Roundup Flex Pima cotton has been released by Monsanto for planting in 2010 in California.

It is a release long awaited by California cotton producers. It is expected to give a boost to the 2010 San Joaquin Valley cotton acreage where 70 percent of the crop each year is Pima. The San Joaquin Valley produces more than 90 percent of the Pima cotton produced in the U.S.

The release of PhytoGen PHY 805 RF from Dow AgroSciences’ PhytoGen Seed Co. represents a boost for what many believe could be a 300,000 to 400,000-acre crop next year. If it reaches 400,000 it would double the 2009 acreage. Monsanto reached an agreement to market Pima cotton with the Roundup Ready Flex gene under a unique stewardship agreement.

While Monsanto pursues international regulatory approval for the trait cottonseed, the company has accepted the California cotton industry’s stewardship plan, which requires every seed handler from growers to the gins to the seed crusher to sign a stewardship agreement that limits distribution of the cotton seed to the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The herbicide-resistant technology has been available in Pima for several years, but Monsanto refused to allow it to be marketed because the trait-gene seed has not been approved by international regulatory agencies. The lint does not require regulatory clearance to be marketed; only the seed.

The California cotton industry last year proposed a stewardship program to track the seed from the gin to its end use, but it was not successful. For 2010, Monsanto accepted the stewardship program.

“Cotton farmers have told us that the Genuity Roundup Ready Flex trait is a great value to them,” said Tom Schaefer, Monsanto cotton traits marketing lead in explaining why Monsanto agreed to the unusual stewardship program before international regulatory clearance has been achieved.

”We are so pleased to be able to offer this new Pima variety to California growers,” said Duane Canfield, market specialist for Dow AgroSciences. “The Genuity Roundup Ready Flex trait in Pima will give California cotton growers all of the weed control benefits in Pima they have enjoyed in Acala.”

This stewardship breakthrough was achieved through the efforts of the California Cotton Growers and Ginners Association and its member gins, the National Cotton Council, and American Cotton Producers Association, as well as J.G. Boswell Co.

Cannon Michael of Bowles Farming Co. in Los Banos, Calif., said the approval of Roundup Flex Pima will have a big impact on the industry.

“Cotton growers were already pretty excited about cotton for the coming season. The outlook looks pretty good and even better with this announcement of Roundup Flex Pima,” said Michael.

About 75 percent of the California upland acreage is Roundup Flex cotton varieties.

“Hand weeding bills are running $90 to $100 per acre on Pima,” Michael said. At least some of this is due to cotton rotating with processing tomatoes. “In the last few years tomatoes have really widened the weed spectrum we have to deal with from leftover weed seed in the field and weed seed in irrigation water,” said Michael.

“When we can save that kind of money with a herbicide tolerant cotton, it is pretty important. Roundup Flex Acala has been huge for us in cost saving, so we are very familiar with the technology,” said Michael.

email: hcline@farmpress.com