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Grower Perspective

Crunching the numbers: Extension OVTs led grower to thrive with PhytoGen

Arkansas cotton producer Greg Womack began planting PhytoGen® cottonseed after seeing it top Extension OVTs in Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia.

Data is one of the most important tools for cotton growers, especially when it comes to variety selection. When producers want to know how a variety stacks up against the competition, they often turn to Extension Official Variety Trials (OVTs) to get an unbiased, third-party perspective.

Arkansas cotton producer Greg Womack says that’s what led him to PhytoGen® cottonseed, and he started seeing improvements in yield and quality the very first season.

“I was interested in PhytoGen because of the Extension yield trials in Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia,” Womack says. “I saw how well the PhytoGen varieties were doing, always at the top, and we decided to plant some. They did well for us — our top variety. They are good, consistent varieties — at the top on yield and very good on quality.”

Womack says Extension data is especially important when growers consider a new brand or variety that they’ve never planted. The information provides insight into variety performance and helps growers determine how to place a variety on their fields. However, the best test is always how varieties perform on-farm.

“We have a five-year yield average of 1,450 pounds per acre across our farm, so we’re looking to average 1,400-1,500 pounds,” Womack says. “In 2016, PHY 312 WRF was our No. 1 yielder at 1,510 pounds per acre, 50 pounds better than the next variety.”

Those high yields confirmed what Womack had seen in the OVTs, but he knew something was different with PhytoGen cottonseed even before the gin receipts were in.

“The vigor really stood out. PhytoGen cottonseed comes out of the ground and grows off really well,” Womack says. “It seems to stick more bolls with more fiber than the other brands, and the quality is there when it gins out. But, it’s mainly the yields ­— it yields very well.”

In 2017, Womack planted a new variety, PhytoGen® brand PHY 340 W3FE with WideStrike® 3 Insect Protection and the Enlist cotton trait. Along with strong yields, the variety gave Womack additional tools through the trait package and PhytoGen Breeding Traits. That protection was important in 2017 when he experienced late season bollworm flights.

“We had a big bollworm flight the first part of August,” Womack says. “I had to spray all my other Bt cotton with a $20-an-acre spray, but I did not have to spray the PhytoGen WideStrike 3 variety. My consultants didn’t find any bollworms in it.”

While it’s not a problem every year, the 2017 season also brought bacterial blight to some varieties in his area. He says bacterial blight lowered the yield on a competitive variety by about 300 pounds per acre, but his PhytoGen brand varieties held up strong. That’s because PhytoGen W3FE varieties contain PhytoGen Breeding Traits such as resistance to bacterial blight. 

“Bacterial blight resistance is something we really need in our varieties, because it can get a lot of your yield. It can get half a bale to the acre really quick,” Womack says. “But the PhytoGen varieties didn’t show any bacterial blight.”

With every season, you never know what challenges lie ahead. Farming takes resilience and ingenuity, always evaluating to make improvements where possible. In an ever-changing environment, consistent varieties help growers thrive.

“With farming, there is so much unknown — every year is different,” Womack says. “So what I’m looking for in varieties is consistency across all of my fields. PhytoGen seems to be a consistent cotton, and we’ll be planting it again next season.”