Grower Perspective

New genetic resistance answer to growers’ dilemma

West Texas producers find solution that improves production for higher yields and better profits.

Recent research from Texas A&M has confirmed what West Texas cotton producers have suspected for several years: Reniform nematodes are detrimental to U.S. cotton production. In 2019, an estimated 189,000 bales of cotton were lost due to reniform nematodes hindering cotton performance.1

“My research and analyses show reniform nematodes are one of the most detrimental and costly pests to cotton growers today,” said Jennifer Dudak, a recent graduate of Texas A&M. “In 2019, yield loss and crop damage from nematodes cost U.S. cotton growers about $62 million dollars.” 2

And many producers don’t realize they are losing yield and profit to the pest.

The A&M research showed a 45% increased yield potential of resistant varieties in reniform-nematode-infested fields compared to susceptible varieties. In 2019, for example, PhytoGen® brand PHY 443 W3FE yielded among the top at all locations, increasing yields by 34% to 48%. Both PhytoGen brand PHY 443 W3FE and PHY 332 W3FE were consistently among the top yielding at all locations in 2020.

Reagan Noland, Ph.D., who coauthored the paper with Dudak and several others, estimated that the increased yield and the price of cotton in 2020 represented an average increase of $200 per acre. 1

Per-acre profit advantages would be even greater at 2021 prices.

Keeping cotton king in Texas

“You always want a brighter future than where you are today, and we’re on a good path with the PhytoGen genetics,” Stacy Smith said.

Smith, who farms in New Home, Texas, had almost gotten to the point he was envisioning a future as something other than a cotton farmer.

When Smith first addressed the troublesome yield loss across his farm, he began a 10-year process of solving for what he thought was lack of water, lack of fertilizer, and/or a lack of macronutrients.

“The options boiled down to rotating to a less profitable crop or basically don’t grow cotton,” Smith said.

“But the reniform-resistant varieties from PhytoGen have been a major game-changer. We have a lot better chance of becoming more sustainable and having a better future now. You always hear cotton is king in West Texas. Thankfully, now it still is,” he said.

This is the second year Smith has seen strong results from both PhytoGen brand PHY 332 W3FE and PHY 443 W3FE.

This is the answer

“We could not contend with this problem any other way that was feasible. This reniform resistance from PhytoGen is the answer,” Dean Vardeman agreed.

Dean and his brother Keith Vardeman farm cotton in Lubbock, Lynn and Hockley counties surrounding Lubbock, Texas. The producers battled reniform nematodes for years before finding a viable solution with PhytoGen cottonseed.

Dean Vardeman explained the nematodes began in one spot, but they extended across fields over the years, traveling via drip irrigation and being dragged by implements. Those spots got longer and longer until they were scattered across all the highly productive irrigated acres and a portion of the dryland.

“We thought: Well, there’s a way to cure this. Surely there's some chemistry or something that’s going to fix it. We tried everything we could afford — and some we couldn’t,” Vardeman remarked. “We used things that were more than $120 an acre and didn’t have good results with any of it.”

While they found some things helped slightly, a viable solution and profitable cotton yields eluded them. With severe reniform nematode pressure, the Vardemans were down to 700- to 800-pound maximum yield potential on irrigated cotton.

“There’s no way you can pay the bills on that kind of yield,” Vardeman said.

Consequently, the Vardemans began testing reniform-nematode-resistant varieties on their farm. After seeing it consistently perform in field trials for several years, they planted most of their acres to PhytoGen brand PHY 332 W3FE last year.

“Now we’re seeing those same fields with PHY 332 W3FE producing 3.25 to 3.5 bales of cotton — the best yields those fields have seen in 15 years. It’s just a dramatic difference. This reniform resistance is a dream come true. It’s like an answer to our prayers,” Vardeman stressed.

If you suspect reniform nematode infestation in your field, send soil samples to be analyzed at Extension or land-grant university systems. Or contact your local PhytoGen team, which will be glad to sample your fields.

1Short, C. 2021. Reniform Nematode Research Proves Invaluable. Cotton Farming. 65(5): 8.

2Dudak, J., et al. 2021. Reniform nematodes in cotton – new genetic resistance offers relief.