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Top-yielding 2023 cotton varieties in North Carolina on-farm trials

Depending on the degree of cotton variety selection error, the 2023 on-farm trials clearly illustrated producers could lose an average of $104 to $133 per acre due to improper cotton variety selection.

Guy Collins

December 5, 2023

4 Min Read
Brad Haire

Thanks to our stellar cooperating growers and county agents, we were able to successfully complete another year of the North Carolina On-Farm Cotton Variety Evaluation Program.

Additionally, this program was once again a huge success in 2023, thanks to the substantial support from the NC Cotton Producers Association, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, NC State University, our Seed Companies, and Cotton Incorporated. The support and contributions of all involved are much appreciated and will have a significant impact on our growers’ bottom line as we look forward to a hopefully another prosperous 2024 season.

As in years past, this on-farm program consisted of the most widely adapted and best-fit varieties for North Carolina cotton growers as determined by our leading seed companies. It is always advised that variety decisions be based on multi-environment and multi-year replicated data in order to identify varieties with a high degree of stability (strong performance across a wide range of environmental conditions and years).

As a standard practice, it is always wise for growers to choose several varieties and position those varieties in environments where they are likely to perform competitively. It is also advised that growers observe data from both the on-farm program and NC State University Official Variety Trials (OVT) which will be available very soon. Both programs serve as platforms for effective evaluation of variety performance but are different in several regards.

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One of the primary strengths of the on-farm program is the vast number of environments that are effectively captured in a given season. However, OVT can accommodate many more varieties than we can effectively evaluate in an on-farm trial, and many of our seed companies have several competitive varieties (including brand new, recently released varieties) available for North Carolina producers, many of which are evaluated in OVT.

Together, the On-Farm and OVT programs collectively offer growers a complete platform for making variety decisions. Within the 9th year of this program alone, which is difficult to fathom for me, the on-farm program again has clearly demonstrated that variety selection is one of the most important decisions a grower can make that will significantly impact their profitability in a given year.

Depending on the degree of variety selection error, the 2023 on-farm trials clearly illustrated that producers could lose an average of $104 to $133 per acre due to improper variety selection, with a potential statewide economic value of $38,480,000 to $49,210,000, assuming acreage is similar next year!! Keep in mind, that these figures are based on performance of the best varieties from each brand, therefore a producer could do much worse than this by potentially choosing a less competitive variety.

Variety performance information will be discussed in much greater detail during the upcoming winter meetings (look for meeting dates/locations for your county at your local N.C. Cooperative Extension office or on the NC State University Cotton Portal (meeting dates will be listed soon). Additionally, your local county agent is an excellent resource for variety selection, so please contact them for your local trial results and they will be happy to share those results with you.

Additionally, the NC Cotton Variety Performance Calculator, launched in early 2016, is an excellent resource for growers to use to make customized variety comparisons based on geographical region, yield environment, years or multi-years, and trial type. The calculator is now updated with lint yields and fiber quality for the 2023 On-Farm trials, with OVT data soon to follow. Particularly unique to 2023, we are currently adding a function to select trials based on herbicide technology, not that we have trials for Xtend-Flex only varieties in addition to our standard trials.

Variety performance data will be dissected in much greater detail during the upcoming winter meetings. This year, as always, growers should focus more on factors such as stability characteristics, versus focusing on the overall variety ranking of single-year data alone.

There are several ways to approach and observe 2023 variety performance data, and this will be explained thoroughly during meeting season. During 2023, variety performance varied rather wildly from trial to trial, and there were noticeable differences in variety performance even within regions of the state. Therefore, growers might want to hold off on making any definite variety decisions until these various approaches can be discussed thoroughly during winter meetings.

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