The last two seasons have been tough on U.S. cotton production – farmers have faced historic drought in the Southwest, historic floods in the Mid-South and hurricane winds in the Southeast. It’s been too hot, too wet, too dry and too windy, too often. Early springs have confounded or amazed and were often followed by summers that scorched the earth.

Yet somehow cotton got planted, adjusted to the conditions and started producing. Despite the vagaries of weather, USDA expects 2012 yields to be close to the 5-year average.

The U.S. cotton producer’s management skills and the plant’s access to water definitely played a role in this year’s good yields. The eradication of the boll weevil and the advent of Bt cotton continue to contribute to yield potential.

But varieties can also take a lot of credit. There are exceptions, but today’s top of the line cotton varieties are proving to be consistent, responsive to management and able to take a hit and keep on ticking.

But making sure varieties go on the right ground is important too. In fact, variety selection has become one of the most important decisions a cotton producer makes each spring.

With this in mind, U.S. seed companies recently offered insight into their top performers for the 2012 season. While yield and quality information is still being tabulated, here is an anecdotal look at the thoroughbreds, pack-horses and steady Eddie’s that rose to the top in 2012.

All-Tex Seed

 “Epic RF is our best selling Flex variety for irrigated, light water and dryland,” said Cody Poague, of All-Tex Cotton Seed. “This variety has excellent drought tolerance and is adapted for Texas, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma.”

A newer variety is Nitro-44 B2RF, which Pogue says has one of the best fiber packages in the market today. Staple range is 37 to 40, micronaire, 3.5 to 4.5 and strength, 29 to 37. It is widely adapted to most cotton growing areas and does best on medium to heavy irrigation. 

“We are currently working on bringing new technologies, such as dicamba tolerance, into our varieties,” Pogue said. “Some of our breeding focus has been toward developing nematode resistance and increased fiber quality. We hope to have a limited supply of reniform/root-knot nematode tolerant cotton by 2013.”

Pogue noted that some new upland varieties in the All-Tex pipeline have had staple lengths of 42 and strength as high as 39.5 grams per tex. The first of these varieties may come to market as early as 2015.

Supply of Nitro-44 is expected to run out, judging by sales so far. “We have been focusing on research hard the last 5 years and farmers are just now seeing what we have been doing in our breeding department for the past 5 years,” Pogue said.

For more information, see www.alltexseed.com.

Americot, Inc./NexGen and Americot brands

 “In 2011, NG 1511 B2RF was the top performing B2RF variety in university official variety trials across the Cotton Belt, noted Americot marketing manager Julie Dingus. “Growers experienced this same performance in irrigated and dryland fields this past season.” 

The highly adaptable NG 1511 B2RF is a Bollgard II/Roundup Ready Flex cotton that can be planted from Arizona through the Carolinas. The medium maturity variety provides excellent yield potential and an excellent fiber package. NG 1511 B2RF has a staple range of 36 to 37, strength 29 to 30, and micronaire 4.4 to 4.8.

         Another NexGen variety, NG 4012 B2RF, is a popular Southwest storm-proof variety with Verticillium wilt tolerance. It is a medium maturity variety that offers excellent yield potential and an excellent fiber package. NG 4012 B2RF has a staple range of 36 to 38, strength, 31 to 32, and micronaire, 4.0 to 4.8.

         “NG 4012 B2RF is widely adapted to the South Plains and Rolling Plains of Texas, and southwest Oklahoma,” says Dingus. “The Southwest region has experienced two years of below average rainfall and even drought conditions. NG 4012 B2RF continues to perform well on both irrigated and dryland acres.”

         The Americot, Inc. breeding program draws from a vast pool of high quality germplasm, including state university breeding programs.  An example of the company’s collaboration is AM UA48, a conventional variety that offers outstanding fiber quality and excellent yield potential. This early maturity variety has a staple range of 39 to 41, strength, 34 to 35, and micronaire, 4.4 to 4.8.

          “AM UA48 was developed by the University of Arkansas,” Dingus said. “It is a high yielder that is well suited for the northern cotton growing areas of the Mid-South and Southeast but it is known for its outstanding fiber properties.

         Americot, Inc. also provides several programs to help cotton growers, including a finance program, a replant program and a drought program in the Southwest.

For more information on NexGen brand and Americot brand cotton products, call 888-678-333 or go to www.americot.com.

Bayer CropScience/FiberMax and Stoneville brands

“We are seeing some real success stories with FM 1944GLB2,” said Jeff Brehmer, U.S. marketing manager for Bayer’s Stoneville and FiberMax cotton brands.

