Carefully Evaluate Varieties For 2019

David Wright, Florida
David Wright,

Many of our cotton producers were glad to leave 2018 behind them as crop management was difficult through most of the year due to wet conditions after a dry early May.

Even though the crop was one of the best ones produced in years, harvest time saw one of the most harsh periods in many decades with Hurricane Michael. The storm destroyed modules in harvested fields or to defoliated cotton that was fully opened as well as cotton that was just opening.[adins

Florida’s largest cotton county lost most of the cotton that had been picked or defoliated with 50 to 100 percent yield loss in a swath almost 100 miles wide. Cotton was affected 100 miles east and west of the center of the hurricane.

Growers were still picking their crop in December with plants blown all around and trees down around edges of fields and field roads. This slowed the movement of equipment and the harvested crop.

Even though things look bleak, there is still much optimism for 2019 as farmers remember the good crop that was produced and the cotton varieties that are capable of higher yields with better technology each year.

Guy Collins, North Carolina
Guy Collins,
North Carolina

As I write this on Dec. 7, harvest continues on the last few remaining acres. The 2018 harvest season was challenging, especially towards the end, although decent yields were observed in many areas. Fiber quality was also very good in certain places, affording North Carolina producers to remain competitive in the global market.

During January, variety performance continues to be on many growers’ minds. Calls from farmers began in late November, which verifies how important this decision is for them. I’m proud to say that the North Carolina On-farm Cotton Variety Testing Program was again a huge success in 2018.

This was due to efforts from the North Carolina Cotton Producers Association, North Carolina Department of Agriculture, and our North Carolina State University county agents and cooperating growers, as well as our seed companies.

As of Dec. 7, the North Carolina Cotton Variety Performance Calculator ( includes the final results for the on-farm program and in early January will also include results from the official variety trials. Results from the on-farm program are also discussed in two newsletter articles on the NCSU Cotton Portal website (

The results of the on-farm program, as well as the OVT, will be presented at upcoming statewide and county meetings throughout the winter months. There were clearly several varieties from different brands that have a competitive fit for North Carolina growers.

Some varieties that have performed well in the past continued that performance in 2018, indicating strong yield stability. Additionally, there were a few new varieties that also have a fit in North Carolina. Fiber quality was noticeably high in 2018, and excellent quality was observed in many varieties across brands.

‘As variety selection is one of the most important decisions affecting profitability, growers should observe as many years and locations of data as possible from both on-farm trials and the OVT. Check out and the North Carolina Cotton Variety Performance Calculator for variety trial results.

Also, see the “Events” list at for dates and locations of our winter cotton Extension meetings where these results will be discussed in detail. In addition, look for information about auxin training for cotton producers.

Tyson Raper, Tennessee
Tyson Raper,

A summary of the 2018 Tennessee cotton variety testing program was published recently, and a full publication covering all trial results is now available. You can also find these reports on

Several new varieties have been introduced for 2019, but many of the older varieties you have grown over the past three years will also be available. We have seen some issues with the two Bt gene platforms and will be looking at a transition over the next several years to a three Bt gene platform.

However, based on our variety testing data, I would not make a hard transition. Instead, begin blending a few acres of three Bt gene varieties in slowly and take a close look at the variety testing data generated in your region to select those.

Unfortunately, some three Bt gene varieties are not yielding like the go-to two Bt gene varietiess. The yield differences are substantial enough to support the use of one or two foliar sprays to target bollworms. Visit with your county agent to understand which ones will best fit your operation.

In other news, meeting season officially kicked off for the UT specialists in mid-December. You can find a list of dates and locations on our blog or from your local Extension office. Happy New Year!

Calvin Meeks, Missouri
Calvin Meeks,

Farmers in the Missouri Bootheel are likely evaluating yields and grades of the varieties they grew in 2018 to make selection decisions for 2019. I encourage producers to consider as much information as possible by taking a look at statewide data and not relying solely on what happened on their farm in 2018. I believe we often tend to overreact to what happened in the previous year since hindsight is 20/20.

Using results from multiple locations helps to identify varieties that have high yield stability. This allows a producer to select a variety that is widely adapted to potential conditions for 2019. I encourage farmers to consider the results from the Missouri official variety trials, which are available at

Yields were quite good with numerous varieties breaking 2,000 pounds per acre in some places. Consider the locations nearest to your area to help determine variety selection while also considering yield stability across multiple environments. This year, separate data sets will be posted to illustrate yield stability across multiple locations and environments.

I also encourage the practice of using multiple planting dates with several varieties and maturities to help manage your risk. It would also be prudent to consider results from previous years as well to help determine the best varieties for your farm in 2019. Furthermore, when making variety selections, also consider that the Bollgard II traits will be phased out in the near future.

