The Scott, Miss.-based company which has had a presence in the San Joaquin since the valley was opened up to commercial cotton breeders in the late 1970s, wants to dramatically expand its seed production in the valley in 2004.

Mark Pearson, manager of Delta and Pine Land’s planting seed production in California, said he hopes to double seed production in the valley for the company’s varieties widely planted elsewhere in the U.S. Cotton Belt.

"This year we had about 9,000 acres of seed production and we would like to double that in 2004," said Pearson at one of the company’s fall variety trial field days at Five Points, Calif.

"We are looking for 4,000 to 6,000 acres just for our new Deltapine 444 BG/RR variety," said Pearson. Last year there were 5,000 acres of seed production for the company’s Deltapine 555.

When Deltapine moved into the valley, company officials wanted not only to compete in the primarily Acala cotton market, but wanted to be able to grow cotton for planting seed elsewhere in the Belt.

The San Joaquin Valley is considered the premier seed producing areas in the U.S. because of its mild, dry growing season and open falls.

Arizona has long been a major seed producing area for almost all American planting seed companies because of its dry climate. However, when the valley opened up to all cotton varieties several years ago, a major shift in seed production was predicted from Arizona to California where there are cooler summer nights than in the desert.

‘California Uplands’

In the predominately premium Acala cotton producing areas, cottons Pearson is wanting producers to grow for seed are called "California Uplands." Elsewhere in the Belt they are called simply uplands.

Lint from these cottons is discounted one to five cents per pound compared to the longer, strong Acala cottons.

However, that gap is narrower than it once was because fiber properties have improved for the non-Acalas, according to Randy Wegener, technical services agronomist for Deltapine.

Wegener said some of the fiber packages of the newer Deltapine non-Acalas approach Acala quality, particularly on strength.

Last season’s Calcot seasonal pool final settlement for "California Uplands" was 4.75 cents per pound lower than comparable Acalas. However, SJV producers received about three cents more per pound for the same cottons as did Arizona producers.

"We do not like to use quality figures from these cottons from other area of the Belt when we talk to California growers because we know quality is better from California production," said Wegener.

And most of these varieties-for-seed have Bollgard traits, including two new offerings from the company that have the Bollgard II gene, 468 and 424, which also are Roundup tolerant. These two varieties in 2004 will be the first commercially grown in the valley with the Bollgard II gene.

Technology interest

This technology has garnered SJV grower interest because of increasing problems in the past few seasons from armyworms and loopers in certain areas. The initial Bollgard technology is not economically effective against these the key lepidopteran pests.

"This new Bollgard technology combines two similar, but different genes," explained Wegener. "The idea is that what the first gene may miss is picked up by the second gene."

Pearson said these Deltapine "California uplands" yield well on "tougher ground. Growers who have ground that yields only two bales with Acala can generally get two and a half to three bales with these uplands," said Pearson. That can make up for the difference in fiber prices. Plus, there is an incentive of about $75 per acre from Deltapine to produce seed for the company, said Pearson. With that come requirements of isolation and fields free from cockleburs.

Uplands generally have a shorter growing season than Acala and certainly Pima. This makes them attractive for late planted fields. That is the primary reason the valley was opened up to these non-Acalas. Several years ago, weather seriously hampered timely planting of Acalas and growers won approval to plant shorter season non-Acala cottons.

Deltapine hopes to have the first Bollgard Acala next season. Experimental variety OA 265 from Olvey and Associates in Arizona was eligible for release from the San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board last year, but was denied at the last minute because of what Deltapine district sales manager Bill White calls "erroneous" seed coat fragment concerns. White said the contaminant of concern was "leaf," not seed coat fragments. OA 265 will be up for approval again this year.

Deltapine has acquired the rights to market Olvey cotton in the past and are expected to take OA 265, which contains the Bollgard (not Bollgard II) gene and well as being Roundup Ready.

If approved, it will become the third Deltapine Acala, joining Deltapine 6207 and Deltapine 6100RR, the first Roundup tolerant Acala released in the valley.

Deltapine also markets three proprietary Pima varieties.

e-mail:hcline@primediabusiness.com