“In the Mid-South, Southeast and even up into the Atlantic, this is going to be the variety that gives the farmer the complete package. You’ve got the glyphosate tolerant trait, and you have the LibertyLink technology, so you can spray the right rate at the right time for weed control. Then you have Bollgard II for insect protection. It’s also in the FiberMax germplasm, with high yield potential and great fiber quality.”

FM 1944GLB2 is also finding a fit in south Texas, “making it the most adaptable variety that we have across the country,” Brehmer said. “In west Texas whether it’s on dryland or irrigated, it’s looking really good. We're real pleased to hear what farmers are saying about this variety. We have a good supply of it for 2013.”

ST 4145LLB2 is the first Stoneville/LibertyLink variety, and performed well in 2012. “For 2013, we continue to see momentum building in this variety, especially in the upper Southeast or Atlantic area where it really has a nice fit. It also fits in the west Tennessee and north Delta area. It gives the farmer the LibertyLink technology which can be really useful in controlling resistant pigweed.”

Brehmer noted that ST 5445LLB2 “has shown great promise” in the Mid-South in 2012. “It has a background similar to ST 5458B2RF, so you have that high-end yield potential, good fiber quality in the LibertyLink technology.”

ST 5458B2RF is a strong variety with nematode tolerance, “and high yield potential that is second to none, especially in the north Delta,” Brehmer said. “You will continue to see that variety in the market, however having only Roundup Ready Flex in that variety is limiting its demand.”

In the Southwest, demand for ST 5458B2RF is increasing “as a niche player where you have root knot nematode challenges,” Brehmer said.

ST 5288B2F “has been an extremely strong variety for many years in Louisiana,” Brehmer said. “We’re continuing to see that. Of course we’re hoping that Louisiana can maintain their cotton acreage in 2013.”

FM 2011GT has emerged “as a real workhorse” in west Texas, Brehmer noted. “It is a glyphosate-only technology, but it is a real game changer. It has root knot nematode tolerance, is fairly tight in the burr, which farmers like, but its upper end yield potential is phenomenal. We’re looking at a 10 percent yield advantage over the standard, FM 9058 F.

“We’re also seeing consistent performance out of FM 2484B2F in the Southwest, with great results on both dryland and irrigated acres. It has high-end yield potential and good fiber quality.”

FM 2989GLB2 is also a high performer for the Southwest, according to Brehmer. “It has a plant type closer to the ‘989’ types. It has good Verticillium wilt tolerance, can go on dryland and irrigated acres, and you can spray both Liberty and glyphosate over the top.”

For more information, see www.bayercropscience.us.

Dow AgroSciences/PhytoGen brand

If you want to know what Southeast growers are planting, look no further than USDA Cotton Varieties Planted Report 2012, which says PhytoGen brand PHY 499 WRF, PHY 375 WRF and PHY 367 WRF were planted on 42 percent of Southeast cotton acres.

PhytoGen development specialists Steve Brown, Russell Nuti and Joel Faircloth say the varieties “jump, shoot and leap” out of the ground. As Alabama grower Jason Pate says, seedling vigor matters. “I don’t have time for a re-do,” Pate says.

According to PhytoGen, growers also can look for PhytoGen varieties to manage weather risk and take advantage of late planting opportunities behind other crops such as wheat. Here’s more on these varieties. Each includes WideStrike, a two- gene Bt insect protection trait from Dow AgroSciences that delivers control of key worm pests, such as tobacco budworm, corn earworm/cotton bollworm, fall armyworm, cabbage looper, and soybean looper. They also contain Roundup Ready Flex technology. The information was provided by the seed company.

PHY 499 WRF is a mid-maturing variety that’s broadly adapted across the Cotton Belt, regularly tops yield trials year-in, year-out and produces very good to excellent fiber quality with high gin turnout. It is adapted to the Southeast, Mid-South and Southwest. It is selected for very broad adaptation, superior yield potential, stability of yield and very good to excellent fiber quality.

Primera, Texas, cotton grower Levi Burns has been growing PhytoGenbrand cotton seed for a few years. “PhytoGen varieties are tremendous when it comes to seedling vigor. These varieties come busting out of the ground screaming. PHY 499 WRF had a stand within five days. Every seed came up while some of my other varieties took up to two weeks to get a stand. PHY 499 WRF yielded four bales per acre on my irrigated and over two-and-a-half bales on my dryland.”

