For years, Stoneville ST 474 was the “check” variety for many of the land grant university cotton performance trials; that is, the variety that other entries were compared to in terms of yield and fiber quality.

Last fall, National Cotton Council staff members used ST 474 in a different comparison — a presentation showing how much longer, stronger and lower in micronaire readings the newer Stoneville varieties such as ST 457 and ST 5599BR are than the former industry standard.

It's not that ST 474 is all washed up — it still performs well in university trials. (In 2003, ST 4892BR — a derivative of 474 — was the second most widely planted variety in the Cotton Belt.) But, like the company that developed it, ST 474 has become an example of how fast events are moving in what used to be a staid, conservative business.

By now, most growers know that Stoneville Pedigreed Seed Co. is no longer the name of the folks who brought Stoneville 213, ST LA887 and ST 474 to the market. The company is now called Emergent Genetics.

“Stoneville will continue to be the brand name of Emergent Genetics cottonseed and will focus on the U.S. grower,” said Don Threet, Emergent Genetics vice president in charge of its U.S. business. “It's nice to be part of a global business, but we will maintain our focus on serving the U.S. farmer.”

“We can and we are looking at other genetics or germplasm from our sister companies,” says Lloyd McCall, who is in charge of the U.S. breeding effort for Emergent Genetics. “We are interested in and looking for traits that benefit U.S. cotton producers. For example, we have evaluated several varieties from India and South America to look for genes that we might be able to draw on for improving fiber quality and yield.”

McCall said that besides giving his breeders the opportunity to look at more germplasm, the changes will enable the company to spread the cost of development over a bigger base.

“Anytime you have greater access to a broader number of cottons, you improve the likelihood of hitting a home run with new varieties,” said David Guthrie, manager of technical services for Emergent Genetics.

The company is introducing five new varieties that it believes will offer growers increased yields and improved fiber qualities in 2004.

According to Guthrie, “ST 5242BR matures slightly later than ST 4892BR and has put up some impressive numbers in 2003 beltwide official variety trials. Seed supply is limited, but it is definitely the one to watch. ST 4646B2R, a derivative of ST 474, is the company's first variety stacked with Bollgard II and Roundup Ready. Simply put, ST 4646B2R is the best technology in a familiar and proven germplasm.”

Another hallmark of ST 474 is yield stability, said Threet. “One of the factors that made ST 474 such a great variety was its yield stability. You could count on it to perform in many different environments, and that is so important to growers.”

When the company introduced ST 5599BR last year, Threet said, its internal trials indicated both high yield potential and stability.

“This has subsequently been validated through both excellent university official variety trial results and with very high marks from growers who grew introductory quantities of ST 5599BR in 2003,” he said. “ST 5599BR has the maturity, yield potential, yield stability, fiber quality, root-knot nematode tolerance and seedling vigor to enable it to become one of the most widely planted varieties in the Cotton Belt.

“We are always looking to improve yields, but yield stability is just as important. That's what we built the Stoneville brand on, and that's what we're going to continue to do.”


e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com