There are many decisions made by a grower over the course of a cotton-growing season, but few have as significant and lasting impact on the final outcome of the crop than variety selection. This is a decision that will need to be made soon, so it is time to begin considering your options.
Variety evaluations conducted in various locations across Arizona have revealed that there may be as much as $300 per acre in revenue difference when comparing the highest yielding variety to the lowest yielding variety in a given variety evaluation trial.
Selection of a variety that performs poorly in a given area has the possibility of resulting in significant reductions in revenue. There are many information sources available to help make a proper variety selection decision for your farm, including testing results done by seed companies, the university and evaluations you perform on your own farm. Reviewing data from multiple sources will help in making a sound decision on variety selection.
We will also be seeing a new set of varieties coming to market with new transgenic traits. Some of these new traits contain new herbicide tolerance options. It is important to become educated on what these technologies are, what they can and cannot do, and how they may be used as a tool in your production operations to enhance weed control efficiency and effectiveness. Upcoming meetings to be conducted by the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in many locations across Arizona will help provide this important information.
Look for announcements about these meetings and more about Arizona variety selection and testing results at cals.arizona.edu/crops.
The big question mark for most San Joaquin Valley growers is the uncertain irrigation water supply situation and the degree to which growers may have to rely on groundwater pumping to augment or replace surface water resources. Forecasts related to El Niño have been promising better snow and rainfall months this winter, but they need to materialize and provide average, or above-average, precipitation to rebuild growers’ confidence in this region.
Decisions on the type of cotton to grow (Pima versus Uplands) and variety choice are right around the corner. With current and projected prices, it may be reasonable to expect much more interest in Pimas than Uplands/Acalas. Hopefully, Pima planting seed supplies will be adequate to cover increased acreage if water supplies improve. Basic yield results of the University of California trials will be available early to mid-January from your UC Farm Adviser or on the UC cotton website: http://cottoninfo.ucdavis.edu, including fiber quality tables for the included varieties.
For fields with either confirmed or suspected significant Fusarium race 4 inoculum, it is recommended that you look at relative Fusarium race 4 susceptibility ratings of varieties in tables at that same website. For the Pima variety trial data, look across multiple trial site results to give you a better handle on what you might expect in your area or soil type. Although we also will have some variety trial data for Uplands/Acala types, the number of test sites in 2015 for Upland variety trials was very limited due to lack of California-based new varieties to test and limited grower interest in providing field test sites.
Think about which fields had the most severe growth and yield problems in 2015. Use that information to help decide where alternative varieties with better vigor or conversely, more manageable vegetative growth, would best fit your operations. If you are providing a high level of inputs to consistently aim for very high yields, it may be useful to note that during some farm calls last year, a couple of things things were evident: (1) some fields that had been deficit-irrigated or that had been irrigated with somewhat saline groundwater were showing signs of damaging soil salinity in crop root zones; and (2) an increasing number of fields were found that could benefit from improved fertility management decisions. Cotton is not particularly salt-sensitive. If water supplies remain inadequate to properly leach ground that has been salinized by practices the past few years, cotton may be a better choice than vegetables for the coming year.
There may be a tendency to cut back on soil fertility evaluations and P and K fertilizer applications due to cost constraints. However, some periodic assessments in university trials have pointed out some K deficiencies (and even some P deficiencies) with the potential to be yield-limiting in high fruit load situations with cotton. To a greater extent in 2013 but again in some 2015 fields, the occurrence of K and/or P deficiencies was more common with the combination of high fruit load plants under drip irrigation, where deficit drip irrigation can tend to restrict the wetted soil root volume. Some soil tests to assess relative P and K levels in the surface 2 feet of soil might be worth a look if not tested for a while.
For all practical purposes, the Missouri cotton crop is either in modules or in bales. It is good to have the crop out of the field. With our weather patterns last year, I knew that we had excellent yield potential if we could get the crop out of the field since a large amount of our acreage was planted past the optimum planting dates.
Our weather patterns helped us and hurt us last year. Rainfall was adequate for excellent yields, but planting and harvest were disrupted. We were fortunate this year. In addition to natural rainfall, we had excellent irrigation potential. During dry periods, supplemental irrigation should have helped. When producers were trying to get the highest yields possible, some of the late-season cotton was vulnerable to the excess rainfall and frost. The latest cotton yield projections from the National Cotton Council put our crop at 1,125 pounds per acre. If the projection holds, this will be a new record crop for Missouri producers. In 2014, we had 1,117 pounds per acre.
It is anyone’s guess about the acreage for 2016, but with low prices and alternative crops, I expect that our acreage will continue its downward slide. It is hard to believe that Missouri’s harvested acreage in 2006 was 495,000 acres. Harvested acreage in 2015 was 175,000, which is the lowest since 1986.
