Cotton and soybean seed used to be one of the cheapest inputs in production. Today, it’s one of the most expensive.

That’s why a key research focus of Brooks Blanche, LSU AgCenter agronomist and breeder, “will be pinpointing the adaptation of cotton and soybean varieties. As growers know, the world has changed a bit and the seed companies are not only doing quick turnovers with varieties but also packaging a lot more into the varieties. That means the seed is also more expensive.”

In a similar way weed scientists evaluate experimental herbicides or entomologists evaluate experimental insecticides in different conditions, Blanche wants to begin “evaluating some of the different germ plasm and the package that comes with it. That could be a genetic package — we already have WideStrike, Flex, and Bollgard cotton. It could also be seed treatments, which is a rapidly developing market, as well.”

For example, “we have an on-farm trial in Tensas Parish — working in conjunction with Dennis Burns, the county Extension agent. Tensas Parish is a big cotton-producing parish and in this trial there are six cotton varieties. Burns found a field that crosses four different soil types. So, in one field, we’ll be working with a Bruin silt loam, Commerce silt loam, Tunica and a Sharkey clay.”

Blanche and colleagues will run those six varieties across the soil types and be able to see the relative adaptation within each.

“The idea is we’ll be able to say, ‘well, on a sandier soil with X amount of nematode pressure, variety A is superior. On heavier ground, variety B might be a better option. Of course, the results may also reveal which varieties are consistent across all of the soil types, which is important when selecting varieties for fields with mixed soils.”

The benefit is that “everything is held constant — all the varieties get the same Roundup application, all were planted on the same date.”

Blanche believes this test and others in the works can result in “some really good information regarding which varieties are adapted for different environments.”

e-mail: dbennett@farmpress.com