A wish list for Pima cotton growers would include Roundup Ready and Buctril-resistant traits, along with shorter season maturity in order to avoid adverse fall weather.

“If I could have a transgenic, Roundup Ready, Buctril-resistant variety, it would really help in eliminating hand weeding and cultivation,” Tim Thompson, Buttonwillow, Calif., grower said in a panel discussion at the recent Western Farm Press-sponsored Pima Cotton Production Summit at Visalia.

Daniel Burns, Dos Palos, Calif., grower agreed, adding that he'd also like an indeterminate variety with short season maturity that would allow him to be done before fall weather turns bad.

“Pima has always fit well in our operation,” said Jean Errotabere, Riverdale, Calif., “and it has produced one of the highest yields we've ever had — phenomenal! But, we've got to have that kind of yield to make any money in a flat Pima market, where we're basically growing for the loan.”

He said he planted 100 percent Pima last year, but this time has 30 percent Acala.

“Our Pima crop looks great, even though it was planted later than last year. We've had a bit of seedling disease, but the crop has good vigor and is growing well. We'll begin irrigating earlier because of the dry weather.”

Pima percentage up

Thompson, who has been growing Pima since it was first introduced in California, said “Our Pima percentage is up, with a significant increase in Ultima. Crop progress has been good, despite early cool temperatures, and is showing good potential.”

With not much upside market price potential, he said, “about the only way to achieve a profit is to control costs.” The increase in labeled rates for Pix should help, he noted.

“Our gin members have been made aware of the sticky cotton problem and that it can really hurt this industry. At our gin, we've seen significant extra costs for processing sticky cotton.”

Burns, who has most of his Pima acreage in the Firebaugh area, said “What we've been looking for is a shorter season Pima. S7 was our choice for 10 years, but last year we switched to Deltapine.”

Canopy closure and plant structure are important, he said, and in 1997 he began planting Pima double-row, which also brings savings in cultivation and weed control.

“We had too high a plant population the first time, about 110,000, but we've found that 65,000 to 70,000 is about right. This year, we planted with a Monosem double-row planter, which provides very accurate plant spacing.

“We had one of our biggest yields ever in 2000, over 3 bales per acre, compared to a long term average of two and a half bales. But 2001 was a real disaster, with heavy spring rains, and we came out with just a bit over two bales.”

e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com