Alabama cotton producers must be wondering what they can do for an encore after a 2012 season in which they made a record-high average yield of 952 pounds per acre.

Almost no one saw it coming, except for Extension Entomologist Ron Smith, who predicted late last summer that the state’s growers would produce more than 800 pounds per acre for the first time in history.

“We almost bumped two-bale cotton, which is unreal,” said Dale Monks, Auburn University Extension cotton specialist, speaking at the recent Central Alabama Row Crops Workshop held in Autaugaville.

Cotton production was estimated at 750,000 bales from 378,000 harvested acres. The state’s cotton yield increased by 210 pounds over the 2011 crop. The 952-pounds-per-acre average tops the previous record of 795 pounds set in 1985.

“Whenever we have that kind of yield, it’s an indicator that the entire state did very well. It was a tremendous yield. I could see 800 pounds per acre at one point, but not more than 900 pounds,” says Monks.

Monks says he and other researchers have been conducting more on-farm trials in Alabama, using commercial equipment in farm settings.

“Small plot work is certainly important, but if we can compare our large-plot work with small plot work, everything matches up better, and we have more confidence in our recommendations.

“Our producers have more confidence knowing we’re on the farm conducting trials.

“Even our economist goes to the field and helps plant and follows the progress of the crop. It makes us more aware of the available equipment and how things are done,” says Monks.

This past year, Alabama cotton research trials were conducted on at least seven farms.

“In our variety trials, we’re encouraged with Phytogen 499 WRG. We know that Phytogen 375 has been a good variety in a lot of situations. It’s an earlier variety that will actually ride through some of these drought periods. DPL 1137 shows up in the top three several times in our trials. FiberMax 1944 GLB2 is their version of Roundup Ready with the GlyTol, LibertyLink and Bt genes.

“The test with that particular variety was about a month overdue as far as the picking goes. But we found that even though 1944 was extremely tight in the boll, waiting about a month increased the yield by about 200 pounds,” he says.

The 2012 Auburn University Cotton Variety Trials all can be found at www.alabamacrops.com.