VERONA, Miss. – Diversity is the mainstay of agricultural production in north Mississippi and nowhere is that diversity more recognized than through the programs and research of the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center headquartered at Verona, Miss.

More than 200 area agricultural producers gathered for the Center’s annual producer advisory committee meeting to share their concerns and needs in the various agricultural enterprises and to hear the results of dozens of ongoing research and service programs of the facility.

From traditional row crops such as cotton and soybeans to ornamentals and garden vegetables, the Center reflects the needs of a rapidly urbanizing community, while continuing to support full-time farmers and a thriving agricultural industry.

Joe Street, a weed scientist and former agronomist with the Delta Research and Extension Center at Leland, is serving as interim director of the NMREC, which also includes branch stations at Pontotoc, Holly Springs and Prairie. He welcomed the group with a pledge to continue to be their leading source of reliable and applicable information for production, economic and consumer-based issues.

Among some of the most discussed research were the results of variety trials of all commodities, varietal responses to various production practices, chemical uses and effectiveness, planting dates and tillage practices and various production and health-related issues for the area’s livestock and dairy industries.

Last year, cotton farmers expressed concern at the adaptability and management of a new generation of transgenic varieties. In response, an extensive research project was conducted by the Center in 2003, and the results from that study were an example of one of dozens of applicable programs and research projects spotlighted at the March 4 event.

North Mississippi cotton growers discovered and accepted the ease, economics and production capabilities of transgenic cotton varieties in the late 1990s. Now, more varieties, known as the second generation of insect and disease resistance plants, are hitting the market, and local researchers are putting the technology to the test.

One study of particular interest to growers of the high input cotton crop involved researchers’ evaluation of the cotton lint yield of first and second generation genetically enhanced varieties in a no-till environment.

According to the research team made up of M.W. Shankle; T. F. Garrett and J.L. Main, the concept of the study was to evaluate first generation (BG/RR) and second generation (BGII/RR) “stacked trait” technology to the original single trait (RR) variety. The test was conducted at the Pontotoc branch station.

To date, growers have learned to manage and depend on the earlier transgenic varieties, but the researchers wanted to ensure that no significant management adjustments would be needed to see the same positive results from the second generations.

The varieties tested include SG215 BG/RR; DP424 BGII/RR and SG521 RR derived from SG 125; and DP458 BG/RR and DP468 BGII/RR and DP5415 RR derived from DP 5415. In addition, other genetically enhanced varieties were included for comparison, says Shankle.

The first and second generation stacked trait to single trait technology comparison indicates that the performance of the second-generation stacked trait technology is equal to or greater than the first generation stacked and single trait varieties. Cotton yields were excellent on the station in 2003 in spite of replanting in late May due to poor stands.

Lint yield for these varieties follow the order of SG521 RR, 1,358 pounds of lint per acre; DP458 BGII/RR, 1,323 pounds; SG215 BG/RR, 1,230 pounds; DP468 BGII/RR, 1,398 pounds; DP5415 RR, 1,249 pounds; and DP458 BG/RR, 1,217 pounds.

A comparison of all varieties suggests that PM1218 BG/RR lint yield is greater than all second-generation stacked trait varieties except DP468 BGII/RR, agree the researchers. In addition, DP555 BG/RR and DP451 BG/RR yielded more than 1,400 pounds per acre and were not different than PM1218 BG/RR.

Cotton varieties were planted in 40-inch rows on May 1 with a seeding rate of 55,000 seed per acre. The trial was replanted on May 27 because of poor stands due to heavy rains and cool temperatures.

The cotton was defoliated on Oct. 18. Two center rows were harvested with a one-row plot picker equipped with an electronic scale on Nov. 5. Samples were collected from each variety for fiber property analyses (staple, fiber length, fiber strength and micronaire).

In addition, statistical analysis was conducted to evaluate first generation (BG/RR) and second generation (BGII/RR) stacked trait technology to the original single trait (RR) variety. The first and second generation stacked trait to single trait technology comparison indicates that second generation stacked trait technology is equal to or greater than the first generation stacked and single trait varieties, based on the NMREC research.

Eva Ann Dorris is a free lance writer based in Pontotoc, Miss.

e-mail: eadorris@aol.com