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Bollgard II in the field

CLARKSDALE, Miss. -- Bollgard II cotton varieties reduced insecticide costs and had good yield potential in 2002, according to producers who raised large-field plots of cotton containing the technology.

All Bollgard II cotton grown in 2002 was for research and seed increase purposes only. At the time of this writing, approval of Bollgard II cotton was expected by the end of the year.

If approved, a handful of Bollgard II varieties would be available in 2003. However, due to prolonged wet weather which damaged seed quality in the Mid-South this fall, the amount of seed available has been significantly reduced from an original estimate of 85,000 acres.

Billy and Ronnie Meredith of Clarksdale, Miss., raised Stoneville's STX 0102 BG II on 250 acres of marginal cotton ground in 2002. The soil type "was good bean ground, mixed dirt," Ronnie said. "It's all irrigated, but the stalk is not very tall."

The field was the only choice available for the Merediths to meet an EPA distance restriction to keep Bollgard II cotton 650 feet away from other cotton fields.

A 155-acre field with the variety was rowed up and dragged off prior to planting. Fertilizer included 200 pounds of potash and 120 units of nitrogen in two shots. Seed was treated with Gaucho.

The experimental variety was not a stacked variety, so the Merediths put out Prowl and sprayed behind the planter with Cotoran and Staple. They applied Select for grass and laid by with Direx. A late-season coffeebean infestation was controlled by hand.

On June 10, the Merediths put out 1.25 ounces per acre of Centric for plant bugs, followed by another application a week later. On July 25, they applied Bidrin for plant bugs.

In addition to 250 acres of Bollgard II cotton, the Merediths planted another 1,400 acres to original Bollgard. "With the original Bollgard, we were starting to run into some heavy Heliothis egg lay which we treated with Fury." Ronnie said. "We did not make an application of Fury on the Bollgard II cotton."

On Aug. 4, the producers sprayed the field with Orthene for plant bugs. On Aug. 15, they applied Bidrin for plant bugs, for a total of five applications.

"On our original Bollgard cotton, we made another application of Fury because we had another buildup of Heliothis," Ronnie said. "There were a lot of eggs out there and we were finding 4 to 5 percent plus worms in the blooms."

No sprays were directed at worms in the Bollgard II cotton. The Merediths figure they spent $6 more an acre on their original Bollgard (insecticide costs only).

Having to make five applications for plant bugs was a concern, but the area received a lot of rain in July and August, "so we had a hard time keeping residual activity out here," Ronnie said. In addition, the Merediths are now in their fourth year of boll weevil eradication and the program has not made an application for weevils in two years. In the past, those weevil applications could have provided some control of plant bugs.

Ten ounces of Pix were also applied. The Merediths irrigated the crop twice and were halfway through with a third irrigation when rains came.

Bollgard II will have a fit on Meredith's farm, Ronnie noted, "especially if they get the Roundup Ready gene in it. With no more labor than we have, it would make it so convenient for us. There are only four of us working 2,500 acres of land."

The maturity of the Stoneville variety that the Merediths planted "was just right. I planted 300 acres of milo and 300 acres of Group IV soybeans. I'm through cutting both of those, so I'm ready to get on the cotton picker right now," said Ronnie, speaking in mid-September.

The crop was defoliated on Sept. 18 with Finish and Dropp and Meredith hoped to begin picking on Oct. 2. "We're going to try and let all the bolls open and pick it one time. We have 1,600 acres of cotton to pick, and we try to get it picked one time to save on costs and wear and tear on the machines."

Clarksdale, Miss., cotton producer Cliff Heaton planted about 350 acres in a Delta and Pine Land experimental variety containing Bollgard II and the Roundup Ready trait. As of early November, the field had not been harvested due to high seed moisture.

The variety was not sprayed for worms, while original Bollgard cotton was sprayed three times for bollworms. "A spraying is going to run $10 to $12," Heaton said.

Entomologists have reported that while Bollgard II will mean fewer sprays for worms, an additional spray may be needed for secondary pests. That's especially true in areas in the latter stages of boll weevil eradication, where few sprays are being made for weevils.

Heaton believes it. The producer sprayed eight times for plant bugs in 2002.

Tom and David Grossman had plenty of bollworm pressure in their original Bollgard cotton and conventional cotton. "We sprayed two or three times, Baythroid and Curacron on the first shot followed by two shots with Baythroid," Tom said.

"We did not spray a field of BG II cotton for worms in 2003, although we did make three applications for plant bugs."

The Bollgard II field was planted on May 1 with 5 pounds of Temik for nematodes and seed was treated with Gaucho. The variety was Stoneville's STX 0103 BG II.

Batesville, Miss., crop consultant Tucker Miller reported that in his test plots of Bollgard II, the technology "kept the foliage feeders down, especially beet armyworms and loopers."

Miller also had some thoughts on what growers might pay for Bollgard II technology. "We're having to spray our original Bollgard twice. That's $32 for the technology fee plus another $10 or $12. So if they charge much over $40 for Bollgard II, it's going to be pretty tough on us."

According to Tom Kerby, vice president of technical services Delta and Pine Land, D&PL will have two new varieties for farmers in 2003. The varieties will contain Bollgard II technology in a stacked-gene configuration with Roundup Ready.

"The two varieties are from diverse genetic backgrounds — one is a full-season, the other an early-season variety. The varieties will be given official names in January 2003. Supplies will be limited."

Kerby noted that D&PL "will have Bollgard II with Roundup Ready in our most advanced genetic material in field testing next year. This will be some of the same or similar germplasm mix as our DP 555 BG/RR, which holds great yield and fiber quality potential."

Stoneville Pedigreed Seed Co. will introduce two varieties with the Bollgard II trait in 2002, but supplies will also be low.

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