Competitive environment pushes genetic advances
The three companies that produce a majority of U.S. cottonseed recently announced their new varieties for the 2015 crop season. Monsanto Company (Deltapine), Bayer CropScience (FiberMax and Stoneville) and Dow Agrosciences (PhytoGen) account for more than 80% of planted cotton acres in the U.S.
It’s a competitive environment, too. FiberMax and Stone-ville combined capture about 35% of the market, with Deltapine at 30% and PhytoGen at 15%, just one short step behind. It’s a healthy competition, however, in which farmers have reaped the benefits of higher-quality, better-yielding varieties. Each of these companies is also working on improvements in tolerance to root-knot nematodes.
Here’s what the “Big 3” have in store for 2015.
At Bayer CropScience, the philosophy is about breeding new varieties that help farmers overcome major challenges indigenous to their region. That means they have to be built tough, says Jeff Brehmer, U.S. product manager for FiberMax and Stoneville.
Healthy competition means cotton farmers have reaped higher-yielding, better-quality varieties.
“U.S. cotton growers know how to produce a crop in challenging, adverse conditions, and we want to offer them new tools to help maximize their profit potential,” he says.
Regional agronomists test would-benew varieties in trials across the Cotton Belt. Only the best advance to commercial launch, Brehmer says. This year’s new varieties include:
- FM 1900GLT
- FM 2007GLT
- ST 5115GLT
- ST 6182GLT
At Dow AgroSciences, general manager and portfolio marketing leader for PhytoGen, Duane Canfield says farmers face a tough decision when selecting new varieties. They need to deliver both yield and quality to pay the bills.
“Yield results lead the decision on which cottonseed varieties a grower chooses to plant,” he says. “They also consider how the quality of that yield can add value. Our PhytoGen breeders have created cotton varieties that deliver high, stable yield with extraordinary fiber quality and spinning performance. ”
Canfield is talking about WideStrike 3 Insect Protection—the first three-gene inset trait for cotton. New varieties for 2015 include:
- PHY 333 WRF
- PHY 495 W3RF
- PHY 417 WRF
- PHY 427 WRF
Monsanto brings another first to the table for 2015—a triple-stacked herbicide trait. The company’s Bollgard II XtendFlex varieties will allow farmers to spray dicamba, glyphosate or glufosinate in-season.
In Georgia, New Product Evaluator farmer Greg Sikes says he was impressed with the weed control, the ease of meeting application requirements and the ability to control drift.
“[We expect that] Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton is going to be a super tool for us,” Sikes says. “We grow vegetables, so we have herbicide restrictions in many fields. The Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton works well with those restrictions. Plus, we have a longer window to get into a field and get good control with our [herbicide] applications.”
Deltapine’s 2015 varieties include:
- DP 1518 B2XF
- DP 1522 B2XF
- DP 1538 B2XF
- DP 1549 B2XF
- DP 1553 B2XF
Another cotton trend to keep an eye on this year is the organic market. Organic cotton acres are projected to take a 14% jump from 2014. At an anticipated 18,234 acres, organic cotton remains a relatively small piece of the pie, but it’s the most organic acres anticipated in 20 years.
According to a survey by the Organic Trade Association, organic growers can fetch $1.38 per pound for upland cotton, a little more than double the current price of transgenic cotton.