Cotton farmers who have said they wanted a choice when it comes to the companies that provide herbicide-resistant traits in their new varieties may soon get their wish.

Bayer CropScience says it expects to receive EPA approval for its new GlyTol glyphosate-resistant trait in time for the 2009 growing season. The trait makes plants resistant to glyphosate, although its uses a different gene and promoter than a competitor’s traits.

The GlyTol trait would be followed in 2010 with the introduction of Bayer’s H2 technology, which features a stacked-gene combination of the GlyTol trait and the Liberty Link trait which conveys resistance to Bayer’s glufosinate or Ignite herbicide.

The new glyphosate-resistant trait developed by Bayer CropScience researchers has not shown any symptoms like those that plagued the first glyphosate-tolerant plants shortly after their introduction by the other technology company in the mid-1990s, according to Bayer Crop Science researchers.

“Four times during the season we’ve applied the full rate of glyphosate and the full rate of Ignite, and we have not seen any crop injury, plant height reduction or differences in yield or quality in any of the treated plots versus the untreated plots,” said Jonathan Holloway, trait development manager for Bayer CropScience’s BioScience unit in Lubbock, Texas.

Holloway was speaking at a controlled-access test plot planted to plants containing the GlyTol and GlyTol-Liberty Link or H2 traits near Lubbock. Yields and quality data from the plot will help Bayer researchers decide which of the plant lines will be introduced in 2009.

“We haven’t made our final selections, but most of these lines contain the (FiberMax) 980 background,” he said. “We think we have several very promising lines that could be released for the 2009 season.”

The GlyTol-containing varieties will be available on a limited basis in 2009, said Monty Christian, director of Bayer CropScience’s cotton technology and fiber business. Much of the focus will be on FiberMax varieties in the Southwest, the new center of the U.S. Cotton Belt.

“We’ll be working with growers, consultants and channel and stake holders across the Cotton Belt, but the key focus will be on the Southwest geography,” says Christian. “East of Texas, most growers are interested in stacked varieties, but there’s still considerable interest in the straight herbicide technology on the High Plains.”

The GlyTol trait could be the first of several Bayer is planning to launch over the next few years, according to Mike Gilbert, head of Bayer’s BioScience Cotton unit in Lubbock.

“We are very excited about the GlyTol trait and about the other new traits we have in our pipeline,” he told agricultural editors attending a press briefing in Lubbock. “We plan to launch the GlyTol trait in 2009, and, every year thereafter, we plan to introduce a new technology or a combination of new technologies somewhere in the world.”

For openers, Bayer plans to offer new GlyTol and Liberty Link or H2 varieties stacked with the Bollgard II gene in 2011 and GlyTol-Liberty Link varieties with Bayer’s new proprietary two-gene Bt TwinLink product in 2012.

Beyond 2012, Bayer is working on genes for drought tolerance, improved water use, piercing and sucking insects, nematode control, disease resistance, tolerance to other herbicides and enhanced length, strength, micronaire readings, says Linda Trolinder, Bayer’s cotton research and development manager.

Back to the near future, Bayer executives say growers will be able to choose from a wide range of products when they apply glyphosate over the top of GlyTol or GlyTol-Liberty Link varieties.

“We have tested 12 different formulations of glyphosate over the top of GlyTol cotton and GlyTol-Liberty Link cotton, and we have not recorded any damage from any of the formulations,” said Holloway.

“Between now and launch, Bayer will finalize a list of recommended products for use over-the-top of GlyTol and recommended products for the use over the top of GlyTol-Liberty Link cotton.”