Many cotton producers wax nostalgically about the days of DPL 555, the venerable “triple nickel” that topped the favorite varieties list of so many growers.

But the industry accepted the challenge and presented growers with new options that offered comparable yields and quality, says Don Shurley, University of Georgia Extension economist.

The EPA registration for single-gene Bollgard technology expired with the 2009 crop, explains Shurley, and growers were allowed to plant single-gene Bt cotton into 2010, but only from any remaining seed stocks in inventory that were left over from manufacturers for the 2009 crop year.

“Beginning with 2011, growers had to switch from single-gene technology to two-gene technology, which was Bollgard II or WideStrike, or you had to go with a non-transgenic,” he says.

“What made this most significant to Georgia is that we had one single-gene variety, DPL 555 BR, which accounted for 85 percent of our acreage. So losing this technology was a big deal for us.”

DPL 555, in University of Georgia tests and in county on-farm, large-plot tests, had proven to be superior in terms of yield to any other varieties and technologies that were available at that time, says Shurley.

“I conducted a study back in 2007 that estimated the net loss of both farm and gin income from losing DPL 555 was more than $36 million. This loss was based on the yield difference we estimated at the time based on varieties and technologies that were in the market,” he says.

Shurley, along with other UGA researchers, took a look at what has happened in Georgia in terms of varieties and yields since the elimination of DPL 555 and other single-gene technologies.

“Have we had an impact on profitability through the loss of this single-gene technology? More specifically, we looked at changes in yield and fiber quality and then at changes in production costs and inputs like herbicides and insecticides that go along with the technology choice.”

Shurley says they looked at the most recent three years prior to the elimination of DPL 555 and single-gene technology — 2007, 2008 and 2009, compared with the three years since the elimination of the technology, comparing 2007 through 2009 with 2010 through 2012.

“In the three years from 2007 through 2009, more than 80 percent of our crop was planted in DPL 555.

“We had two-gene technology available to us as early as 2007, and yet farmers chose not to use them. This tells us that technology is not the only factor in the equation when deciding which variety to plant.”

Through UGA Extension and education programs, particularly in 2008 and 2009, county agents and specialists were trying to convince growers to look at some of the newer technologies.