Choose the Best Variety for Your Cotton Fields

cotton seeds

It’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make for the entire season and will play a key role in your success at harvest. So, choose wisely when selecting the cotton varieties you plant based on information specific to your area.

Top five tips to choose the best variety:

  1. Use university data for your area, including Official Variety Trials (OVTs) and county trials, as well as Crop Science Cotton Agronomic Performance (CAP) Trials and online tools to help with the decision.

  2. Pick varieties and trait packages that fit your geography and cropping situation. While some varieties are broadly adapted across the Cotton Belt, many are bred for specific areas and challenges. Crop Science CAP Trials can help narrow the choice to a region.
  4. Take field history into account. Is there a history of nematode pressure in a particular field? What about weed resistance? Are you farming dryland or irrigated? What soil type do you have? The answers to these questions will lead you to varieties to fit specific needs.

  5. Don't plant all your acres in one variety; spread your risk. Diversifying with multiple maturities allows a staggered harvest and testing of other varieties that have performed well in the area. When introducing a new variety to your farm, plant it on 10-20% of your acres, then you can ramp up acreage if it excels on your farm.

  6. Talk to your sales representative and Crop Science Agronomic Services Team (AST). There’s nothing like the confidence you’ll have after you walk through the data with an expert who knows the varieties as well as cotton production in your area and can help you place the right variety on the right field.

The Value of a CAP Trial

Crop Science conducts approximately 250 CAP Trials on grower fields each year, across the entire Cotton Belt. It’s “real-world, on-farm trials,” said Kenny Melton, Bayer Agronomist for the Southern High Plains of Texas.

“We place our trials under a wide variety of conditions,” Melton said. “From dryland, with barely 2 gallons of water per minute per acre, to 6 gallons per minute per acre, we can identify for a grower what type of varieties will do best.”

Melton and other AST members across the Belt then overlay that information with the grower’s fertility program, as well as consider root knot nematodes and Verticillium wilt. “We’ll seek out places where growers have heavy nematode pressure and Verticillium wilt to plant our CAP trials,” Melton said.

CAP Trials use commercial varieties as a benchmark to test the latest germplasm, as well as experimental lines. Commercial varieties that make it through the test remain in the CAP Trials until “we find the best fit—the right variety, the right field and the right yield,” said Andy White, Bayer Agronomist based in Mississippi.

“At the end of the season, we take this data, coupled with breeder data, and make decisions about advancing experimental varieties,” Melton said. “We group CAP Trials within a given area together and treat each location as a replicate in an area wide test.”

“In the West, we’ll categorize trials according to yield environment, which essentially means how much water you had,” Melton said. “For example, the trials in a 3-plus bale environment go together; the ones in a 2 to 3-bale environment are grouped together; then the trials from 1 to 2 bales; and finally the ones under a bale an acre.”

From there, Melton’s team can see which varieties performed best in each of those yield environments. Growers can predict their yield range based on their irrigation capacity and soil moisture going into the season on a given farm. This information will help them choose which variety will perform best for that field.

The moisture profile the grower has heading into the season often dictates which varieties are recommended, coupled information about the disease and nematode pressure.

For heavy nematode pressure, Melton said that the nematode tolerance in ST 4946GLB2 makes it a good fit across the Belt from California to the Carolinas. In the Southwest, it does a good job of staying in the burr under wind pressure, while in the Mid-South, White said the only places the variety should not be planted are on heavy, dryland clay soils.

In the Southwest, FM 2011GT, a non-Bt variety, is a good choice for limited irrigation and dryland scenarios. Melton also said he has three FiberMax recommendations for heavy Verticillium wilt pressure: FM 2322GL, FM 1830GLT, and FM 2334GLT. FM 2484B2F is a standard variety for Vertillicum wilt tolerance and bacterial blight resistance.

In the eastern part of the Cotton Belt, soil type and irrigation plays a large role in the selection of cotton varieties, White said. “On heavy clay, you want a variety that gives you good stalk size and matures as quickly as possible to avoid the late rains in the Delta,” he said. “On silt loam, we look for a variety that won’t get too big and is going to perform well.”

ST 4747GLB2, an early-maturing variety, is recommended on irrigated silt loam. “It’s a racehorse variety,” White said. “We like to have this variety in situations where it doesn’t lack for anything.”

ST 6448GLB2 is recommended for heavy clays and dryland production. It’s a full-season variety that puts up good numbers even in adverse conditions. You’ll need to be on top of this variety with growth regulator applications, however. ST 5289GLT is an intermediate variety that can go just about anywhere and ST 5032GLT fits on irrigated land and is good in the North Delta.

“The important thing to remember about CAP Trials is that these trials are on-farm variety evaluations and provide local agronomic and performance data,” said Dr. Steve Nichols, head of Crop Science Seed Agronomic Services. “Couple this multi-layered approach to cotton variety data with one-on-one grower interaction and you have the best scenario for making the best selection of varieties from one of the broadest portfolios in the industry,” he said.

With GlyTol® LibertyLink® (GL) and GlyTol LibertyLink TwinLink® (GLT) stacked technology, growers can make over-the-top applications of either glyphosate or Liberty® herbicide. This gives growers two herbicide modes of action to control weeds effectively and reduce the potential for resistance as part of a comprehensive full-season overlapping residual herbicide plan.

Crop Science is the only company that offers cotton varieties with stacked herbicide trait technology for strong yields and quality. Crops with the LibertyLink trait allow growers to spray Liberty in-crop for nonselective, postemergence control of the toughest weeds, including Palmer amaranth, giant ragweed, waterhemp and marestail. The system also gives growers another herbicide application option with Liberty herbicide if their pre’s do not activate.


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