Higher U.S. cotton prices have launched the financial rebirth of a struggling industry now giddy about profit prospects for the next few years. Cottonseed companies have a technology-filled pipeline aimed to meet the increased interest with improved lint yields and fiber quality, plus better insect and weed control.

The cotton pipeline is chocked full of the latest technology, according to two leading cottonseed researchers. Dave Albers, Monsanto’s U.S. cotton germplasm manager, and Kenny Melton, Bayer CropScience (BCS) senior regional cotton agronomist, sat down with Western Farm Press during the companies’ respective cotton field days in central Arizona in October.

Albers, based in St, Louis, Mo., says Monsanto’s new pipeline developments focus on improving cotton farmers’ profitability.

“We are ready to continue to improve yield and quality for growers across the Cotton Belt,” Albers said.  “We opened up a new breeding facility in Casa Grande (Ariz.) that has helped us enforce the long history of Delta and Pine Land’s breeding program in the West.”

Deltapine’s (DP) Upland varieties DP 164B2RF and DP 1044B2RF are the top planted varieties, respectively, in Arizona this year. Albers predicts DP 1044B2RF will outpace DP 164B2RF as the No. 1-planted variety in Arizona next year.

The popular varieties will eventually yield to improved seed including the experimental variety 11R159 which Albers touted during field tours. 

“11R159 offers great yield and fiber quality under Arizona growing conditions,” Albers said.

Other Monsanto technology in the pipeline includes cotton breeding to target the root knot nematode (RKN). The insecticide Temik is largely used in Arizona to target RKN, but the phase-out of the product has farmers concerned about the impact of Temik-less RKN control in the future.

“Monsanto in its strategic breeding and trait breeding is looking at a number of ways to enhance the root knot nematode tolerance in cotton varieties,” Albers said.

New RKN traits could be on the market by 2014. Albers says breeding RKN solutions are faster to implement than transgenic solutions requiring regulatory approval.

In weed management, Monsanto’s Dicamba and Glufosinate-tolerant (DGT) cotton is at the phase three test level. DGT cotton would be Monsanto’s first three-way stack of herbicide-tolerant technology including Roundup Ready Flex. A 2015 or 2016 launch is possible depending on regulatory approval.

“DGT cotton would provide three in-plant herbicide tolerances for the Cotton Belt with more modes of action to manage through glyphosate resistance especially in difficult to control weeds including palmer amaranth.”