Hybrid Hazera cotton still draws a crowd, even though the San Joaquin Valley cotton producer crowd pool is shrinking rapidly with the sharp decline in acreage since the hybrid cottons were introduced into the valley about a decade ago.

Hazera Hybrid cotton acreage has hovered around the 10,000-acre mark since it was introduced into California as a vigorous alternative for cotton growers with tough growing conditions like salty or alkali ground, verticillium wilt, or limited water supplies.

It has been promoted as cotton to grow where most other cottons would flounder.

It can be grown on less water, according to Hazera's Barry Younkin who displayed charts at the company's valley field day last fall on the W.C. Davis Farms in Firebaugh, Calif. The charts showed that Hazera's HA-195 significantly outyielded other leading Pimas and Acalas in irrigation trials when irrigated only two or three times.

Younkin said the company's newest variety, HA211, used about 15 percent less water in trials last season, an important fact as many SJV growers face a critical water shortage this coming season. It is so critical acreage may fall to just 250,000 for 2008, roughly half the 2007 acreage.

Hazera varieties also can take water stress better than non-hybrid cottons, said Younkin, who said growers may be able to skip an irrigation and still not lose yield with Hazera hybrids.

Hazera's newest variety, HA211, is a mid-season, extra-long staple cotton. It can be 10 days earlier than Hazera's standard variety, HA195.

The new variety that will have limited seed supplies in 2008 is more determinate and has improved fiber quality than HA195, according to Younkin.

Even though California cotton acreage has been in a free-fall over the past decade, Younkin said the Israeli company continues an aggressive breeding program, focusing on more uniform varieties with improved earliness, more determinate characteristics and improved fiber length and strength.

Hazera is marketed as a Pima-quality cotton, but it can dip below the more sought after Pima quality standards.

Younkin said the company's breeding program is focusing on correcting that in new commercial varieties. Among the experimentals in trials at the Davis farm was one unnamed variety he called “the highest quality ever seen” in the San Joaquin. He said it has the potential of producing 2 to 2.5 bales.

Other experimentals in development by Hazera were interspecific Pima types as well as transgenic hybrids.

Younkin said Hazera will be field testing the first Pima type with a Bt gene to ward off pink bollworm. The new variety, which also will contain a Roundup resistant gene, will be tested primarily in Southern California where pink bollworm is more of a threat than in the San Joaquin.

Along with HA195 and HA211, San Joaquin Valley growers also can plant HA175 next season. This variety is a 150-day cotton that can be double-cropped. It also is well suited for northern SJV growing areas.