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Transgenic cotton limited only by creativity

Breeders look to cut costs, improve quality, increase yields Creativity will be the most limiting factor in developing new transgenic varieties as the U.S. cotton industry looks to new generations of products to reduce production costs, improve quality factors and increase yields.

"The sky is the limit," says Norma Trolinda, owner of Genes Plus, a biotechnology company in Quanah, Texas.

Trolinder outlined her vision of the future for cotton technology recently at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Anaheim, Calif.

"We need to look at four areas: What's on the ground, what's on the horizon, what's over the horizon. and what's in the blue sky, as we map out strategies for new technology," Trolinder said.

On the ground, the industry already has Roundup Ready, Liberty Link, Buctril and Bt cotton varieties. She said these products are either already used widely or soon will be.

On the horizon are products that will be available soon. She said scientists are looking at transgenics with enhanced insect and pathogen resistance as well as resistance or tolerance to various environmental stresses.

"We see some promise for temperature and drought stress resistance," she said. "We're also seeing improvements in yield and quality characteristics."

She noted gossypol-free seed and varieties with increased fiber length and thicker cell walls as possibilities for the near future.

Over the horizon lie products that are less certain but hold promise. Trolinder said studies to determine if scientists can manipulate the plant to keep boll temperatures higher during cold periods could result in less temperature-sensitive varieties. "Researchers also are trying to find resistance to water stress," she said.

"Blue sky thinking," she said, is unlimited and may pave the way for as yet unheard of technology.

"Can we transfer the legume-fixation pathways into cotton?" she asked. "We need to look at it. We also need to think of ways to improve fertilizer efficiency within the cotton plant. That will help reduce input costs. We have no idea how to do that now, so we have to think big to find ways."

Water stress resistance, she said, also should be possible. "We know that floral organs in plants have the capacity to hold water. If one tissue can do it, can we make other tissues do it as well?"

She said programming cotton plants to terminate at a certain time also will reduce costs and limit climate exposure.

"We also want to find and learn how to transfer antibodies that improve a cotton plant's immune defense systems.

She said four absolutes will be necessary for blue sky research.

- Be creative.

- No idea is a bad idea.

- Take risks.

- "And no criticism allowed."

Those absolutes, she said, provide the freedom of thought that allows creative minds to function at their best.

The Texas Pest Management Association (TPMA) has announced that David Oefinger has been named as the organization's new executive director. He has served as deputy executive director since January 1998.

Oefinger was assigned the new responsibilities at TPMA's December executive committee meeting.

The previous executive director, Mike Wallace, has been named as coordinator of IPM Foundation Programs. TPMA has on-going important relationships with the National Foundation for IPM Education and the Texas IPM Foundation.

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