I also encourage you to attend the 2019 Regional Missouri Cotton Meeting at the Fisher Delta Research Center on Jan. 24. The agenda is posted at, and variety selection will be one of the topics covered.

For further information about the conference, feel free to email me at or call me at 573-379-5431. 

Darrin Dodds, Mississippi
Darrin Dodds,

I am not entirely sure how, but another new year is upon us. As of this writing, some Mississippi cotton producers still have cotton in the field due to continued rainfall.

While this does not represent a large percentage of our overall 2018 acreage, these acres are still substantial to those who have been unable to complete harvest. Fall 2018 will be remembered (or dreaded) as the most challenging harvest season in nearly a decade — 2009 was extremely challenging as well.

In spite of these challenges, optimism around cotton is surprisingly high heading into 2019. If current commodity markets remain as they are, many, including myself, are expecting increased cotton acreage in 2019.

If you are considering growing cotton in 2019 or have never quit growing cotton, spend some time over the next few weeks doing your homework on variety selection as well as production practices that will provide a positive return on investment. While I would like to win the yield contest, I would rather win the money contest at the end of the year.

Dan Fromme, Louisiana
Dan Fromme,

Choosing cotton varieties can be difficult, and the availability of different transgenic traits often complicates the process. It is advantageous to have as much information on a variety as possible to help make a more informed decision.

To assist in this process, the Louisiana State University AgCenter annually conducts official variety trials at the Red River Research Station at Bossier City, Dean Lee Research Station at Alexandria, Macon Ridge Research Station at Winnsboro, and Northeast Research Station at St. Joseph.

This past year, 60 cotton varieties were evaluated at these locations. In addition to the official cotton variety trials, on-farm cotton variety trials are conducted with growers throughout the state. The objective of both sets of trials is to provide as much information as possible concerning a cotton variety’s performance over a range of soil textures and growing conditions.

As the new season approaches, variety selection is a key component in the planning process. Now is an excellent time to review the past year’s results. Consider public and private company tests in your area before making a variety decision. Results for the 2018 LSU AgCenter cotton variety trials are located at They can be found by clicking on topics>crops>cotton>varieties. Best of luck in 2019!

Bill Robertson, Arkansas
Bill Robertson,

Many producers have booked seed for 2019. There are several new varieties worthy of a look. Do your homework regarding them and where they have the best fit on your farm.

Variety selection is perhaps the most important decision a producer makes. Once planted, no amount of worry, work or money can make up for a poor decision. Our planting recommendation is that roughly two-thirds of your acres be planted with varieties proven on your farm.

Of the remaining acres, limit new varieties to no more than 10 percent of your total acreage. The remaining 25 percent should be dedicated to those varieties in which you have limited experience. This strategy provides stability while allowing for evaluation of the latest offerings

A number of unbiased information sources are available to assist in selecting new varieties. Our primary source is the university variety testing program conducted by Dr. Fred Bourland. County demonstrations are another good source. Find results at

Don’t restrict yourself to your home state or area. In Arkansas, it is appropriate to evaluate variety performance trials from neighboring states in the Mid-South. Evaluating the consistency of a variety under a wide array of conditions is beneficial. Contact your county Extension agent for assistance in obtaining or interpreting variety performance data and to get the date and location of upcoming county production meetings.

Seth Byrd, Oklahoma
Seth Byrd,

Oklahoma cotton harvest is finally winding down, although incredibly slowly, as of mid-December. Weather conditions resulted in favorable harvest conditions existing for only six to eight hours a day in some places.
However, the slow pace at the end of harvest has given us a chance to reflect on 2018.

While yields across the state didn’t reach 2017 levels, it was still an overall good year for cotton in the state, which is also reflected by the quality. Early quality numbers show average to good values across most fiber quality parameters, which will hopefully hold on as the harvest wraps up.

Variety selection discussions have already started as we look ahead to 2019. Herbicide traits have certainly had the biggest influence on variety selection over the past two to three years. However, new regulations and increased supply of new varieties from both of the new trait packages may result in a shift in 2019 market share in Oklahoma.

Beyond the traits, much of the state faced harsh conditions early in the season, which favored varieties with enhanced, or better-than-average, seedling vigor. Seedling vigor is highly correlated with oil content in the seed, which is typically higher in larger-seeded varieties. This may be a factor that is referred to when narrowing down varieties or looking for one to place on the “tough” acres.

Variety selection and seedling vigor will be among the topics covered at our winter production meetings. For information on meetings in your area, contact your local Extension office or refer to the Oklahoma State University Cotton Comments newsletter.

