Variety selection is one of the most important decisions a cotton grower can make. This decision determines the genetic yield potential for a particular field and environment. In 2013, the University of Georgia On-Farm Cotton Variety Performance Evaluation Program demonstrated that improper variety selection could cost producers between $79 and $230 per acre. Therefore, this decision has a significant effect on growers’ profitability.
Variety selection can be complex, as consideration of many factors is necessary. Determining the most yield-limiting factor in a particular farm or field may be the first step in this process. The most common yield-limiting factor is usually water, although this was not very common in 2013. Other main yield-limiting factors that may influence variety performance include nematodes, weed control, planting date, irrigation capacity and soil type.
Evaluation of variety stability, or how frequently a variety performs at or near the top, is one of the best predictors for how well a variety may perform across a broad range of the factors listed above. Some varieties perform very well regardless of the environment or limiting factor. Other varieties may only be competitive in heavily irrigated conditions, and others may perform well in stressed situations. Therefore, it is important to properly position varieties into environments where they are likely to be competitive.
Lastly, growers are encouraged to utilize data from as many years and environments as possible when making these decisions. Consideration to the general environmental conditions within a given year may also provide insight on how varieties may perform in generally wet or dry years, as well as other general conditions that may be encountered.
The results from the 2013 UGA On-Farm Cotton Variety Performance Evaluation Program are in and the UGA Cotton Variety Performance Calculator can help growers determine what might work best for their operation and in their fields in 2014.