USDA cotton geneticist Todd Campbell is testing cotton breeding lines that incorporate the best qualities of several different cotton species native to locations as far away as Africa and South America.

Giving cotton a global look, Campbell says, is all part of trying to provide cotton breeders and ultimately cotton growers with the best possible varieties for growing upland cotton in the Southeast.

Speaking at a recent field day at the Florence, S.C. facility, Campbell said future cotton varieties will need to go global to meet the demands of foreign cotton buyers.

Campbell conducts most of his field research at Clemson University’s PeeDee Agricultural Research and Education Center in Florence, S.C. Additional field work is conducted at the Clemson Edisto Agricultural Research and Education Center in Blackville, S.C.

He has a conventional cotton breeding program, a second program to look at genetic variability, and a third program to look at specific genetic qualities desired in cotton varieties in the Southeast.  

The goal of the research program is to increase cotton genetic diversity and develop high yielding and high quality germplasm lines that can be used to develop commercial varieties.

The breeding program has already produced five breeding lines that have produced yields comparable to the gold standard for cotton varieties — DPL 555.

In tests at both Florence and Blackville in 2009, four of these varieties, all numbered breeding lines, averaged between 1,365 and 1,397 pounds of lint per acre. All four varieties had a fiber length of 1.15 inches, all had between 32 and 34 grams fiber strength and had gin-outs of 41 to over 43 percent.