In 2012, PhytoGen brand PHY 375 WRF was the No. 3 most planted upland cotton variety according to the USDA. It was planted in the Southwest, Southeast and Mid-South in 2012.

The popularity of PHY 375 WRF is a testament to the variety’s broad adaptation and stress tolerance, the company says. PHY 375 WRF is a standard in the university official variety trials. “It is a very stable, early maturity variety with an indeterminate growth habit. This variety is selected for its broad adaptation, excellent early season vigor, high yield potential and very good to excellent fiber quality.”

Jack Kent of McCrory, Ark., planted PHY 375 WRF last year and he wasn’t used to indeterminate varieties. “PHY 375 WRF has a lot of yield potential and it is easy to manage,” he says. “I had one irrigated field of PHY 375 WRF that picked 1,400 pounds per acre.”

The variety is well known for “come back ability” under extreme weather conditions. “PHY 375 WRF has an uncanny ability to handle stress, and then load a bunch of fruit in a very short time period,” says Robert Lemon, PhytoGen cotton development specialist. “Though we are heading into our sixth year with PHY 375 WRF, it remains a great choice for Texas farming operations and the perfect complement to PHY 499 WRF.”

PHY 367 WRF is a classic early variety that provides exceptional tolerance to root-knot nematodes, and adapted for the Southeast, Southwest and Mid-South, the company says.

It is an early maturity variety with excellent yield, excellent early season vigor, high yield potential and excellent quality. It has been a choice of many producers, especially after the loss of aldicarb for control of root-knot nematodes. Not only does PHY 367 WRF produce well in root-knot nematode fields, it also performs well in Verticillium wilt environments. 

Lubbock, Texas, cotton grower Casey Jones has seen the benefits of planting PHY 367 WRF where nematode populations are the highest. “PHY 367 WRF made the best plant population we have ever had on this particular ground,” says Jones. “The seedling vigor was excellent because the variety came out of the ground running and never stopped. Once you get your fertilizer applied, this variety is ready to rock. It’s also easy to manage.”

For more information, see www.dowagro.com/Phytogen.

Monsanto/Deltapine brand

“Pretty much across the board, our leading varieties are surprising me this fall,” said Keylon Gholston, Deltapine products manager. “We’re getting some reports of amazing yields with DP 1028 B2RF. Georgia is having a tremendous year with DP 1252 B2RF, DP 1137 B2RF, DP 1048 B2RF and DP 1050 B2RF. Texas, especially in West Texas where harvest is in full swing now, our varieties are doing well even on some of the lighter water areas. We are making more cotton than I thought we would a month ago. DP 1133 B2RF has been doing very well in the Delta.”

Here’s more on the top performers this season, from Deltapine.

DP 1212 B2RF is an early-maturity Deltapine variety for the Northern High Plains and Texas Panhandle areas with similar yield potential and fit to both DP 104 B2RF and DP 0912 B2RF. DP 1212 B2RF has shown to be a very water-efficient variety, making the best use of available water. It is broadly adapted across Texas.

DP 1219 B2RF has been a great fit across Texas and the Southwest with high yield potential on both irrigated and limited-water fields. During the past two years of dry conditions in Texas, DP 1219 B2Rf has shown its ability to make the most of available water and to handle drought situations very well.

DP 1252 B2RF is a full-season variety that packs lots of yield potential. Its best fit is irrigated, more productive soils in South Texas and in the Southeast growing regions. This variety is very responsive to management and yield environment, and is turning in big yields in Georgia this fall.

DP 1133 B2RF has proven to be a variety with strong performance in the Mid-South. DP 1133 B2RF is a smooth leaf, mid-maturity variety that combines high yield potential with excellent fiber quality. 

DP 1137 B2RF is a mid-maturity variety that offers outstanding yield potential for dryland situations in the upper Southeast and dryland hill section of the upper Mid-South. DP 1137 B2RF is known for its early season vigor that creates a large stalk size and excellent yield potential across a wide range of growing environments.

DP 1044 B2RF was the most popular cotton variety in Texas in 2012. This mid- to full maturity variety with a smooth leaf offers a great combination of yield and fiber quality for dryland and limited-water irrigated acres in Texas. DP 1044 B2RF has proven to be a consistent performer since its introduction in 2010 in varied weather conditions and growing environments.

