Many are keen to see the end of 2020. However, harvest season is eagerly anticipated for other reasons specific to those analyzing cotton varieties and trait advancements for 2021.
“In the early ’90s, our senior cotton breeder wrote his doctoral dissertation on developing a reniform-nematode-resistant trait in cotton. His life work has now come to fruition in these on-farm test plots,” says PhytoGen Cotton Development Specialist Scott Fuchs.
Fuchs and the entire team of cotton development specialists (CDS) work closely with PhytoGen breeders testing varieties in the field under real-world conditions. Fuchs’ territory includes the Texas county of Tom Green, a hot spot for reniform nematodes. In on-farm concept trials of cotton planted year after year, Fuchs sees proof that reniform-nematode-resistant varieties reduce nematode populations and maximize yield potential on reniform-infested acres.
“Cotton is the most profitable game in town,” Fuchs explains. “The PhytoGen reniform-resistant trait can help producers whose only options are planting cotton or planting less profitable grain crops."
"In this area, it's really about having a crop or not," says Marcus Gerngross, who farms in the community of Wall, Texas, and has three farms with reniform. "I wouldn't be growing cotton on some of these farms without a reniform-resistant variety."
Gerngross has been growing PhytoGen® brand varieties for years, so this is his second year working with Fuchs and the PhytoGen reniform plot trials. However, he admits he was skeptical.
“Halfway through the season, it was evident which variety was resistant. I didn’t even need to look at the plot map,” Gerngross says. “The reniform-resistant variety yielded a full bale higher — it was eye-opening. There is no doubt that it will make cotton.
“If you have reniform nematode problems, this is the answer. And I don’t have to worry about chemicals — it’s easy. I just pour the seed in the hopper and go.”
Another Wall cotton producer, Chase Bubenik, also appreciates having an in-plant option to fight nematodes.
“Our goal with testing the reniform-resistant variety is to find a nonchemical solution that enables us to maximize yields,” Bubenik says.
Bubenik aims to reduce input costs and ease crop management. He explains that by maturing evenly, the reniform-nematode-resistant variety is easier to manage. Inputs, such as plant growth regulator, can be applied at the same time across the whole farm. And by showing consistent heights and yield potential, the harvester can more efficiently and quickly strip the cotton.
“Ultimately, our goal is to improve harvest efficiency, and we’re excited with what we’re seeing so far in the trial,” Bubenik says.
Most producers in this area know they have reniform nematodes. However, Extension experts estimate that many producers are not aware of reniform nematodes or contribute the losses to other factors. Annually, reniform nematodes cause cotton losses of more than 250,000 bales across the Cotton Belt, with the greatest losses in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas.
Fuchs has long advocated for producers to test soils late in the season, noting that it’s economical and easy to do. However, he explains that the reniform-resistant variety will go on any acre.
“These varieties are very sound agronomically and shouldn’t be pigeon-holed as only for reniform-infested acres,” Fuchs says. “All of our W3FE varieties include PhytoGen Breeding Traits for protection against yield-robbing pests. But early season vigor, high yield and quality are our breeding criteria. We simply don’t advance varieties without it.”
40 years of cotton innovations
The advancement of reniform nematode resistance marks the 40th anniversary of PhytoGen and adds to its remarkable lineup of yield protection traits. All PhytoGen W3FE varieties offer in-plant bacterial blight resistance, and select varieties offer additional root-knot-nematode resistance or verticillium wilt tolerance. PhytoGen alone offers industry-leading native traits combined with its proprietary genetics for excellent vigor, high yield potential and exceptional fiber quality.
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