on-farm cotton yield data, variety selection decisions could be a bit more challenging this season. Over the past few years, 3-gene Bt cotton has proven to produce robust yields. We will likely see more 3-gene Bt cotton planted in 2022.

With that said, it is more important for growers planting a variety for the first time to match each one to an environment where it has proven to perform well. When matching environments, consider your region and agronomic practices, such as irrigation. Also, with the high rate of cotton variety turnover, try to analyze multiple years of yield data.

MSU’s Official Small Plot Variety Trials and on-farm variety trials are available at mississippi-crops.com to view cotton variety performance data in Mississippi. The state’s cotton acreage is expected to increase slightly in 2022.

It’s always a good idea to select a couple of varieties at a minimum that have proven to perform well in each region. This not only mitigates risks associated with environmental situations that arise during the year but also provides the opportunity to plant different maturities to aid in harvest efficiency. Happy New Year! bkp4@msstate.edu

STEVE BROWN, alabama
Steve M. Brown,

It was shocking. No cows in the pasture behind the barn. No 3:30 a.m. or 3:30 p.m. whirring of milking machines. Quiet. Dead quiet.

Almost every November for the past 32 years, I’ve spent a couple days deer hunting on a small dairy farm in rural Northeast Georgia. The two bachelor-brothers, the youngest of whom is 80, abruptly decided to stop milking this past August. As I understand it, they reached a consensus on Saturday and sold their cows on Monday, shutting down a family enterprise that initiated operations in the 1930s. Now what?

For the cotton farmer, January is typically time to review the past year and plan for the next crop. Certainly, decisions about acreage, equipment needs, varieties and other production resources require careful thought. That is usually what we discuss in these columns at the start of a new year.

This could — perhaps should — also be a time to think about the BIG picture, especially for family farm operations. The technical term is SUCCESSION PLANNING. What happens to your operation and assets when you decide to cease farming? Sometimes you have the opportunity to think and plan well in advance of a final phase-out. Other times it’s an unforeseen, unexpected, even unwanted, rapid end. Many producers have gray hair like me and need to give thought about the future … in a big, broad and concrete way.

“Passing the baton” is always a tricky part of a shared race. Watching it done well is such a good thing. cottonbrown@auburn.edu

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