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PhytoGen Poised for Breakout Success

From Cotton Grower Magazine – November 2016

There is an unmistakable sense of optimism among PhytoGen cotton breeders and researchers. As they told large crowds around the Cotton Belt during late summer field days, the PhytoGen variety pipeline is beginning to yield a new level of success.

“We’re excited because our pipeline is really beginning to blossom,” says Ken Legé, PhytoGen cotton development specialist. “What I’ve seen at PhytoGen is that our breeders strive for that yield stability – because we want that variety that’s broadly adapted and has that yield stability across the Belt.”

The company is eyeing a broader introduction of varieties featuring the Enlist technology package in 2017. The new technology package builds on the Roundup Ready weed control system and adds tolerance to a new formulation of 2,4-D. Of course, the existing PhytoGen variety options are doing quite well at the moment.

PHY 333 WRF, for example, was the second most-planted variety in the entire Cotton Belt in 2016, accounting for just shy of 6% of all cotton acres.

“It’s one of our most broadly adapted varieties, and it’s performed well across dryland, irrigated, across soil types from places like Virginia across to Kansas, down into South Texas and over to Arizona,” says Legé. “That type of variety is sort of our holy grail in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish as part of our breeding program – one that will go everywhere and have a fit on nearly every acre.”

Another variety that fits that description is PHY 444 WRF, which was a popular choice across the Cotton Belt in 2016. The variety found its way onto almost 8% of all acres in the Southeast, but also found a home on a significant number of acres in the Mid-South and Southwest.

“PHY 444 WRF is a variety that has a great fit in a lot of different spots in the Cotton Belt, and its big claim to fame is that it has near-Acala type quality,” says Legé .

Perhaps the variety that made the biggest splash for PhytoGen in 2016 was PHY 490 W3FE, the first commercially available PhytoGen variety that features the Enlist trait technology. The variety was launched in limited quantities in 2016, though Legé says the seed supply will increase to “very significant quantities” next season.

“As true to our reputation, PHY 490 W3FE was a variety that came out of the ground very strong – sometimes stronger than PHY 333 WRF,” says Legé. “It’s not quite as aggressive of a grower as PHY 499 WRF, so I see it being able to find a home farther north because of that. Maturity and fiber quality is very similar to PHY 499 WRF, and it has the same yield stability – plus we think it has even more broad adaptability. Plus, everything that has the Enlist trait, like PHY 490 W3FE, is Race 18 bacterial blight resistant.”

Legé says the company is committed to seed production in varieties that feature the Enlist trait. So there will be even more options for varieties featuring the Enlist technology in 2017.

“You should see a host of 200 series, 300 series, 400 series and even 500 series – so, all maturity fits – that feature the new trait technology,” he says.

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