As cotton acreage drops in California it becomes ever more important that what is grown across the state is of the highest quality possible. This is true for the markets as for the grower.
Cotton variety improvement has been the focus of the seed companies for decades, according to Bob Hutmacher, a cotton specialist with the University of California. A large focus, according to Hutmacher, has been the focus on new materials and appropriate growth habit materials as growers made the shift to Pima, he said.
Newer technologies have allowed for more glyphosate resistance in crops, though farm advisors caution growers continually to rotate the active ingredients and the products they use to avoid developing resistance to the products they are using. In cotton, developing resistance to Fusarium Race 4 is growing in importance, particularly as cotton acreages shrink and water availability dries up as well.
Pima cotton still reigns as the most popular type of cotton planted in California. About 187,000 acres of Pima was planted in California in 2013, according to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. That compares to 93,000 acres of Acala.
Of the total acreage of Pima grown in California, Dow AgroSciences has more than 76 percent of total Pima seed sales across three PhytoGen varieties: PHY 805RF, PHY 802RF, and PHY 830. The PHY 805RF made up over 55 percent of California’s Pima crop in 2013, according to USDA statistics.
Numbers out of 2012 seed variety trials conducted by Hutmacher and others with the University of California showed that the PHY 805RF yielded 98 percent of the baseline PHY-800 Pima crop. Those trials were conducted across five locations and on different row spacing: Buttonwillow (38-inch rows), Riverdale (30-inch rows), West Side Research Station (40-inch rows), Firebaugh (30-inch rows), and Corcoran (40-inch rows). The Corcoran site data was not included in the overall averages.
Average PHY-805RF yield across the four test plots was 4,832 pounds per acre. The highest individual yield came from the West Side Research Station at 6,309 pounds per acre.
The two most popular Acala cotton varieties planted in California in 2013 were Dow AgroSciences PhytoGen 725RF and the Bayer CropScience-FiberMax Acala Daytona RF. Both have glyphosate resistant technologies. Combined, the two varieties accounted for nearly half of California’s Acala acreage in 2013, according to the Agricultural Marketing Service.
UC trials in Acala cotton showed strong performances by PhytoGen’s 725RF and Bayer’s Daytona RF cotton seeds. Hutmacher uses the PHY-72 seed as a benchmark for his Acala trials. Both exceeded the PHY-72 benchmark in terms of yield, and both did their best in university trials on 40-inch rows in the Lemoore area. The PHY-725RF bested the Daytona RF in that plot by about 600 pounds per acre.
“We’ve been using it as a benchmark because it is a very good, stable, long-time yield performer,” Hutmacher said of the PHY-72 variety. “It’s one of those rare varieties – their 725 is pretty similar – that tends to do well across a whole bunch of locations.”
Anecdotal stories suggest four and five-bale production out of the PhytoGen Acala 725RF in several San Joaquin Valley locations, and over three bales in Phytogen’s 805 and its new 811 Pima variety.
Phytogen yields strong
At deadline, Jonathan Andrews of Andrews Farms in Dos Palos, Calif., was still waiting for data from Olam Gin in Firebaugh, where his cotton is ginned. While he is confident that his PhytoGen 725 RF was his highest yielding cotton of three Upland varieties planted this season – he also planted PhytoGen 755 WRF and the Bayer CropScience-FiberMax Acala Daytona RF – he is waiting on yield and quality reports.
Andrews’ sole Pima variety planted was the new PHY-811, which he seemed pleased with. Andrews said he may plant more of the Pima next year based on early indications of good cotton prices and the variety’s overall performance on his farm.
While Bayer’s Daytona does offer good wilt tolerance, according to Kenny Melton, an agronomist with Bayer CropScience in Lubbock, Texas, it does not offer Race 4 resistant technology. Bayer is screening different products for Race 4 but is not ready to release information related to that, Melton said.
Fusarium Race 4 is another issue growers must contend with, according to Hutmacher. Resistant cotton varieties include Monsanto’s DP360 and DP358. The PHY800 was the first seed quite resistant to Race 4, he said. Other good performers in soil with Race 4 include PhytoGen’s 800, 802 and its new 811 seed. The PHY805 seed had moderate success against Race 4, he added.
Given the 15-20 percent difference in heat units between the southern end and northern end of California’s cotton growing region, Hutmacher said it is difficult to recommend cotton varieties to growers in the state. Soil types range widely from one end to the other and further add to the issues growers must weigh when opting on a particular variety for their particular operation. Hutmacher has variety trial data at http://cottoninfo.ucdavis.edu/Variety_Selection/.
Soil type is also a consideration in choosing cotton varieties, Hutmacher said. High fertility soil such as that in the dairy region of Tulare County can make it difficult to control plant size. Conversely, plants with a tendency to grow quite vigorously – such as Hazera – might do better in less fertile soils and where heat units can retard plant growth.
“Some of the Hazera varieties will have their first fruit set a little bit lower on the plant and a little bit earlier,” Hutmacher said. “With some of those varieties that’s a good thing if you can get that to happen, because it sets the plant off and keeps it under control so that it has a more balanced type of vegetative growth.”
Exacerbating issues for cotton growers in the San Joaquin Valley this year, though unrelated to varieties, has been the late and somewhat intense arrival of the Silver Leaf White Fly.
“The last two years the white fly has appeared in spotty areas in the Valley,” he said. “It’s been more wide spread this year than in the past five or so.”
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