Cotton variety selection undoubtedly has become more complex in recent years, as old favorites have been phased out and been replaced by a sometimes overwhelming number of new choices.

“We haven’t yet found replacements for the cotton varieties that we favored in earlier years, like DP 555 and DP 90,” says Dale Monks, Auburn University Extension cotton specialist. “But our varieties today, I think, have better yield potential on a one-on-one basis than what some of the older varieties. And if that wasn’t the case, then our breeders haven’t been doing their jobs. You’d hope that yield and quality have improved.”

Decisions today on which cotton variety to plant are based more on a farm-by-farm basis, says Monks. “It depends now on several factors, including what kind of land you’re planting on, and whether you’re planting conventional or no-till. There are a lot of different things to consider when deciding which varieties to plant,” he says.

Some central Alabama growers, says Monks, are still planting conventional varieties.

“We have data in our variety trials from multiple locations. Varieties are changing so fast now that the best we can get sometimes is to look at one year at multiple locations. The very worst we can do is to look at one location, somewhere close to where we farm, and make a decision based on that one location.”

Alabama cotton variety trials from throughout the state can be found at the website alabamacrops.com. “You want to look for consistency across locations, not one that’s the top in one and the bottom in another. We’re still taking a look at conventional cotton varieties, and those are included in the trials. In addition, there are some Auburn University varieties included,” says Monks.

The University of Georgia Cotton Variety Performance Evaluation Program was a huge success in 2010, with nearly 20 individual trials throughout Georgia’s cotton belt and additional trials outside the scope of the program, according to Extension specialists there.