By Kay Ledbetter, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
The 2016 Replicated Agronomic Cotton Evaluation (RACE) trial results from South and East Texas are in and reflect the extremes of the past season, according to Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension state cotton specialist in College Station.
“We had many regions with superb yield and quality, while other regions suffered tremendously from excessive late-season rainfall,” said Morgan. “Hopefully, the current prices will hold or improve as we move into the 2017 season, and the 2016 RACE trial results will provide producers some guidance on variety selection.”
The 2017 season provides producers with more herbicide-tolerant technologies in varieties than any time in the past, including GlyTol, LibertyLink, Roundup Ready Flex, XtendFlex and Enlist cotton systems, he said.
“This is a good thing from a weed management perspective, and yields and fiber quality are comparable across these technologies,” Morgan said. “However, the number of choices can be a bit overwhelming, especially to some of our new growers in 2017.
“Where farmers have high populations of glyphosate-resistant weeds, the LibertyLink, XtendFlex and Enlist cotton systems provide great value. In fields with low levels of glyphosate-resistant weeds, the GlyTol and Roundup Ready Flex systems are still a great fit when paired with residual herbicides.”
Morgan said variety decisions should start with the agronomic characteristics such as yield, maturity and fiber quality first, and transgenic technology second.
The AgriLife Extension cotton agronomy team has been conducting large-plot, on-farm, replicated variety trials for 11 years in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Blacklands, South Texas/ Wintergarden and Upper Coastal regions, with collaboration from growers and AgriLife Extension county agents.
“This approach provides a good foundation of information that can be utilized to assist the variety selection process,” Morgan said. “These trials occur on producers’ farms and are managed by the producers.”
He said 19 RACE trials and many small-plot variety trials were planted in 2016. Results include yield, fiber quality and estimated lint value for each location, as well as rankings based upon lint yield for the varieties within a production region.
“Yields across the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend were very good this season, with good early season moisture and some timely rains during the season,” Morgan said. “Also, weather was not much of a hindrance to harvest, unlike the Upper Gulf Coast and Blacklands.
“In the Upper Gulf Coast and Blackland regions, the trials represent below-average yields, which were common in 2016. Most of these lower yields were due to very saturated conditions between planting and early bloom, followed by an extended dry period throughout boll fill, followed by an extended wet period in mid-August and into September, which decreased yield, fiber quality and seed quality.”
The average non-irrigated yields for the 2016 RACE trials ranged from 1,425 pounds per acre for Nueces County to 421 pounds per acre for the Delta County location. Mean irrigated location yields ranged from 2,129 pounds per acre for the Hidalgo County location to 968 pounds per acre for the Fort Bend County location.
Morgan said when selecting cotton varieties, several key factors should be considered before planting.
“Producers need to gather as much unbiased yield and fiber quality data as possible from their area and beyond,” he said. “Some varieties are widely adapted, while others perform well under more specific growing conditions and situations.”
Also, Morgan said, select the herbicide- and insect-tolerant traits that best fit the expected challenges for 2017.
“Seed and technologies fees for the newer herbicide and insect traits are usually more expensive,” he said. “If you don’t need these traits, then many varieties with older trait packages are still competitive in yield and quality.”