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NCSU on-farm fiber quality results for 2020

• By Guy Collins and Keith Edmisten •

Fiber quality results for the 2020 North Carolina On-Farm Cotton Variety Evaluation Program are now in. In addition to yield, fiber quality is an important component to the value and marketability of cotton in our state and should be considered when selecting varieties.

The table in the link below illustrates the average fiber quality values for each variety across all on-farm trials in 2020. Parameters include lint percentage, micronaire (MIC), fiber length (LEN), fiber strength (STR), length uniformity (UI), color grade, leaf grade, and trash.

Click to view fiber quality results

In this table, varieties are ranked in descending order according to lint yield (yield data not shown). As mentioned in previous articles, the 2020 season could easily be defined as having a cool, wet planting season throughout its entirety, severe and prolonged heat and drought in many areas during the month of July, badly needed rains during August. This led to the development of a decent top crop, and an abnormally cool September and early October.

We were able to dodge any direct hit from hurricanes, and our first frost date was slightly later than normal. Boll opening was surprisingly successful during the fall, albeit slow and difficult.

Despite the year’s challenges, essentially all of the varieties evaluated displayed excellent fiber quality in numerous parameters, however, there were clear differences in fiber quality among these varieties across environments.

It is important to note that the environment and season can greatly influence fiber quality, more-so than genetics in some years, therefore growers should understand that varieties with tendencies for poor quality in some parameters, may not necessarily result in poor quality, and vice versa.

Variety decisions are largely made based on yield potential and stability; however, it is important to evaluate a variety’s fiber characteristics to avoid discounts for low quality when possible, and perhaps secure a premium for high lint quality.

The good news for 2020 is that quality was high for essentially all of the varieties in the program. Color and leaf grades were fairly normal to better than normal.

For micronaire, length, strength and uniformity, we were able to observe excellent quality from all of the varieties in this program.

north carolina cotton

Photo courtesy North Carolina State University

In regard to micronaire, we usually fall within the 4.6 to 4.9 range, and hope to stay below 4.9. Given that most of our crop this year was a later-set top crop, which was followed by a cooler September/October, it is not surprising to see substantially lower micronaire values, with the majority falling within the premium range.

These results are a true testament to North Carolina cotton producers, as well as all of our seed companies and ginners, all of whom are dedicated to producing high-quality cotton and remaining competitive in the global marketplace. This is something to be celebrated, despite the challenges we faced this year.

Yield and fiber quality results from the 2020 North Carolina State University OVT program will also available very soon on this site, so please evaluate those results as well, since OVT can accommodate many more commercial varieties.

We strongly encourage growers to closely observe data from both the on-farm program and OVT when making cotton variety decisions. As mentioned in the previous articles, results from the on-farm program along with OVT will be discussed in much greater detail during the upcoming virtual winter meetings, so be sure to attend one.

Also, we want to again reiterate our appreciation to North Carolina State University, the North Carlina Cotton Producers Association, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Cotton Incorporated and seed companies for their efforts and support of this program for the benefit of all North Carolina cotton growers. We’d also like to recognize the diligence and hard work that our county agents, consultants and cooperating growers put into this program during 2020.

This program was a huge success again in 2020 due to the efforts of all involved and we look forward to another year of this program in 2021!

Dr. Guy Collins is North Carolina State University state Extension cotton specialist. He may be reached at guy_collins@ncsu.edu. Dr. Keith Edmisten is an NCSU professor of crop science and an Extension cotton specialist.