The San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board approved three new Acala cotton varieties and two new Pimas at its March meeting where it also established a new variety standard for Acalas.

The new Acalas are Roundup Ready. There are no approved Roundup Flex Acala varieties available for 2006. Flex is the new technology that is being introduced into the U.S. Cotton Belt this season. It allows growers to apply Roundup much later into the plant's growth cycle for improved season-long weed control. There will be Flex Acalas available in the San Joaquin this season, but they will be non-approved Acalas.

The new RR Acalas are:

  • DP 6222 RR Acala — An early season variety from Delta and Pine Land Co.

  • PHY-710 R — A variety that is particularly well suited to the Westside and northern end of the San Joaquin Valley, according to Phytogen Seed Co. This variety was planted on about 11 percent of the valley's acreage in 2005.

  • Acala Fiesta RR — Grown as C203 in board trials, this variety has verticillium wilt tolerance and low seed coat fragments, according to California Planting Cotton Seed Distributors (CPCSD). It accounted for about 2.5 percent of the acreage last year.

The new Pimas are:

  • Cobalt Pima — Grown in the board trial as E303, this variety yielded significantly better than S-7. According to CPCSD, Cobalt is a medium/early maturing variety, making it well adapted to Valley growing regions that have a shorter growing season. It also defoliates clean, resists lodging, and is more tolerant to early foliar decline than S-7.

  • Krypton Pima — Grown in the board trial as E503, this variety also yielded much higher than S-7 and met or exceeded the standard in 16 of 19 primary fiber quality characteristics. According to CPCSD, Krypton is a full-maturity variety with vigorous plant growth that is well adapted to lake bottom and southern regions of the Valley that require a longer growing season.

Summit as standard

The board selected Summit from CPCSD as the new Acala standard, replacing Maxxa, which has been the industry standard since 1994.

It rejected Phytogen 72 as the standard, although the variety accounted for more than 45 percent of the valley's Acala acreage last season. Virtually no Summit was grown in the valley last season.

All SJV Acala cottons must meet or exceed the “industry standard” in dozens of fiber and yarn quality parameters, and provide some meaningful improvement before they are approved for commercial release as an SJV Acala. This standard is now Summit.

Non-Approved varieties can still be grown in the Valley, but are tagged California Upland, California Pima, or “SJV Experimental” cottons.

SJVCB board chairman Bill Stone said that in selecting Summit as the new standard, the board has “incrementally increased quality across the board for SJV Acala cottons.

Summit has consistently yielded 5 to 10 percent higher than Maxxa in board trials, averaging 1,813 pounds of lint per acre. It also surpasses every quality test parameter.

“While PHY-72 is an excellent and popular Acala cotton for San Joaquin Valley growers, it did have some numbers that did not exceed the standard for quality.” Stone said. “We don't want to give the impression to buyers of high quality SJV Acalas that we are compromising in any way on those standards.”

Pima standard

The board voted not to change the standard SJV Pima variety from S-7. However, it did enter two additional SJV Pimas into its trial to make comparisons in its search for a new SJV Pima standard.

The board will continue to seek a new SJV Pima standard for the San Joaquin Valley Quality Cotton District that makes incremental improvements, Stone said.

If the weather permits, Pima cotton acreage is expected to exceed Acala/upland cottons acreage for the first time this season since extra long staple cottons are yielding a price more than double Acala cottons.

However, Pima can be challenging to grow, and many growers are looking for new approved Pimas that offer agronomic traits that will help them get a marketable Pima crop in their area.

“As a board we need to balance the desire to raise the bar in quality while allowing breeders to also focus on other agronomic traits,” said Ron Clark, chairman of the board's quality committee. “In the end, we were concerned that by raising the bar too much at once we would shut down the development of new Pimas for at least three years at a time when many growers are looking for new, approved Pima varieties to plant.”

The board also entered 17 new Acala varieties and nine new Pima varieties into the first year of the board test, bringing the total of Acala cottons currently under three-year review to 27 and the number of Pima cottons to 12.