As I reflect on 2015, the one word that comes to mind for Virginia (and maybe the entire Southeast) cotton production is DIFFICULT. Yields in Virginia will be lucky to average 800 pounds lint per acre across the state, the lowest average since I began my career almost four years ago. What made 2015 so hard to stomach was that the state came off a record year in 2014. Frequent rain and saturated soils spread harvest out over three to four months and negatively impacted fiber quality.
Looking ahead to 2016, producers should rely on multiple year/location variety data when making planting decisions. I encourage Virginia producers to look at OVT data from neighboring states in areas that are similar to their farms’ soil types and climate. Variety performance in 2015 was highly variable in Virginia with environment and management playing a significant role in variety performance across locations. To determine what varieties are stable and high-yielding, evaluate multiple years and locations for a given variety. This is difficult to do when variety turnover is high, and seed companies have new traits and genetics coming to the market every year. Whenever you shift a large portion of acreage to a relativity new variety, that shift has a certain level of risk. To minimize that risk, gather as much information across environments on the variety as possible.
Make sure variety data come from replicated trials. Replication, if done correctly by the researcher, is a statistical tool that ensures variability within a field is taken into account so that yield potential and environment decide the trial – not soil variability or bias.
Many producers have booked part of their seed for next year. There are several new varieties with new technologies that are worthy of a look. Do your homework regarding new varieties to best place them 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 recommendation for planting is that roughly two-thirds of your acres be planted with varieties that are 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 farm stability, while allowing for evaluation of new varieties.
A number of tools are now available to assist you in selecting new varieties for 2016. The primary source is the University Variety Testing Program. Results from the Arkansas trials conducted by Dr. Fred Bourland may be found at http://arkansasvarietytesting.com/home/cotton/. Information is collected and presented in a way to help evaluate fiber quality, maturity, growth characteristics and other variety traits as well as yield.
County demonstrations are another good source and are included with this data set. 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 will be beneficial. Contact your local county Extension agent to get assistance in obtaining or interpreting variety performance data.
This past growing season showed the benefits of many of the newer cotton varieties as we had periods of wet and then dry weather when it could have been detrimental to yield and cotton quality. Several non-irrigated cotton farmers were very concerned with the lack of rainfall during the bloom period, which is critical for high yield. However, in several cases the newer varieties made 3- to 4-bale cotton and commanded a premium for high quality. This is an example of where the cotton industry has done a good job of breeding not only for yield but quality.
Most states will have their cotton variety information available that should be studied closely to find those varieties that do the best in the area. Cotton can still be profitable at today’s price if yields and quality result in premiums.
This is the time of year for contemplating variety selection for the upcoming season. Variety experience on your farm is an important aspect of variety selection; therefore, we encourage you to try multiple varieties on your farm to gain personal experience. It is also important to look at variety trials results. We have released a variety selection tool called the NC Cotton Variety Performance Calculator. The program is easy to use and will allow you to select varieties and locations for comparison. The program allows you to use Official Variety Trial data and/or on-farm large plot data. The program is available at https://trials.ces.ncsu.edu/cotton/select_trials/.
Some of you may be interested in comparing varieties using North Carolina data as well as data from other states. Cotton Incorporated has put together a variety trial section program with cooperation from state cotton Extension specialists and state OVT programs to allow you to do just that. You can register to use that application at: https://seedmatrix.com/CottonIncRegistration.
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 as possible about a variety to make a more informed decision pertaining to variety selection.
To assist in this decision-making process, the LSU AgCenter annually conducts official variety trials at the Red River Research Station in Bossier City, Dean Lee Research Station in Alexandria, Macon Ridge Research Station in Winnsboro and Northeast Research Station in St. Joseph.
This year, 44 cotton varieties were evaluated at these locations. In addition to the official cotton variety trials, on-farm trials are conducted with producers throughout the state. The objective of the official variety trials and the on-farm 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 winter planning process, and now is an excellent time to review past year’s results. Review as many public and private company tests in your area as you can before making a variety decision.
Results for the 2015 LSU AgCenter cotton variety trials are located at lsuagcenter.com. They can be found by clicking on crops>cotton>varieties. Best of luck in 2016!
The onset of a new year also brings the same challenges. Variety selection is one of the most critical decisions a grower makes. In addition, it is a decision that impacts the entire growing season. I have contended for the past several years that cotton growers have more choices of quality varieties than at any other point in history. However, the lifespan of any given variety is likely as short as it has ever been given the continual proliferation of new varieties into the marketplace. The days of evaluating a variety for three years in the public sector prior to release have long since passed, and in many cases, only one or at best, two years of data are available prior to launch. This has created issues with determining where to place a given variety as well as how to manage it.
