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Transgenic trait acquisition poses challenge for independent

The biggest challenge for an independent, regional cottonseed company is acquiring transgenic traits for proprietary varieties, but Cody Poage, manager of All-Tex Seed Co. in Levelland, Texas, says he’ll sit down with any of the big companies to discuss the possibilities.

He’s looking forward to adding BollGard III and dicamba resistance to the varieties he already has and to new ones All-Tex cotton breeder Charlie Cook is working on.

“We’re talking to some companies about getting new transgenic traits,” Poage says. “Our challenge is to get these genes into our varieties and make them affordable to our farmer customers.”

He says the biggest limiting factor for technology is how much farmers can afford to pay. “If cotton were at $1 a pound the situation would be different. But the price will go up. At some point the world supply will go down.”

Poage sees some advantages as an independent company. “We can fill a niche as an independent that big companies might not be interested in,” he says. “Sometimes bigger companies focus on big acreage and forget the little guy.”

All-Tex continues to develop conventional varieties, for instance. “In Corpus Christi, Texas, about 50 percent of the acreage is still conventional. Not many companies are still developing conventional varieties. We are.

“In the Lower Rio Grande Valley, farmers plant a lot of cotton and rotate with grain sorghum or corn. They may not need a Roundup Ready variety following a grain crop. Weed control options in grain sorghum leave them a clean field. Here (in the High Plains) we need Roundup Ready varieties.”

All-Tex also works on Pima cotton. “We have some new Pima varieties coming out in the next two years.”

Poage said his company works to keep farmer costs down. “Cotton farmers don’t have unlimited revenues. We don’t either. And production costs have gone up significantly. Chemicals are up 10 percent to 15 percent. Diesel has jumped about 300 percent in the last few years.”

Those cost hikes “are tough on an independent,” Poage says. “We’re similar to our farmers with our own fertilizer and fuel costs.”

He says All-Tex focus remains on yield and quality with a nod toward yield following several years of quality enhancement. “We have to have high quality cotton varieties,” he says, “but we’re moving back toward improving yield potential. If we have a variety that produces a half-bale per acre more than one that has slightly better quality, it brings in more money. That’s our goal.”

Poage says yield increases have kept farmers in business over the last few years. “A bale-and-a-half per acre 20 years ago earned bragging rights,” he says. “Now, two or three bales is the target. With current input costs, farmers have to get that.

All-Tex has three new varieties coming in 2009: Epic RF, and Patriot + RF, both tailored for West Texas and the rolling plains, and Orbit RF, for the Coastal Bend and the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Two Pima varieties are in field trials.

“The Epic is more of a true picker type than Patriot +, which is a West Texas picker cotton.”

Poage says Apex B2RF, Summit B2RF and Arid B2RF continue to be top performers for All-Tex.

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TAGS: Cotton
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