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“The most important aspect of a cotton variety, in my opinion, and what the market is telling us, is transgenic traits,” says Steve Hague, Texas A&M AgriLife cotton breeder.

Ron Smith, Editor

February 16, 2023

2 Min Read
2022 High Cotton winner Randall Bankhead harvesting his 2021 crop. When selecting a variety, producers consider aspects such as transgenic traits, yields, maturity and disease resistance.Shelley E. Huguley

Several significant challenges could cause cotton producers to rethink how much acreage they plant in the coming years.

Steve Hague, Texas A&M AgriLife cotton breeder, said the net effects of these challenges could be that profits are decreased and producers plant less acreage.

Hague, addressing the recent 34th annual Texas Plant Protection Association Conference in Bryan, said challenges for tomorrow include:

  • Weather issues.

  • Less land

  • Pest control issues

  • Higher energy costs

  • Labor shortage

  • Increased equipment costs and reduced availability

  • Increased competition from other natural fibers as well as polyesters.

Hague said breeders and growers should pay attention to the key cotton variety factors the market wants.

“The most important aspect of a cotton variety, in my opinion and what the market is telling us, is transgenic traits,” he said.

“Most varieties have at least two herbicide traits, plus BT and we're about to have ThryvOn, so we're looking at minimum of six traits and sometimes seven.”

He said producers tend to look at transgenic traits first when they select a variety. “That's what they ask for first, and that's what the market is saying.”

He said yield is the second priority. “Disease resistancehas moved up the list a little bit,” he added.

Related:Pesticide industry: Mad, mad, mad, mad world

Hague said producers are also identifying varieties with the right maturity fit. “And then they give a wink and a nod to fiber quality.

“This is what the market is telling seed companies and cotton breeders.”

Hague said phenotypic diversity is a significant factor for the cotton industry. “Public breeders have an important role within the cotton industry in creating this genetic diversity.”

He said commercial seed companies are making good use of genomics and phenomics, where most of the genetics gains are being derived.

“In public breeding programs, we're still delivering genetic diversity and we’re still doing a lot of research on selection tools. Cotton varieties are getting better and breeders are delivering the transgenic technology.

“I think our most important contribution, however, is training the next generation of plant breeders.

About the Author(s)

Ron Smith

Editor, Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 30 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Denton, Texas. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and two grandsons, Aaron and Hunter.

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