Galon Morgan, Texas
Galon Morgan,

Fields continue to have a full profile of soil moisture across most of the state, and cotton planting in the Lower Rio Grande Valley is not far away. Fortunately, a couple of weeks of no rainfall in late November into early December allowed growers to finally make good progress on harvesting.

For the cotton remaining in the field in the Blacklands, harvest has progressed slowly with only about a week of adequate conditions.

Some growers were pushing hard to get the crop out, resulting in huge ruts and additional challenges looking to 2019. The lint value of this very late and highly weathered cotton is creating financial challenges for these growers.

The Rolling Plains made tremendous harvest progress in late November and into December with most of the mainly irrigated crop, being completed by mid-December. After some dry weather and sunshine, the fiber quality rebounded for this Rolling Plains crop.

Looking into the 2019 season, variety selection is on everyone’s mind. This is one of the single biggest decisions a farmer makes each year because of seed cost, the traits (insecticide and herbicide), yield potential, and fiber quality. The South and East Texas cotton variety results from 20-plus on-farm trials were posted in mid-December at As additional data become available from the Rolling Plains and High Plains, the results will be posted on and each of the respective regional webpages.

Murilo Maeda
Murilo Maeda
Texas A&M

As of this writing in December, harvest in West Texas is nearly 85 percent completed. Compared to about a month ago, it is impressive how much cotton our farmers can get out of the fields given favorable weather. Speaking of which, the Lubbock area did receive anywhere from 3 to 10-plus inches of snow Dec. 7-8, which delayed harvest for at least a couple days. However, most finished harvesting by the end of the year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Marketing Service Lubbock Classing Office report for the week ending Dec. 6, 2018, showed almost 1.4 million bales classed for the season. Average micronaire is 4.22, strength 31.2, length 1.13, and uniformity 81.2.

As harvest activities wind down, it is a good time to reflect on the season and think about any adjustments that can be done in your operations. Many of the regional programs have already been scheduled, so contact your local Extension agent for information on a meeting happening close to you.

Most (but not all) of our regional replicated trials have been harvested at this time and fiber quality data has started rolling in. Keep an eye out for the results, which will be posted at

Randy Norton
Randy Norton

Variety selection is probably one of the most important decisions contributing to the success of a cotton crop. New varieties are entering the marketplace each year. It is uncommon to have a single variety around for more than four to five years before it is replaced. New technology and germplasm improvements have driven this turnover.

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 variety turnover rate, selection decisions can often be confusing.

Examine information about variety performance when deciding which one is best suited to your region and management style.

The University of Arizona conducts an aggressive variety testing program consisting of small- and large-plot trials conducted across the state from Willcox at 4,000-feet elevation to Yuma at just above sea level.

This testing program evaluates both commercially available varieties and also experimental lines being observed for adaptability in our region. The results from these trials are published each year and distributed in meetings around the state. They can also be found online at 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 variety performance, from whatever source is available, will help you make an informed decision.

Bob Hutmacher
Bob Hutmacher

Many California cotton growers have had a wild ride in terms of yields the past two years. With 2017 being a near-historic bad year in terms of pest pressure, pest control costs and reduced yields, 2018 is looking more like a banner year in terms of prevailing high yields in many fields.

For your 2019 cotton planting plans, decisions on variety choice, seed treatments, and the need for soil amendments to build or at least maintain adequate soil structure and fertility are right around the corner.

Basic yield results from the University of California will be available in early January from your UC Cooperative Extension Farm Adviser or on the UC cotton website: Basic fiber quality (HVI) tables from the Pima and Upland trials will be available on the same website.

california cotton harvest
Photo by Vicky Boyd

With reduced Acala/Upland acreage in recent years, Upland variety trials were conducted primarily at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center site in Fresno County, while the Pima variety trials included multiple on-farm sites in addition to the West Side REC. For a more balanced view of varietal yield and quality performance, look at both at these UC data sources as well as seed company results.

Cropping pattern changes of the past decade, expansion of tree and vine acreage, and contraction of alfalfa, safflower, cotton and small grains acreage, may lead to developing some new ideas about where cotton could fit into your production plans and allocated acreage. Irrigation water availability issues may warrant trying out a range of cotton varieties that differ in required or desired growing season length.

Most of our commercial cotton varieties can be managed to shorten up the growing season by irrigation reductions or delays, more aggressive PGR applications and other management efforts. But varieties and types of cotton (non-Acala Upland, Acala, Pima) differ in how much you can shorten up the growing season without reducing yields and affecting quality.

Furthermore, although we know about the relative salinity tolerance of cotton compared with other agronomic crops, there aren’t many recent evaluations that look at varietal differences in relative salt tolerance and production under saline conditions. Some of these comparisons may warrant strip tests or other on-farm variety comparisons as you plan your planting season.

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