California Planting Cotton Seed Distributors' newest Acala cotton, Sierra, has won its anticipated release from the San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board as an approved variety in the six-county SJV one-quality cotton growing district.

Tested as C-104, Sierra is a transgenic resistant to Roundup. It was the only one of six eligible Acalas released by the board at its March meeting. No Pima varieties from the four eligible were released. The vote to approve C-104 was not unanimous; members voted 9-3 in favor of its release, with two abstentions.

Sierra was the highest yielding Acala cotton variety in the San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board's 2001 and 2002 testing program. According to John Palmer, CPCSD's vice president of marketing and sales, supplies of Acala Sierra RR should be adequate, though not ample, for the 2003 planting season.

Cotton planting officially began March 10 in the San Joaquin Valley. The board also modified its testing program and set an agenda for possible future changes.

The board voted to modify its testing program in an effort to save some $80,000 a year in testing and laboratory costs. Specifically, the screening portion of the board's Acala testing program will be eliminated. In the past, the small-scale screening portion has served as the first year of a three-year testing program to evaluate varieties against existing Acala and Pima designated standard varieties. This was followed by two years of large-scale variety testing.

For 2003, 15 new varieties will enter the first year of the board's modified test program. Among the changes, they will be tested only at two locations — the Shafter and Westside Research stations — and with two replications instead of four, as was previously done in the first year of testing a new cotton variety.

For 2004 and beyond, the Acala test program will cover three years of larger-scale testing, similar to the board's Pima testing program, with full spinning test data collected for each year. Each variety will be tested on regular farm operations at four locations with four replications each. Seed breeders will handle screening trials for their new varieties, and will submit that data to the board's testing program.

In addition, the number of contractors for test fiber data was reduced to just two firms: ITC and StarLab. The Visalia Classing office will no longer be used. Warm and cold seed germination testing also will be eliminated from the testing.

“These moves allow us to make cuts without jeopardizing the quality of our program,” said Norm Clark, chairman of a special committee formed to find ways to reduce the board's program costs. Declining cotton acreage in the San Joaquin Valley has reduced the board's income and climbing operational costs has squeezed the budget even further.

Several other issues discussed at the Visalia meeting will be explored in coming months:

  • The issue of accurately measuring seed coat fragments in lint.

  • Considering a reduction from three years to two for researching cottons in the board's testing program.

  • Evaluating the possibility of changing current legislation to allow the board the authority to remove a variety from its approved list if the cotton exhibits problems after release.

The Quality Cotton District includes these SJV counties: Kern, Kings, Tulare, Fresno, Madera and Merced.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com