Are the stars aligning for a revival of conventional cotton varieties? It could be for producer Keith Mayberry, who farms around Essex, Mo. This season, he planted 200 acres of AM UA48, a conventional variety developed by University of Arkansas plant breeder Fred Bourland, which was subsequently commercialized by Americot.

The variety boasts some interesting fiber properties – a staple range of 39-41, which is solidly in the premium range, and strength of 34-35. As the season was coming to a close, yield potential was also very promising for Mayberry.

Mayberry farms about 800 acres of cotton, 1,000 acres of corn, and 1,200 acres of soybeans, with his sister, Kim Mayberry-Holifield, a sales representative for BASF for over 20 years.

Three factors pushed Mayberry, a third-generation farmer, toward the conventional variety –glyphosate-resistant weeds, new chemicals that control the worm pests targeted by Bt cotton and Mayberry’s constant search for efficiency.

“We are out a lot of money from seed companies for the glyphosate-resistant and Bt technologies,” Mayberry said. “I don’t know that we are getting our money’s worth. That’s one reason why I jumped on the AM UA48 bandwagon. The seed is so much cheaper without the tech fees. It’s given us another $80-$90 an acre that we can spend for extra herbicide or a worm spray or chopping.”

Mayberry said that the only additional expenses incurred with AM UA48 this season was an extra chopping and an application of Envoke for morningglories. “I had the Envoke expense in some of the Roundup Ready cotton, because Roundup was not controlling the morningglories.”

Going to a conventional variety would not be possible without an effective product for worm control. This season, Mayberry sprayed Dupont’s Prevathon one time on the AM UA48, as a preventative.

His consultants Kobin Worthy and Patton Embry liked what they saw. While scouting a conventional cotton variety definitely puts them on high alert for worms, “the Prevathon takes the monkey right back off your shoulders,” Worthy said. “It’s one of the better products I’ve checked behind.”

Worthy couldn’t say for sure how long Prevathon might control worms under very high pressure. “Our worm pressure was very light this year.”

Mayberry noted that managing a conventional cotton variety “may make my consultants’ job harder,” especially for insect control. In weed control, “we’re doing a lot of the same things in conventional cotton that we are doing in Roundup Ready cotton.”

In the fall, Mayberry will prepare the ground behind the picker. “We will completely destroy our beds with deep tillage. Then we’ll redo our beds and sow a cover crop, either deep-rooted radishes, rye or vetch.”

It’s not easy to get the cover crops on every field, Mayberry noted. “We’re at the north end of the Delta, so time is not your friend in the fall.”