Breakdowns in both insecticides and herbicides in the Southeast are forcing many growers to make an extra pass across their cotton fields and creating some renewed interest in growing conventional cotton.

Interest in conventional soybeans has been slower to develop, primarily because prices the past few years have been high enough to provide some cushion for growers to pay for the added cost of genetically modified seed.

Economics is also a driving factor in the renewed interest in going back to the pre-glyphosate resistant era of growing crops in the Southeast.

Cutting input costs in both cotton and soybeans is an ongoing challenge that is critical to taking advantage of high grain prices and to survive low cotton prices.

The current cost for a bag of cotton seed loaded down with traits runs between $400 and $500.

Costs for some of the newer, better yielding conventional varieties is often one-fourth or less the cost of transgenic seed.

Among the tests shown at a recent Soybean and Corn Field Day at the Edisto Research and Education Center in Blackville, S.C., farmers showed the most interest in a test comparing conventional and GM soybean varieties.

Though the soybeans had not been harvested at the time of the field day, Clemson Corn and Soybean Specialist David Gunter says the conventional varieties seem to be holding up well in terms of weed and insect control.

Seed Source Genetics in Texas has released some new conventional cotton varieties in the past few years that look promising for growers in the Southeast, including UA222, a high yielding, high quality conventional variety licensed to the company by the University of Arkansas this year.

Last year Americot released UA48, marketed as AM UA48. Though it was sold in very limited quantities this year, UA48 did make it into several research trials at universities across the Southeast.

(For a look at what growers are saying about UA48, see Conventional cotton variety looks promising for producder).

“We have some growers in Virginia who are saying, I have fields with a medium to low yield potential, and I want to get by with as little cost as I can.

“With these new conventional varieties, they can get good results with seed that cost about $100 a bag,” says Virginia Tech Researcher Ames Herbert.

The Catch-22 Herbert says is that growers using conventional varieties have to be very precise managers of insects and weeds.