The last two seasons have been tough on U.S. cotton production — farmers have faced historic drought in the Southwest, historic floods in the Mid-South and hurricane winds in the Southeast.

It’s been too hot, too wet, too dry and too windy, too often. Early springs have confounded or amazed and were often followed by summers that scorched the earth.

Yet somehow cotton got planted, adjusted to the conditions and started producing. Despite the vagaries of weather, USDA expects 2012 yields to be close to the 5-year average.

The U.S. cotton producer’s management skills and the plant’s access to water definitely played a role in this year’s good yields. The eradication of the boll weevil and the advent of Bt cotton continue to contribute to yield potential.

But varieties can also take a lot of credit. There are exceptions, but today’s top of the line cotton varieties are proving to be consistent, responsive to management and able to take a hit and keep on ticking.

But making sure varieties go on the right ground is important too. In fact, variety selection has become one of the most important decisions a cotton producer makes each spring.

With this in mind, U.S. seed companies recently offered insight into their top performers for the 2012 season. While yield and quality information is still being tabulated, here is an anecdotal look at the thoroughbreds, pack-horses and steady Eddie’s that rose to the top in 2012.

All-Tex Seed

“Epic RF is our best selling Flex variety for irrigated, light water and dryland,” said Cody Poague, of All-Tex Cotton Seed. “This variety has excellent drought tolerance and is adapted for Texas, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma.”

A newer variety is Nitro-44 B2RF, which Pogue says has one of the best fiber packages in the market today. Staple range is 37 to 40, micronaire, 3.5 to 4.5 and strength, 29 to 37. It is widely adapted to most cotton growing areas and does best on medium to heavy irrigation.