Variety selection is key to cotton success, says expert | Agriculture

DENISE ATTAWAY Especially for The T&D

This year was “great” for cotton and a cotton specialist at Clemson Extension says variety selection is the key to success.

At the Clemson Pee Dee Research and Education Field Day in 2022, Clemson Cooperative Extension Service Cotton Specialist and agronomy professor Michael Jones told producers variety selection is the single most important decision they can make when planting cotton.

Jones went on to say that farmers should prioritize yield potential and stability when choosing the variety to plant.

“When it comes to selecting varieties, you have to do your homework,” Jones said. “Study available data and temper it with your experiences to find varieties that are best for you.”

Jones reported that a new Bt cotton variety, ThryvOn, is expected to be released in the United States in 2023. ThryvOn cotton contains the Bt property, MON 88702, which targets thrips and infested plant bugs, limiting damage and yield loss from these insects. Bt cotton is genetically modified by introducing a common soil bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis, to produce certain proteins that are toxic to specific insects.

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For 2022, Jones reported that about 260,000 acres of cotton have been planted in the state, yielding about 900 pounds of fluff per acre.

In addition to the selection of varieties, field day participants learned that a major pest of cotton is also a pest of corn.

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Francis Reay-Jones, Clemson Extension entomologist and coordinator of Integrated Pest Management, said the corn earworm is known as the bollworm in cotton. Modern insect management relies mainly on the use of transgenic Bt technology in both maize and cotton.

But corn earwigs in the southeastern United States have developed resistance to several Bt toxins, mainly because of the selection pressure in Bt corn, which leads to greater problems with Bt cotton later in the season.

“Only Bt-corn hybrids containing the Vip3A toxin have been shown to provide excellent levels of control,” Reay-Jones said.

Corn farmers are required to manage Bt resistance by planting non-Bt corn shelters. This strategy involves planting non-Bt corn in a Bt corn field or within half a mile of the Bt corn field to promote the survival of Bt susceptible individuals, which will then mate and dilute potential resistance. This will help preserve Bt technology in both corn and cotton.

For more information, read “Corn Earwig As A Field Corn Pest,” in the Clemson Extension Land-Grant Press.

The field day included a discussion of the Clemson IPM program by Tim Bryant. Rongzhong Ye spoke about ground covers and soil health and Ryan Bean spoke about using prescribed fires and creating wildlife plots to manage forests. Wonkeun Park, senior scientist, discussed crop diversity and improvement, while JC Chong, Clemson Extension specialist, concluded the tour with a discussion of new tomato breeding lines that are resistant to whiteflies and spider mites, and Jose Payero, Clemson Extension irrigation specialist, demonstrated with using cloud-based soil moisture monitoring technology for irrigation planning.

Genetic diversity, ground covers

Sachin Rustgi, associate professor of molecular breeding, told the participants about his projects breeding new properties in cotton and peanuts. Rustgi is principal investigator of a Cotton Incorporated-supported study to improve Upland Cotton yield by changing the growth habit of the crop from a perennial crop to an annual crop.

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Perennial crops regrow every year, while annual crops live only one growing season and then die. In addition, perennial crops retain assimilates (sugars) for regrowth in the following growing season, which is lost because cotton is now treated as an annual crop. These assimilates could be channeled to produce more globules. Regrowth after plant defoliation and drying up also reduces crop quality and negatively impacts revenue.

“Cotton has a global economic impact of $500 billion,” Rustgi said. “But cotton yields have stagnated over the years. With this study, we aim to break down the genetic code and identify molecular markers associated with flowering and other growth traits in Upland Cotton to develop a ‘true’ annual variety. This will increase productivity without increasing input costs.”

Other researchers involved are Michael Jones, cotton specialist at Clemson Extension, and Todd Campbell of the US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.

Genetic diversity in cotton is important as it allows improvements in fiber quality and yield stability. In an update on the Pee Dee Cotton Breeding Program, Campbell said 18 advanced breeding lines were evaluated at three sites in South Carolina and North Carolina in a project funded by the South Carolina Cotton Board. Yields were strong and a number of breeding lines matched premium Pima cotton for fiber quality.

“Growers need a variety that can withstand changing environmental conditions and still perform well,” says Campbell.

Eric Billman, a research agronomist at the USDA-ARS, spoke about using perennial ground covers to minimize cotton content and Binaya Parajuli, Clemson’s graduate research assistant in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, spoke about using ground covers to reduce nitrogen losses in row crops. to decrease.

Pathogens, pollinators

Other information provided during the field day included a presentation by Clemson’s grass pathologist Joe Roberts, who discussed the root-dwelling pathogens affecting South Carolina-grown turfgrasses. These include fungi that cause disease, such as mini ring.

Roberts and other researchers are also looking at year-round nematodes that feed on grass roots and how these nematodes interact with fungal pathogens.

Rick Boyles, Clemson plant breeder and geneticist, talked about how dedicated breeding practices can help increase the yield limits of dryland grain sorghum. has a new special: $1 for 26 weeks

Ben Powell, Clemson aculturist and coordinator of the Pollinator program, spoke about strategies that can be used for pollinator habitats. Buckwheat is the easiest crop to plant to support pollinators because it provides “enough food for a lot of pollinators, as well as honeybees,” Powell said.

Bruce McLean, Clemson Extension area commercial horticultural agent, is investigating alternative soil amendments that produce results similar to pine bark in blueberries. McLean also works with Jenna Hershberger, vegetable breeding and genetics, on vegetable and butterbean breeding projects. One of their studies involves continuing Tony Melton’s research into developing a butterbean variety that can thrive in the South Carolina heat. Melton, who worked for Clemson for 40 years, died on April 2, 2022.

Sandy soils are the most common soil types in South Carolina, and Clemson student Zhine Wang is working with Charles Williamson to diversify crop residues to improve organic production in sandy soils.

For information about these and other studies conducted at the Clemson Pee Dee REC, visit

Denise Attaway reports for Public Service and Agriculture at Clemson University College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences.

“When it comes to selecting breeds, do your homework. Study available data and temper it with your experiences to find breeds that are best for you.”

Michael Jones, Clemson Extension Cotton Specialist


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