Seed-count packaging and new Bt technology are among what's new in cotton varieties for 2004. Earlier this year, Stoneville Pedigreed Seed Co. announced it will offer a 230,000-seed bag for all cotton varieties in 2004. Three bag sizes — small, medium and large — will accommodate bag weights ranging from 40 pounds to 60 pounds per bag. Bulk packages will contain 9.2 million seeds, or 40, 230,000-seed units.

Meanwhile, Delta and Pine Land Co. will market most of its upland cotton varieties in bags containing approximately 250,000 seeds. The only exception will be pima and Acala varieties, which will continue to be packaged in 50-pound bags. Each Boll Box of D&PL upland varieties will contain approximately 8 million seeds, the equivalent of 32 seed count bags.

Stoneville announced three new cotton varieties for 2004, including one variety with Bollgard II. Bollgard II expresses two Bt proteins — Cry 1 Ac and Cry 2 Ab — which are toxic to caterpillar pests. Bollgard I contained only the Cry 1 Ac protein.

ST 4646B2R is an early-maturity high-yielder with Bollgard II and Roundup Ready technologies. It is derived from ST 474. Staple length is 36; micronaire, 4.5; and strength, 29.1.

ST 3990BR is an early-maturity stacked variety with high-yield potential. It has good early-season vigor and a good fiber package. It has the Bollgard and Roundup Ready technologies. According to David Guthrie, manager, technical services for Stoneville, the variety “is a larger plant early on, but it settles down. It loads up early and has a compact boll loading style.”

ST 5242 is a mid- to full-maturity variety with high-yield potential and the Bollgard and Roundup Ready technologies. It has excellent early-season vigor, according to Guthrie. “Growers may have to pay a little more attention to growth management in this variety.”

During a recent media tour, Stoneville said it plans to take a big step forward with the release of several new cotton varieties in 2005. The company expects the varieties to surpass the yield and quality benchmark established by ST 5599BR.

Pending EPA approval, Dow AgroSciences expects to introduce WideStrike cotton varieties containing the Cry 1 F and Cry 1 Ac Bt toxins, which will provide control of cotton pests such as cotton bollworm, tobacco budworm, beet armyworm, fall armyworm, soybean loopers, cabbage loopers and pink bollworms.

EPA approval for WideStrike cotton is expected in 2004 and would be available in two PhytoGen varieties, one adapted for the Mid-South and one adapted for the Southeast.

PhytoGen intends to release two new Roundup Ready varieties in 2004. PHY410R is an early- to mid-maturity variety adapted for the Mid-South and is most similar to PSC 355 based on high-yield potential. PHY 510R is a full-season variety adapted for the Southeast and is most similar to HS 12 based on high-yield potential. Both varieties are expected to provide an excellent fiber package.

In addition, research agreements are in place with several U.S. cottonseed companies. Those companies are working to incorporate the WideStrike trait into their elite varieties.

Bayer CropScience says it will continue to expand its line of cottonseed varieties for 2004, and will increase seed availability of its popular FM 960BR and FM 800BR varieties. These two varieties were first available to growers in a limited quantity for the 2003 season.

“FM 960BR is a is a widely adaptable stacked technology variety developed from the FiberMax 958 and 966 genetic families. It is one of the first stacked varieties to combine high-yield potential, early maturity and a true improvement in fiber quality over existing early-season productive varieties,” says Jane Dever, lead cotton breeder for Bayer CropScience.

“FM 958 and FM 966 are early-season productive varieties with excellent fiber quality and yield. Now growers will have the option to plant a comparable herbicide- and insect-resistant variety with FM 960BR.”

FM 960BR, Dever says, offers growers both high-yield potential and high quality with herbicide-resistant and insect-resistant traits.

In comparison, FM 800 BR adds herbicide and insecticide resistance to the FM 832 genetic family, which has excellent agronomic adaptation to the south Delta, Louisiana and south Texas, and the best fiber quality in the FiberMax product line.

Dever says growers in early-season areas of adaptation such as the Mid-South, northern Mid-Atlantic and High Plains of Texas looking for good early-season productive varieties will benefit from FM 960BR and FM 800BR.

“It has been noted that fiber quality, particularly fiber length and micronaire, has declined in some areas in recent years. Dever says some high-yielding stacked varieties were prone to quality discounts, and growers felt they made more money on yield rather than quality.

The company will also introduce FM 960RR and FM 800RR in 2004 for use in refuge areas. These varieties will be limited in quantity during their introductory year next season.

In addition, Bayer CropScience is developing new varieties with other herbicide and insect resistance traits.

Upon EPA's approval of glufosinate for use in cotton, FiberMax seed will be available for glufosinate-resistant varieties in five genetic backgrounds: FM 981, FM 832, FM 966, FM 958 and FM 5035.

A limited amount of Fibermax Bollgard II with Roundup Ready technology will also be available in 2004 for limited commercial testing. The stacked technology varieties will be introduced in early-, mid- and full-season varieties.

“We are very excited to be working with these new technologies toward introduction of varieties in 2004 and beyond,” says Dever. “Our focus continues to be the development of agronomically superior varieties with excellent fiber quality. The basic belief of our breeding program is that growers should not, and will not, sacrifice agronomic performance, particularly yield, and fiber quality in order to enjoy the best new technology in cotton.”

Tom Kerby, vice president of technical services for Delta and Pine Land Company in Scott, Miss., says early results from the 2003 crop of Deltapine varieties looks promising.

“Deltapine 555 is doing quite well in its primary market of Georgia, South Carolina, south central Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana,” he says. “This variety really bolls up fast, even though it often is not the best looking cotton around. Its ratio of fiber-to-seed is also very good, and it offers great gin turnout, which can allow growers to pick up anther 6 or 7 percent yield increase.”

While Deltapine 555 may not win any beauty contests, Deltapine 444 sure could, according to Kirby. “I haven't seen a bad plot of DP 444 in any of our advance testing fields, including 180 on-farm locations across the Cotton Belt,” he says.

What's more, he says, DP 444 has exhibited lower micronaire than its competitors in the company's comparison studies. “We've been running 4.5 micronaire in South Texas, where micronaire traditionally runs very high. In our 2002 field tests, we had 203 trials with an average micronaire of 4.07. Overall, we had just a very small amount of cotton in the discount range, and 58 percent actually in the premium range.”

Deltapine is expecting to have DP 444 cottonseed available commercially in 2004.

A new cotton seed company, Beltwide Cotton Genetics, is evaluating BCG 28R for yield and adaptability in the Mid-South growing region. BCG 28R is an early- to medium-season cotton with a smooth leaf and a compact growth habit. It contains the Roundup Ready trait.

Beltwide Cotton Genetics is a sister company to Delta King Seed Co., headquartered in McCrory, Ark.