Cotton growers who have become accustomed to seeing three-digit numbers beginning with a 4 or 5 on their seed bags will have to start getting used to a new numbering system when they elect to grow D&PL Roundup Ready Flex varieties and Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex varieties in 2006.

Delta and Pine Land Co. plans to begin using 100-series numbers to denote varieties containing the new Roundup Ready Flex technology that Monsanto expects to be able to offer producers this spring.

“We decided to go to a different numbering system because we had so many 4s out there we were concerned we might be confusing people,” says Randy Dismuke, senior vice president for U.S. Business at D&PL. “We believe the new 100-series will help establish these varieties in growers’ minds.”

The new numbers include DP 108 RF and DP 110 RF, which are early to mid-maturity Roundup Ready Flex varieties; DP 147 RF and DP 167 RF, mid- to full-season Roundup Ready Flex varieties; DP 113 B2RF, DP 117 B2RF, early to mid-maturity stacked gene varieties; and DP 143 B2RF and DP 164 B2RF, mid- to full-season stacked gene varieties.

“All of these were tested as experimentals,” said Dismuke, who was interviewed at the company’s Scott, Miss., headquarters. “When you get the opportunity to look at tests, we hope all of them will be changed to the new variety name. If not, we can cross reference back to the experimental designation.

“We named these in late summer, realizing that we needed to get the correct variety names out rather than the experimental designation.”

Dismuke says Delta and Pine Land expects those to be the first in a host of new varieties containing the Roundup Ready Flex, Bollgard 2 or both genes and other new genetic traits that are under development.

The company expects to release more 100-series Roundup Ready Flex and Bollgard 2 varieties in 2007 before its long-awaited move in some new directions in 2008 and beyond.

“We could see some totally different designations in 2008 and 2009, depending on regulatory decisions and how things progress on the new traits,” he said, referring to the potential introduction of Syngenta’s vegetable insecticidal protein or VipCot and another new glyphosate-tolerance technology that’s under development.

EPA and other regulatory agencies are currently reviewing the VipCot trait, which combined with a second insect control gene will offer different modes of action, for possible approval in 2008. But Dismuke doesn’t believe the parade of new products will end with VipCot and the new herbicide trait.

“As an independent company, we have the option to go to numerous trait suppliers and try to find the best traits that are out there that will add the most value to the cotton producer,” he said.

“We think there are a number of things we can do. We can take the elite germplasm we have and put numerous traits in it as well as add numerous products to the seed as seed treatments,” he said. “In the end, the whole point is to add value for the producer.”

Dismuke said it’s too early to discuss other traits that could eventually find their way into the company’s cotton varieties. “I tell people that if anyone thinks of something in the way of new traits that might work in cotton, those people have been to talk to us about it.”

For now, the company is continuing to “introgress” the VipCot trait along with a second insect control trait into its elite germplasm; i.e., new cotton lines that have made it through the company’s rigorous testing programs and are nearing the point of seed increase in anticipation of commercial introduction, pending regulatory approval of the trait.

“We have 12 research programs that are devoted to the development of new, conventional germplasm,” he noted, “because we feel that the advantages in yield and fiber will be gained through conventional breeding programs. We can then take those conventional varieties and insert the desired traits.

“The insertion of those traits we in the industry tend to refer to as introgression,” Dismuke said with a smile after being asked to explain the term.

Why insert both technologies? “It gives you two different modes of action,” he said. “When you look at Bollgard 2, it is the second generation of insect-protected cotton developed by Monsanto that actually has two insect control genes with different modes of action. VipCot provides another gene with a different mode of action.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on resistance management. Resistance management is a primary reason for having two genes.”

Delta and Pine Land is also working with inserting an herbicide-tolerant gene along with the Bt and VipCot traits in what some are calling “triple-stacked-gene” cotton. The herbicide-tolerant gene could be Roundup Ready, Roundup Ready Flex or a new glyphosate-resistant technology.

Dismuke was asked if the new product lineup contains another DP 555 BG/RR, the variety introduced in 2003 that continues to be the No. 1 planted variety in the United States followed by DP 444 BG/RR, according to USDA’s acreage surveys.

“We have introduced three other Bollgard/Roundup varieties — DP 445 BG/RR, DP 455 BG/RR and BG 454 BG/RR — that will complement 555 and 444,” he said. “All three have maturities that would be between 444 and 555 and offer something unique. Those offer potential for yield and further fiber improvements.

“Cotton producers we talk to are interested in yield, yield and more yield because that’s what pays the bills. At the same time, they are starting to talk more about loan values, which tie back to fiber quality. We’ve always looked at that, but we’re looking at it even more closely today.

As for another Triple Nickel, Dismuke wouldn’t speculate on what that might be. “But I suspect that the next 555 is probably somewhere in our testing program now,” he noted.

“This is something that takes time,” he said. “In the next two years, we may identify one variety that will take us to the next incremental increase that we’re looking for. We’ll take that germplasm and add these new traits, and it will be the one we offer producers.”

Commenting on what’s been a difficult subject for Delta and Pine Land, Dismuke said DP 555 BG/RR continues to perform well in Georgia. Some cotton mill executives have complained about the quality of Georgia’s cotton crop, and, because it is the predominant Georgia variety, about DP 555 BG/RR.

“I haven’t seen a 2005 recap on the quality issue in Georgia — they’re still ginning,” said Dismuke, interviewed in late November. “But they continue to plant significant acreages of DP 555 BG/RR, and it continues to yield exceptionally well in Georgia. We anticipate the demand for 555 will continue.

“DP 555 brings the yield potential to them that they’re looking for. When it comes to the fiber, it’s delivering values that they’re satisfied with in combination with the yield and the fiber, giving them value per acre.”