Choosing cotton varieties for your farm is like putting together a good football or basketball team. You need some bruisers, a few speedsters, a couple of all-round good players and one or two guys with a special talent.

Be sure to do your homework, though, says Arkansas Extension cotton specialist Tom Barber. “If we pick a dog, we’re struck with a dog.”

Speaking at Cotton Incorporated’s Crop Management Seminar in Memphis, Barber and cotton producer John Lindamood said important factors for variety selection include yield and quality, convenience, soil type, irrigation, relative maturity, storm tolerance, trait package and ability to control resistant pigweed.

“We’re not just planting a seed anymore.” Barber said. “We’re delivering a lot of technology to the field in that one activity, with the traits and whatever crop protection products are on the seed. One thing is for sure, we are much more front-end loaded than we used to be. A third of the budget may be spent by the time we get cotton planted and to the two- to four-leaf stage.”

Barber says under some circumstances in variety selection, growers are willing to sacrifice yield for the simplicity brought by a transgenic trait.

For example, data showed that in Louisiana, prior to the advent of transgenic cotton, over 50 percent of the cotton varieties planted in the state were either recommended varieties or in the top 25 percent of the official variety trials (OVTs). After the introduction of Bollgard and Roundup Ready cotton, producers planted many varieties that were not in the top 25 percent of the OVTs, which Barber says was due to the convenience of the new technology, plus the lack of strong yield potential in transgenic varieties at that time.

“When DP 555 BG/RR was introduced in Louisiana, the percentage (of varieties planted that led OVTs) increased,” Barber said. “I suspect that in the coming years (with DP 555 BG/RR phased out), the percentage will again be lower in Louisiana because a lot of the varieties that replaced 555 are not yielding as well in some locations.”

In the future, Barber says, technology which will help control glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed “will drive variety selection, especially in Arkansas.”

Cotton producer and ginner John Lindamood, who farms 3,200 acres of cotton near Tiptonville, Tenn., says the No. 1 factor in variety selection is relative maturity.

“We have to have short-season varieties, because we’re so far north. We plant a few mid-season varieties early, the first 10 days of planting. Then we have to go to short season varieties.”

Lindamood also looks closely at a variety’s seedling vigor “because we have cold, wet soils under no-till.”

Yield is an important factor for cotton producers, but Lindamood considers yield consistency and how varieties perform on soil type and across environments. “Over the last few years, we’ve been paying more and more attention to that, and we’ve seen our yields improve dramatically.