Growers await more RR cotton There once was a television show that rewarded contestants who uttered a "magic word." In the San Joaquin Valley, there is a magic letter that will reward planting seed marketers, and that letter is "R."

It stands for Roundup Ready (RR), and according to Glen Powell, regional sales manager for Delta and Pine Land Co., "everyone wants to know when the Roundup Ready gene will be in their favorite variety."

The gene that makes cotton resistant to early-season Roundup applications had been available on a limited basis until this season. This year an Acala variety with the herbicide-resistant gene became widely available and that ushered in the transgenic cotton age for all San Joaquin Valley cotton producers.

Deltapine has marketed RR non-Acalas over the past three seasons and had hoped to be in the middle of the RR Acala fray with its 6100 Acala RR. However the San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board last spring refused to give it "approved" Acala status, even though its parent is an approved variety. That was a major setback to Deltapine which was expecting to compete with the new California Planting Cotton Seed Distributors' Riata RR, a Roundup-resistant Acala which sold out this season because of its popularity.

"What we were left with when the board rejected 6100 RR was a real fancy California upland," laughed Powell. Although it has quality characteristics at least equal to the old SJ-2 Acala, it must be sold as a "California Upland", the designation given non-approved cottons by the SJV Cotton Board. These cottons are sold at a discount to SJV Acalas.

However, that spread has not been as great as many have anticipated because of the demand for these SJV non-Acalas the past three years due to production and quality problems with similar varieties grown elsewhere in the U.S. Cotton Belt.

Powell said the spread between the Acalas and "California Uplands" maybe only one to three cents per pounds this season.

Deltapine district sales manager Bill White said D&PL will not resubmit 6100 RR for reconsideration, but will speed up the process to put the herbicide-resistant gene into DP 6207, an approved Acala. The other D&PL Acala is 6211.

Powell said it would be two years before 6207RR will be available commercially, assuming the SJV cotton board approves it. DP 6207 is longer and stronger than DP 6100.

"There were about 35,000 acres of 6207 this season, and it looked good. We sold out in January. Growers want the Roundup Ready gene in it," said Powell.

Best sellers forecast Powell expects his biggest sellers next season all have the herbicide-resistant gene in them and all are "California Uplands" - Sure Grow 501BR, Deltapine 458BR and Deltapine 5415 RR.

"I am not really surprised by the response to Roundup Ready. We saw the same thing in other areas when we introduced it there," said Powell. California lags several years behind other areas because of its law governing varieties planted in the San Joaquin Valley.

While several of Deltapine's varieties popular with SJV growers are stacked-gene varieties also containing the Bollgard gene to make them resistant to worm pests, Powell said it is the yield potential of the variety and the Roundup Ready trait that are driving it.

"You can definitely see some low threshold activity against beet armyworm and loopers, but only in light infestation situations," said Powell. "Nevertheless, it is the R and the variety that are selling."

Powell agrees with industry estimates that SJV cotton acreage will increase next season somewhere between 10 and 20 percent.

"Much of that will be driven by a big increase in Pima. I would not be surprised to see 225,000 acres...maybe 250,000," he said. This year it was only about 144,000.

However, good upland yields this season with average or below production costs coupled with strong government support is putting a "little cash" in cotton growers pockets, said Powell. That along with few attractive alternatives should also drive up upland acreage in 2001.