What is in this article?:
• After the loss of DPL 555, the cotton industry accepted the challenge and presented growers with new variety options that offered comparable yields and quality.
• 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.
THE COTTON INDUSTRY has responded since the loss of DPL 555 with high-yielding, high-quality variety choices.
Knew time was limited
“We knew DPL 555’s time was limited, and we wanted them to begin looking at new varieties on their farms, at least on a small scale. We saw some of this happening in 2009, but not much.”
Turning to the most recent years since the technology was discontinued — 2010-2012 — Shurley says it’s apparent growers are planting a wider range of cotton varieties.
“We no longer have a single variety that dominates the landscape — it’s anybody’s ballgame right now.”
Beginning in 2009, the newer Deltapine varieties were well accepted along with some of the Phytogen varieties, he says.
“Particularly in 2012, we had a big jump in the Phytogen 499 WideStrike variety. That one variety accounted for almost one-third of our acreage.
“It’s not a coincidence that Phytogen 499 was also a variety that was a top-yielder in our OVTs for three consecutive years. Are we selecting technologies here, or are we still selecting based on yield? I contend we’re selecting based on yield rather than technology choice.”
In 2012, about half of Georgia’s crop was planted in B2RF technology, and most of those were the Deltapine varieties, says Shurley.
“But also, 40 percent of Georgia’s crop is planted in the WideStrike variety. Since we lost the single-gene technology, these two-gene varieties, whether it’s Bollgard II or WideStrike, come bundled with Roundup Flex, not Roundup.
“When we lost the single-gene technology, we moved not only to a two-gene cotton — which is more expensive in terms of the seed cost and technology fee — but we also moved from Roundup Ready to Roundup Flex, which is also more expensive in terms of fees.”
All of these varieties and technologies have great value and benefit to the grower, says Shurley, but when the shift was made from single-gene, producers also got the Roundup Flex whether they wanted it or not.
While fiber quality questions dogged cotton for some time, it has definitely improved in recent years, he says.
“We went through a period of time when we had bad fiber quality in Georgia, and we took a lot of criticism for it.
“Some of that was directed to DPL 555. Some people made that connection since the majority of our growers were planting that variety. I don’t think that direct linkage was ever made, but the implication was out there.”
In any case, fiber quality has changed for the better over the past six years, says Shurley.
“Looking at 2007, 2008 and 2009, those are the last three years when almost 85 percent of our crop was planted in DPL 555. Compare that to the most recent three years, and we see a tremendous difference.
“Staple has improved, with the percentage of shorter staples really going down. The big criticism we hear about DPL 555 was uniformity, and that has definitely improved.
“In 2007 through 2009, we had between 25 and 30 percent of our crop that was less than 80-percent uniformity. Now, that is almost non-existent.”
Many things impact fiber quality, and weather obviously is one of them, says Shurley, but fiber quality definitely has improved in Georgia during the most recent three years.
“When we look at varieties in Georgia, we recommend that growers look not only at yield but also at stability. How does that variety compare at different locations under different conditions?
“It may be good one year but a dog the next year. We stress that growers look at stability in the yield and not just yield alone.”