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For better cotton varieties: Germplasm advances play critical role

Good parents may be a big key to successful offspring. And research efforts at Texas A&M University tries to develop better parents — f or new cotton varieties.

  • Yield potential — Average per acre yield in the United States has increased from 180 pounds of lint per acre in the late 1800s/early 1900s to over 800 pounds in 2004. Genetic improvement in yield potential must continue if American producers are to remain competitive in world markets.

  • Earliness — Earlier maturing or faster fruiting cultivars (varieties) will recover and produce an acceptable crop following delayed planting, early season insect predation or early season production hazards such as hail or extended rains.

  • Fiber quality — Improvements in fiber spinning equipment mandate that new cotton cultivars have longer, finer, and stronger fibers than their predecessors.

  • Host plant resistance — The lab employs field selection for resistance to the bollworm/tobacco budworm complex along with fleahopper, whitefly, aphids, spider mite, and root knot nematode in about 500 strains each year.

  • Food quality enhancement — The world produces about 30,000,000 tons of cottonseed each year; seeds are high in oil and high in good quality protein that could be used to supplement food supplies in many parts of the world where calories and protein are deficient. The lab cooperates with other scientists in developing cotton germplasm that expresses gossypol in the foliage but not in the seed and produces seeds lower in saturated fatty acids and higher in oleic fatty acid.

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