The next level of transgenic cotton is closer to reality for San Joaquin Valley cotton growers.

Cotton varieties containing the Bollgard II gene will be tested on a limited basis this year in the valley and should be available for commercial use within two seasons, according to Alan Bishop, regional sales manager for Monsanto.

Bishop told growers at a recent Delta and Pine Land Co. meeting in Tulare, Calif., that also soon to come will be the next generation of Roundup Ready cotton which will open wider the treatment window beyond the four-leaf stage at increased Roundup rates. He said these should be commercially available in 2005.

The transgenic Bollgard II cottons will target armyworms and loopers, two worm pests not controlled by the initial Bollgard gene that is widely used elsewhere in the Cotton Belt to control pink bollworm and cotton bollworm, neither of which is a significant pest in the San Joaquin Valley.

Worms that feed on the Bollgard cottons ingest the Bt toxin and die before damaging the plants.

Bishop said 78 percent of the cotton acres in the U.S. were planted to transgenic cottons last season. This encompasses herbicide resistant and cotton resistant to insects. Seventy percent of the acreage was Roundup Ready, either alone or as a stacked gene with Bt. Six years ago there were no transgenic cottons in the U.S.

SJV producers have embraced roundup Ready cottons, but it still lags behind the rest of the Belt. Only 37 percent of the SJV acreage was in herbicide resistant cotton last season.

New formulation

For Roundup Ready cotton this season, growers will be using a new Roundup formulation for use over the top and at layby. It is called Roundup UltraMax and there is five pounds active ingredient per gallon.

Bishop said it is a more concentrated glyphosate formulation and therefore less material is used. Where producers used a quart of Roundup Ultra they would use only 26 ounces of UltraMax, Bishop said.

This is only one new Roundup formulation. Another is called Firepower, which is a new produce for use on vegetation on trees and vines. It is a tank mix of Roundup and Goal and is not labeled for Roundup Ready cotton. Roundup Dry also is not recommended for cotton.

Deltapine was the first to introduce Roundup Ready cottons to the valley and will have two herbicide resistant varieties to market this season, one hopefully an Acala.

Deltapine 6100RR is an Acala up for approval in March by the San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board. It was the first Roundup Ready cotton tested in the valley, but it was rejected as an Acala last year by the board.

Deltapine sales manager Bill White said he is hopeful it will be approved as an Acala by the board in March. If approved, it would sell for the Acala premium. If not, it would be tossed into the so-called California Upland category and discounted against Acala.

Only smooth leaf

“If managed aggressively, it will do very well. You have to have the correct plant population and manage against early lygus and be aggressive with Pix. It has yielded more than five bales in trials at the West Side Field Station,” said White.

“It is the only smooth leaf Acala and as such is less attractive to whitefly and aphids,” he said. It also is more heat tolerant and has low seed coat fragments.

Deltapine will market its DP6207. It is dropping 6111 from the lineup as well as its White Pima. White said there would be strip trials of 6207RR this season. Deltapine 5415RR, a non-Acala, also will be marketed in the valley.

Deltapine will market three Pimas, HTO, DP 340 and DP 744, the latter two are new varieties. This is the first year for 340. White warns it has lower vigor than other Pimas, but has a yield potential of more than three bales.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com