Randy Norton’s photo should be printed on the cover of the Arizona Official State Highway Map to signify the thousands of miles driven annually across the state’s cotton country inspecting the commercial fiber crop and checking university variety performance trials.

For years, Norton has conducted University of Arizona (UA) cotton trials to independently test cotton varieties available to Arizona cotton farmers. The information is shared with growers to make informed variety buying decisions.

Norton is the UA regional cotton specialist and director of the UA’s Safford Agricultural Center in Graham County in southeastern Arizona. Norton conducts variety trials with the assistance of Cooperative Extension agents in cotton-producing counties.

Norton recently shared his 2010 variety trial findings for Upland short staple and Pima extra long staple cottons for the central Arizona area and for Arizona statewide. Norton discussed the data during the Central Arizona Farmer Field Day in Maricopa, Ariz., held at the Maricopa Agricultural Center in late September.

UA trials are conducted at commercial cotton farms and UA agricultural centers.

In Norton’s trials, a variety of cotton issues were evaluated. The top two were yield and fiber quality. Others issues included staple length, micronaire, value, technology (insect protection and herbicide tolerance), crop maturity, seedling vigor, and heat tolerance.

“Yield is the No. 1 issue and how varieties will yield on a farm and a general local area,” Norton told the crowd. “Yield stability is another factor impacted by soil texture, irrigation water access, and potential stressors. A wide range of variation can be found within a single field.”

The UA trials are non-biased, Norton says. The trials included eight to 12 varieties planted the length of the irrigation run with a minimum of three replications each.

Norton shared the results of 2010 Upland trials at four central Arizona locations - commercial farms in Buckeye, Goodyear, Stanfield, and Marana.

In the Buckeye trial (Maricopa County), cottonseed was planted in rillito sandy loam soil April 14 with the final irrigation Aug. 25 and harvest Dec. 2. Variety yields ranged from 1,471 lint pounds per acre to 2,113 pounds/acre.

These varieties performed better than average listed in the order of performance - DP1032B2RF - 2,113 pounds per acre, DP1044B2RF – 1,983 pounds per acre; DP0949B2RF – 1,940 pounds per acre; PHY367WRF – 1,847 pounds per acre; and ST4498B2F – 1,800 pounds.

In the Goodyear trial (Maricopa County) in Gilman loam soil, cottonseed was planted as a double crop after a small grains crop. The seed was planted May 30 with a Sept. 30 final irrigation and a Nov. 22 harvest. Lint yields ranged from about 1,600 pounds per acre to 2,000 pounds per acre.

All fiber quality was in the premium range. The top lint-fiber producing varieties included DP1044B2RF, DP1032B2RF, and PHY367WRF.

In the Stanfield trial (Pinal County), seed was planted April 15 in Dateland fine sandy loam soil with the final irrigation Oct. 28 and harvest on Dec. 15. Yields ranged from 1,400 pounds per acre to just under 2,000 pounds per acre. PHY565WRF performed better than average in lint yield and fiber quality.