Thanksgiving is still a month away, yet Arizona cotton growers are already licking their chops at a feast of higher prices, acreage expansion plans in 2011, and selecting seed varieties for specific growing conditions.

Several hundred cotton growers and allied industry representatives were all grins in late September during a Monsanto-Deltapine cotton field day in Casa Grande, Ariz. Optimism gushed for an industry that just several years ago faced annual statewide double-digit acreage reductions.

One-dollar cotton futures and expanded acreage plans in 2011 was the message overheard repeatedly as growers discussed the future of cotton in Arizona.

Monsanto representatives bent growers’ ears on the company’s latest varieties and technology in the pipeline as folks toured Deltapine brand variety plots aboard tractor-pulled wagons. Donny England, Sierra Farms, was the field day cooperator.

Dave Albers, cotton germplasm manager, Monsanto, St. Louis, Mo., gave kudos to the company’s variety standard in Arizona for the last several years, DP 164 B2RF, developed in Deltapine’s Arizona breeding program.

“DP 164 B2RF offers the combination of heat tolerance and consistent yields especially in the irrigated central Arizona desert for growers looking for a mid- to full-maturing variety,” Albers said. “The variety has great fiber quality, a good staple length at 36 and longer, and good strength at about 30 grams per tex.”

Paul Sawyer, Monsanto’s territory sales manager, said DP 164 B2RF is the top cotton variety sold in Arizona by all seed companies for the last several years.

Albers showed off several Class of 09 varieties for the Arizona market, including DP 0935 B2RF, a smooth leaf, mid-maturing variety with good heat tolerance. DP 0935 B2RF is a nectariless variety which is less attractive to lygus, a top pest in Arizona cotton. The variety has a staple in the 35 to 36 range plus a 29 gram per tex strength.

Other Class of 09 varieties include DP 0949 B2RF, a mid-to-full maturing variety which features taller columnar fruiting (bolls closer to the main stem) and light leaf hair. The staple length is 36-37 range; fiber strength is about 29 grams per tex.

Albers says DP 0912 B2RF is a solid choice from the Class of 09 for the early-season cotton market in the Yuma area.

“DP 0912 B2RF provides early vigor and fruits up strong; an excellent choice in the Yuma market where cotton is harvested early to allow for winter vegetable planting.”

Deltapine’s Class of 10 includes DP 1032 B2RF, a mid-maturing variety for growers able to push for higher yields.

“Growers looking to push their cotton into the higher yield range – 3.5 or more bales per acre - and who have the water and fertility should consider DP 1032 B2RF,” Albers said.

Also from the Class of 10 is DP 1044 B2RF, a mid-maturing variety that emerges strong, is easily managed, has good heat tolerance, and excellent vigor.

New technology in pipeline

What technology does Monsanto have coming down the pike? For 2012 or 2013, Albers says Deltapine’s Western variety emphasis will strongly focus on yield and fiber quality with heat tolerance. Monsanto is also developing a three-way stack for herbicide resistance tolerance in Dicamba, glufosinate and Roundup Ready Flex.

Also in the pipeline is Bollgard III technology for improved traits for resistance management and pest and disease control, including root-knot and reniform nematodes plus wilt diseases.

According to a Bayer CropScience (BCS) press release, BCS’ Stoneville and FiberMax cotton seed brands were planted on 52 percent of U.S. cotton acres in 2010.

FiberMax is the No. 1 planted seed brand in the nation.

Bayer’s statements are based on the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s “Cotton Varieties Planted 2010 Crop” report.

In Arizona, the report says Deltapine varieties were planted on 53.1 percent of the acreage in 2010, followed by Bayer Crop Science with 38.7 percent, Phytogen with 5.2 percent of the acreage, and other brands at 3 percent.

Tony Salcido, Bayer CropScience’s Arizona field production manager, says Stoneville’s SP 4498 B2RF is the brand’s germplasm workhorse which has put the Stoneville name on the map in Arizona over the last five years.

“ST 4498 B2RF is very adaptable to all cotton-growing regions in Arizona,” Salcido said. “The variety has great seed vigor and requires fewer inputs to produce an excellent cotton crop.”

ST 4498 B2RF is a top yielder in Arizona. Salcido says Gila River Farms, located in the Gila River Indian Community in Sacaton in central Arizona, averaged 4.2 bales of cotton last year with the variety planted on 2,300 acres. More than 300 acres netted 5 bales or higher per acre.

“The fiber package in ST 4498 B2RF is premium quality with strength and length in the 36-37 range,” Salcido said. “Micronaire is in the 4.6 to 4.7 range.”

BCS’ ST 4288 B2F, a premium high-fiber variety, last year averaged 3.5 to 4 bales in Arizona commercial production, Salcido said. The variety is a good fit for all cotton-growing regions in the state.

In BCS’ FiberMax line, Salcido says FM 9170 B2F is also a good fit across Arizona. The variety is widely grown in Texas where the variety increased yields by 30 percent to 40 percent.

“FM 9170 B2F is very attractive to merchants,” Salcido said. “The variety has been grown in Arizona for two years with yields in the 3.5 to 4 bale/acre range statewide.”

On the technology front, Salcido says BCS will release GlyTol, a single gene glyphosate-resistant trait in 2011 in its FiberMax FM 9101 GT and FM 9103 GT varieties.

“GlyTol is designed to give growers a choice as an over-the-top herbicide treatment designed to control the broadleaf weed spectrum,” Salcido said.

Increase in cotton acreage

Salcido predicts Arizona cotton acreage could increase 20 percent to 30 percent in 2011 based on his conversations with growers. A respected Arizona leader attending the Deltapine field day predicted 20 percent more cotton acres next year.

Third-generation farmer Donny England planted 2,400 acres of cotton this year; about 50 percent each in Deltapine and BCS’ Stoneville varieties.

“I plant Deltapine on tighter, sandier ground where we have trouble getting enough plant size,” England said. “Our backbone variety is DP 164 B2RF which is grown in tougher ground. It gets a good stock to support a really good load. The variety is a little more forgiving when water availability is an issue.”

England is now considering Class of 09 and 10 varieties, plus some experimental varieties. On $1 cotton prices, England noted, “It’s a scary situation; it’s almost too good to be true.”

Adam Hatley and his father Sonny, cotton growers, Associated Farms, Scottsdale, Ariz., planted the majority of their 2,300 acre cotton crop this year in Deltapine 164 B2RF, Stoneville 4498 B2RF and Phytogen 375 WRF.

“The Phytogen 375 has been the most consistent variety,” Adam Hatley said. “It got off to a good start and has carried that energy throughout the season.”

Dwayne Alford, manager, Yuco Gin, Yuma, said Yuma area cotton yields were averaging about 3-plus bales/acre. Cotton quality is excellent with low aflatoxin levels in the seed.

cblake@farmpress.com