Deltapine Class of 13 varieties are scheduled to be announced at the NPE Summit in Nashville in December. Gholston said that Deltapine will be evaluating varieties with resistance to root-knot nematode next year. “It’s a breeding trait, not biotech. We’re really looking forward to field testing those under grower conditions with some pretty severe pressure.”

To learn more about Deltapine cotton varieties, go to www.deltapine.com.

Seed Source Genetics

Farmers have demonstrated renewed interest in conventional cotton varieties, establishing a nice niche for companies like Seed Source Genetics.

Edward Jungmann, with Seed Source Genetics, said CT Linwood, a mid-early conventional with good fiber qualities grown in the Southeast region has yield potential “up to 5 bales per acre. It may tend to have high micronaire.”

A variety developed by University of Arkansas cotton breeder Fred Bourland, UA 222, is also being marketed by Seed Source Genetics. It’s a mid-early, with staple length of 35 to 38 and has a fit in both the Southeast and Mid-South. Seed may be in short supply for 2013.

HQ210CT is a mid-early variety, with a staple of 32 to 36, grown in the Mid-South and Southeast, while HQ110CT, an early variety, has primarily been planted in the Southeast, and did particularly well in Georgia this year. HQ212CT, is similar to HQ210CT, but is a little shorter plant for Mid-South producers.

Conventional varieties from Seed Source Genetics that fared well in the Southwest this season include HQ210CT, UA 222 and UA 103, an okra leaf line, is another Fred Bourland offering.

Jungmann said seed costs are $104 per bag with a $5 per bag discount per pallet order. Early pay discounts are $10 per bag until Jan. 15, 2013. Total discounts can be up to $15 per bag.

He says all the conventional cottons “are easily managed. The CT varieties start fruiting on the 5 and 6 nodes. UA starts fruiting on the 7 node.”

For more information, see www.seedsourcegenetics.com.

UAP Distribution/Dyna-Gro brand

Dyna-Gro is hearing good reports on 2570 B2RF, which fits across the entire Cotton Belt, according to Larry Stauber, agronomist with Dyna-Gro. “In fact they’ve been looking at it in California.”

Stauber says the variety’s adaptability runs from North Carolina to Florida and from Georgia to Arizona. “You can plant it as far north as the Bootheel of Missouri all the way to the southern coast.”

Stauber reports “a lot of good comments from growers on quality and solid yields wherever it’s planted. We’re hearing yields ranging from 400 pounds in very droughty areas of Texas to as much as 5 bales an acre under drip irrigation.

“We’ve heard that one field in Arizona may produce over six bales. So it has some extremely high yield potential, but also does very well on the low end in the droughty environments. It also does well on all soils, the clays, the silt loans and the sands.

“It is a big, growthy plant that works in both the stripper and picker markets,” Stauber said. “The biggest advantage is that it’s manageable. If you want a bigger plant, it’s there. It is also very responsive to growth regulators. It is very adaptable to the grower’s production practices.”

Stauber says the variety has been on the market for about five years, “and there are still producers discovering it for the first time. There are still many places where producers can use it.”

For more information, see www.dyna-gro.com.

Winfield/Croplan Genetics brand

According to Robert Cossar, regional agronomist for Croplan Genetics, CG 3787 B2RF is getting a lot of looks for its adaptability. “It’s a true mid-maturity variety. Farmers are growing it from south of Lubbock across the Cotton Belt into south Alabama and South Georgia. Staple value is one of the highlights, measured at 37, with strength around 31 grams per tex. The variety works best on mixed grounds and lighter soil types. It doesn’t do well on heavy clays.”

Cossar has heard reports this fall of 4-bale-plus yields in the variety, from South Georgia and South Texas. “It’s been very competitive in the marketplace, and from what I’ve seen, there is a lot of 2-bale-plus to 3-bale-plus cotton out there this harvest season.”

Stauber says the variety “responds to management. A couple of applications of plant growth regulator, and it will respond very well. It has some storm tolerance, so this time of the year, growers don’t have to worry about late-season storms as much. But it’s not a showy variety.

The variety fits into the west Tennessee area, although it does get a little long on maturity.

CG 3428B2RF is a new variety that fits on the heavier soil types in the Mississippi Delta. “It’s a very easy to manage variety,” Cossar said. “The fiber matches CG 3787 B2RF. We just don’t have a lot of data on it right now because we had a limited supply for 2012.

CG 3156B2RF is a West Texas, High Plains fit “which has done well in limited water to dryland sites,” Cossar said. “But we don’t have much hard data to look at yet.”

For more information, see www.croplangenetics.com.