Planting high quality cotton seed and keeping young plants healthy early in the growing season is one of the keys to growing cotton in Virginia, says long-time Virginia Tech Plant Pathologist Pat Phipps.

After last year’s problems with a late tropical storm and hurricane, Virginia growers are looking for ways to get their crop up early in the 2012 season, and, hopefully, make up for some of the lost production from the storms in 2011.

At a recent field day at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Suffolk, Va., Phipps showed growers the results of several different seed treatments used to protect the crop from early season disease damage.

An often asked question among farmers growing cotton in the northern ranges of production is, “Do I need more protection against early season diseases than the standard seed treatments provide.”

In the Virginia Tech tests, Phipps compared the standard cotton seed treatments — Avicta Complete Cotton from Syngenta and Aeris from Bayer to untreated cotton seed. As expected, there was a significant difference in stand and subsequently a significant difference in yield between untreated and treated seed.

Avicta Complete Cotton is a combination of three Syngenta products: Avicta, a seed treatment nematicide; Cruiser, a seed treatment insecticide; and Dynasty, a seed-delivered fungicide.

AerisSeed Treatment System is a cotton seed applied nematicide/insecticide. It combines the broad spectrum activity of chloronicotinyl and carbamate chemistry to provide protection from early season insects and nematodes.

“Most of the cotton we plant is with seed treated with one or the other of these seed treatments. From these tests, it’s clear these materials work. The question is do they work well enough,” Phipps says.

Phipps took seed from a high vigor batch of seed and treated part of them with a warm water heat treatment to reduce vigor. The tests comparing different seed treatments also compared these treatments in high and low vigor seed, he explains.

He points out some difference in flowering in the low vigor seed, but not in the high vigor seed. “Growers should check seed for cool germ and that will tell them about vigor of cotton seed,” Phipps says.

In Virginia, growers should plant seed with at least a 70 percent cool germ and most growers in the state are planting seed with at least an 80 cool germ, he adda.

In cotton there are two common germination tests, standard germination and cool germination. Standard germination results are reported on the seed tag. Standard germination tests are conducted at 86 degrees F for 16 hours per day and 68 degrees F for 8 hours per day.