When you are king of the hill like Maxxa, the long dominant San Joaquin Valley Acala cotton variety, everyone wants to knock you off your perch.

“I think some growers are getting ripped off on the discounts.”

And, 11 of the 12 Acalas and 16 of the 19 more popular so-called “California Upland” varieties in the University of California 2000 variety trials did just that, outyielding the designated Acala “standard” by as much as 10 percent. Even SJ-2 beat out Maxxa last season — by 5 percent. However, that was the first time that has happened since 1994.

To add insult to injury, 22 of the 23 varieties in the California Uplands 2000 UC advance strains also outyielded Maxxa, some by as much as 23 percent.

It was an exceptional high yielding year last season with no significant verticillium wilt to challenge the admittedly low vert-resistant uplands. Looking bad last year would have been difficult.

The stellar better-than-Maxxa performances of more than 50 Acala and non-Acala leave growers more options than even the largest cotton producer has land to plant this season.

On Web site

University of California Extension cotton specialist Bob Hutmacher continues to recommend that producers get specific in deciding which variety to plant — find a variety trial which best reflects your specific soil types, weather and row configurations. There are dozens of these and they are all on the UC's cotton Web site (cottoninfo.ucdavis.edu).

Shane Ball, the new University of California cotton specialist at the Shafter Research and Extension Center says the data available from UC and the long running San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board's variety trials gives SJV producers the most extensive third-party variety information of anywhere in the U.S. Cotton Belt.

Selecting an Acala is less complicated than selecting a “California Upland” because there are at best minor differences in quality because all of the Acalas had to pass quality muster in the SJV Cotton Board to win the coveted tag, SJV Acala.

To win approval, an Acala must meet or exceed the standard — Maxxa for now — in a meaningful way. That usually is heavily weighted toward lint quality, since that is what separates SJV Acala from other U.S. upland cottons. None of the approved varieties or those up for approval within the next year is significantly shorter or weaker than Maxxa. And, if they would not offer yield improvement, they would also not get past first base.

However, that is not the case with the California Uplands, which do not have to win approval by the cotton board.

Hutmacher told growers at the recent California Cotton Growers annual meeting in Visalia don't dump all uplands into the same yield and category baskets.

Site specific

Performance of most is very site specific, perhaps more so than the Acalas. This Hutmacher said places even more importance on evaluating based on the testing sites.

The biggest selection factor in picking a ‘California Upland’ may be quality because it could cost producers significant dollars if they select wrong. Last season's discounts from Acala ranged from just two to three cents per pound to as high as 20 cents per pound.

While some of the Uplands offer a huge yield advantages over Acalas, the fiber discount could more than negate that.

“I think some growers are getting ripped off on the discounts, but the discounts have become a fact of life,” said one seed salesman.

Average yield and quality comparison from 2000 university trials
Variety
Acalas
Yield Length Strength Turnout
Maxxa 1430 1.14 34.1 35.2
Riata 1602 1.15 33.3 36.6
Phytogen 33 1501 1.15 34.6 33.3
Germain's 500 1449 1.17 34.1 34.9
DP-6207 1548 1.14 33.9 34.6
SJ-2 1503 1.15 32.4 32.2
‘California Uplands’
Large Scale Trials
BXN-47 1597 1.10 28.3 36.4
Nucott-33B 1455 1.12 30.8 33.9
Delta Topaz 1637 1.10 29.3 36.5
Germain's
GC-377
1586 1.13 30.8 35.1
SG-501-BR 1562 1.06 29.7 35.6
‘California Uplands’
Advanced Strains
FM-966 1809 1.14 34.9 36.7
STX-9903 RR 1826 1.08 28.5 37.1
GC-9964 1753 1.18 32.0 33.6
PG-0-92 1750 1.13 30.1 34.7
CPCSD M-539 1741 1.13 30.7 35.6

The discount game is even being played as part of the SJV Cotton Board trials where Acalas being tested are classified as “California Uplands” until approved. As such they are subject to the California Uplands discount.

Some of these bales are being purchased as California Uplands in the fall, but when the varieties are approved the following spring by the cotton board, the tags identifying them as non-Acalas are removed and the cotton is marketed to mills as Acalas and the discount disappears.

With more than 1 million acres of cotton projected for the valley this season, the variety mixes looks like alphabet soup. Fortunately, there is hard data from the UC to make enlightened decisions for specific farms.

The accompanying table reflects average yield and quality comparisons for some of the more popular from the 2000 university trials. These yields and quality data may not have come from the same trial locations and are here only to reflect the wide range of yields and quality available. Check the UC Web site for more detailed information:
E-mail: harry_cline@intertec.com