“We are not promoting switching to conventional varieties, but there are growers who are interested in seeing how these varieties perform versus more popular varieties that contain various genetic traits,” Herbert stresses.

In three years of testing in Virginia, Herbert says his research team has seen good control of bollworm and stink bugs using two applications of a number of insecticides. This is important, he stresses, because many growers must come back across their fields with an additional insecticide application because the length of protection from seed treatments is limited.

Weed scientists are finding a similar scenario in weed management because of the proliferation of weeds with resistance to three of the four most commonly used families of herbicides labeled for use on cotton.

The natural thought process is, if I’m going to have to go back and apply additional insecticides and herbicides to make Bt varieties work full season on insects and additional herbicides to compensate for resistance issues, why not plant conventional varieties and save the technology fees?

So far in Virginia and North Carolina conventional cotton varieties have not yielded as well as some of the popular transgenic varieties. However, research in other parts of the Cotton Belt, using UA-48 has shown yields comparable to many of the more popular transgenic varieties. And, UA-222 is supposed to be an even higher yielding variety.

For many cotton growers to get interested in growing conventional cotton, the yield potential of these varieties is going to have to increase, most cotton growers agree.

According to reports from the University of Arkansas, where both UA48 and UA222 were developed, these varieties do kick up both yield and quality potential.

Seed for both varieties were grown in limited quantities in 2011, and few were available outside the Delta. This year, seed production was up and yield and quality are reportedly good. So, there may be some supply for growers in the Southeast, who want to try one of these conventional varieties.

At the urging of several growers, the University of Arkansas sold about 1,150 50-pound bags of UA48 seed for planting in 2011 while pursuing a licensure agreement. Texas based Americot, Inc., bought the rights and is marketing seed as “AM UA48,” a non-transgenic conventional variety, for planting in 2012.

Tom Barber, University of Arkansas Extension cotton specialist, says UA48 yield reports from Arkansas growers varied, but many reported excellent yields.

The seed sold in 2011 was from cotton grown in a single field in Texas, and it had a relatively low germination rate, which required a higher seeding rate, but the problem was not variety related, he said.

If a grower has land on which he knows he can’t produce much more than 700 pounds of lint per acre, one of these higher yielding conventional varieties may be a good fit, Herbert says.