Growers have more access to variety trial data than ever before through the use of smartphones, tablets, etc. A plethora of information is available from a variety of sources on variety performance. However, we greatly lack information on where to place a variety and how to manage it for maximum performance. In many instances, a year or two of experience with a given variety fills these gaps; however, many varieties are on the backend of their lifespan at that point. In addition, in a 65-cent cotton market, taking a year or two to learn how to maximize variety performance is not feasible.
Look at as much variety trial data as possible. Pay particular attention to soil textures those varieties were grown on and whether they were irrigated. Do your homework on varieties now to set the stage for a successful 2016.
Cotton harvest was still incomplete in the state as of Dec. 10. Fiber quality continued to hold up for most producers. Winter months are a good time for doing much-needed homework on many management topics. There is no doubt that variety selection remains a top priority for many growers. Our research trial harvesting has been completed and we have moved into ginning operations and fiber quality determinations. Thanks to our producer-cooperators, we again had some excellent trials and look forward to getting those summarized for the Beltwide Cotton Conference and our winter meetings.
Many producers have questions concerning the performance of the XtendFlex varieties, and we had several opportunities to capture important data. The Red River Crops Conference, a meeting jointly sponsored by Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, will be held on Jan. 20 and 21. This conference rotates back to Altus, Okla., in 2016. The first day will cover winter in-season and alternate summer crops. The second day will be devoted entirely to cotton production topics. We hope to see producers on both sides of the Red River attend this important meeting and should have summaries of various important trials available for distribution.
The variety selection process for the 2016 season will be challenging; multiple varieties tested in our trials were characterized by exceptional yield potential, yield stability and fiber quality. It appears from the 2015 Tennessee data that several of these will be good options for the 2016 season. Although many have been mentioned previously and will likely be mentioned again, it is important to spread risk across multiple varieties representing a range of maturity groups and traits. For our area, we saw several mid-maturing varieties perform well in 2015, given that they were planted very early in the season and managed properly. Still, we are not guaranteed a long summer every year.
If mid-maturing varieties are chosen, they should be planted first and should represent a small portion of your acres. Several excellent early and early-mid maturing varieties are available and should comprise the largest portion of your acres. It is also a good idea to diversify your tech trait selection. This will help in resistance management (given labels are approved) and allow you to get a personal view of each of the technologies.
For more information on variety selection and results from the 2015 Tennessee Cotton Variety Testing Program, visit news.utcrops.com or follow me on Twitter, @TysonRaper.
As of Dec. 10, cotton harvesting continued in the Rolling Plains of Texas. Barring more wet weather, we expected to conclude by the end of December. Rain and ice occurred during late November, but no major shifts in cotton fiber quality were expected. Leaf grades were higher than the long-term average for the Rolling Plains, but 75 percent of the classed bales in Abilene remained at 4 or less. Other fiber quality characteristics remained in the expected range for the majority of the ginned bales.
Looking to 2016, the general consensus among farmers is a wait-and-see approach to crop mix; however, no major shifts in cotton acreage are expected at this time. With current cotton prices and premiums for high-quality fiber, additional consideration to fiber quality is important although pounds still pay the bills. When looking at varietal performance, remember that fiber length and strength are highly hereditable, while microaire is predicted to be about 50 percent genetic and 50 percent environment. Yield and quality stability is another important factor to consider when selecting varieties, and synthesizing information from replicated and local trials is critical to making a solid decision. The Texas cotton variety results, large-plot on-farm trials and small-plot trials can be found at cotton.tamu.edu. Finally, selecting multiple varieties is a good way to spread risks through differences in maturity, disease resistance, etc.
Additionally, some Texas growers are considering non-transgenic cotton varieties to reduce upfront input costs. If a producer is considering non-transgenic varieties, yield and fiber data are harder to find but are generally available from small-plot research trials, such as the OVT.
As harvest winds down in the Texas High Plains and Panhandle regions, cotton producers will be looking to determine what crops they will plant for the 2016 production season. Cotton acres will depend upon the cotton and other crop market situations in the coming months. Producers who decide to go with cotton will have to determine which cultivar, or variety, will best suit their production management practices and environment. With nearly 90 commercially available varieties to choose from, the task can be daunting. However, there are resources available that can assist in the decision making process. Variety trial results from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Research can be accessed online at www.lubbock.tamu.edu and http://cotton.tamu.edu/.
Although yield potential is the most important consideration, fiber quality is also a priority. With supplies high and considerable competition from other cotton-producing regions, states and countries, fiber produced must be of good to excellent quality for cotton production to remain profitable. Other considerations for variety selection include, but are not limited to, soil type, irrigation capacity of systems, water quality, weed pressure (technologies), fertility management, disease and/or nematode pressure, and production practices.
When new varieties are considered, producers should plant a limited number of acres until familiar with the genetics and managerial requirements. If weather cooperates, the growing season is suitable for high-yield potential and proper variety selection is made, the 2016 production season should be a success!View More in our Archives