U.S. cotton producers will plant a very small amount of Bollgard II cotton this year, most of which will be for seed production for a full-scale launch in 2004, according to sources with cotton seed companies.

Rainy weather which hurt seed quality in the Mid-South as well as EPA regulations which limited where and how much Bollgard II seed could be tested are reasons for the limited supplies for 2003. Bollgard II was approved by EPA on Dec. 23, 2002.

Bollgard II cotton is the second-generation of insect-protected cotton developed by Monsanto. The technology contains two different insect-control genes, compared to the single insect-control gene in its predecessor, Bollgard cotton.

According to Monsanto, Bollgard II provides control of cotton bollworm, tobacco budworm, pink bollworm, European corn borer, cabbage and soybean loopers, fall and beet armyworms, salt marsh caterpillar and cotton leaf perforators.

In 2003, Delta and Pine Land Company will release two varieties that contain the newly registered Bollgard II technology in a stacked-gene configuration with Roundup Ready. The release will be on a limited basis.

DP 424 BGII/RR is an early- to mid-season variety developed from germplasm that produced SG 215 BG/RR. DP 468 BGII/RR is a mid- to full-season variety developed from germplasm that produced DP 458 B/RR.

The varieties will be offered to selected growers for seed production this coming season, according to D&PL. “DP 424 BGII/RR and DP 468 BGII/RR will be in 2003 state OVT testing and small-scale farm trials,” said Tom Kerby, vice president, technical services at D&PL. The company expects a full commercial launch scheduled for 2004.

According to Peter Peerbolt with D&PL, there will be about 3,000 bags of each of the Bollgard II varieties for 2003, enough to plant between 12,000 acres and 15,000 acres of each variety.

D&PL will be field-testing other Bollgard II/Roundup Ready varieties this coming season, according to Bill Hugie, D&PL's vice president, research. “We're already well along in the introgression process of placing the Bollgard II/Roundup Ready stacked-gene technologies in our newest genetic material — material that has demonstrated potential for both good fiber quality and high yields.”

In 2003, Stoneville Pedigreed Seed Co. will sell very limited quantities of ST 5222B2, a Bollgard II-only variety. “It will be strategically placed with growers across the belt,” according to Danny Rogers, national marketing manager for Stoneville.

Stoneville plans to plant seed stocks of two Bollgard II varieties in 2003 which will lead to commercial sales in 2004, Rogers said. Those varieties are the aforementioned ST 5222B2 and ST 4563B2.

“We will also plant seed stocks of a stacked Bollgard II/Roundup Ready variety in 2003 that will lead to commercial sales in 2004. We have not named that variety yet.”

Bayer CropScience plans to test four lines of FiberMax cotton varieties containing stacked Bollgard II/Roundup Ready traits in 2003. According to Jane Dever, product development manager for FiberMax cotton, some of those varieties could be available for seed production in 2003, to be sold in 2004.

In 2004, cotton producers should have a choice of transgenic worm control products for the first time. Seed and technology providers expect to offer cotton varieties with Syngenta's VIP cotton trait and Dow AgroSciences WideStrike technology.

Since some technology providers are also seed companies, there undoubtedly will be new levels of cooperation and trait sharing between companies. But as to who will be sharing what with whom, well, most companies are still playing it close to the vest.

“We have research and development agreements with third-party Bt providers,” said Dever. “There's no question we are both a seed company and a trait provider. The seed company part of our business is very interested in evaluating any technology that is available and may provide good things in cotton. We'll look at it all and if it's something that looks good for our portfolio, we'll look for a commercial agreement.”


e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com.