Cotton Links


SE Producers Prepare For
‘Life After 555’


By Amanda Huber
Southeast Editor

Although “change” was a key slogan in the recent election, you will find few people who really like changes.

Often, a person will admit to sitting in the same booth at the local coffee shop, eating the same thing for breakfast every morning or having that pew at church that everyone knows is “yours,” even if your name isn’t technically written on it.

But changes big and small happen in production agriculture each year, so it’s best to be prepared. One change that’s coming will be the loss of Deltapine’s DP 555 BG/RR, the variety grown on a majority of the Southeast’s acreage in the last few years, especially in Georgia.

While variety changes have happened before, most everyone agrees this will be a big change for producers.

Learning Process Ahead

“It’s going to be a drastic change for growers in the South,” says Jack Royal, owner of Royal’s Ag Consulting in Leary, Ga.

“From what I’ve seen in the system, we’ve got some good new varieties coming, but I’m not sure how far off these are. They may be a year or two away, which means we’ll just have to pick what we think is best.”

Royal, a 31-year veteran of the business, says the industry has been in cycles like this before, but the economics facing today’s cotton producer cast an ominous cloud over losing a variety that produces well.

“Whatever comes along, it will be a learning process,” he says. “But, one thing we can’t sacrifice is yield, given input costs of fuel and fertilizer.”

Yield will be a big factor in looking at new varieties, agrees Stanley Culpepper, University of Georgia Extension weed scientist.

“The question is not can we produce the cotton,” he says, “but rather, do alternative cultivars have the potential to produce the yield like 555?”

Yield A Primary Concern

Culpepper says that, hopefully, producers will compare numerous cotton cultivars during 2009, although they will likely still depend heavily on 555. However, resistance to Palmer amaranth will definitely be a factor to consider.

“Once we are ‘off 555,’ we will likely be planting a Flex or WideStrike cultivar that allows glyphosate applications applied topically throughout the season,” Culpepper says.

“With Palmer resistance, the one effective tool we have, if we can make it that far, is a layby-directed herbicide application. Thus, my recommendations to continue with conventional, layby-directed materials will not change.”

However, he says, “If growers move away from directed herbicide applications and take the easy approach by making topical late-season applications using glyphosate and or ALS chemistry, we are in trouble with a capital T!”

Producers are best served by heeding Culpepper’s advice.

From an insect standpoint, Phillip Roberts, UGA Extension entomologist, says the transition to two-gene cotton varieties will bring improved control of corn earworm and other foliar caterpillar pests, such as armyworms and loopers.

“We can do all the plot testing we can, but when these technologies are put into thousands of acres, that’s when we gain a lot more perspective,” Roberts says.

“Looking at trial data and picking some varieties to plant to get that on-farm experience needs to be in their thought process.

“And, it may not be one variety; it may be several,” he adds.

Contact Amanda Huber at (352) 486-7006 or ahuber@onegrower.com.

Winter Homework – Study Trial Data

To prepare producers for changes in variety availability, Deltapine launched a campaign to talk with retailers and producers.

Janice Person, public affairs director, says that when they started having these conversations last year, there was a lot of nervousness because the Bollgard products were so important. However, now producers are gaining confidence that there will be products to meet their needs.

“We expanded field trials, invested in seed production, put more into winter nurseries and offered more exposure to producers so that they will have more first-hand knowledge and experience with some of the newer varieties,” Person says.

While producers will be able to plant DP 555 BG/RR in 2009 as they normally would, what will be available in 2010 and beyond is unknown and depends on availability and the EPA.

For producers, the recommendations are as follows: look at other varieties; talk to retailers and Extension; attend winter meetings and study variety trial data to learn more; and consider the optiion of planting smaller fields into other varieties.


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