Grower Perspective

Newer cotton varieties offer a different angle on high yields

Producers say in-plant technologies protect plants for better yield consistency.

Some cotton producers are thinking about varieties from a different perspective, emphasizing in-season yield protection as much as genetic yield potential.

Ramey Stiles farms near Marianna, Arkansas, where cotton is susceptible to typical Midsouth production challenges: early season diseases, tough-to-control weeds, cotton bollworms and root-knot nematodes. He says cotton production requires in-plant technologies to address diseases and pests before they reduce yields.

Stiles plants PhytoGen® W3FE varieties for the combination of yield potential and in-plant protection, and he sees benefits as soon as seed is in the ground.

“PhytoGen varieties have good early season vigor, which is important to a uniform yield. If you have good vigor, cotton plants are not as susceptible to diseases that can set us back,” Stiles said. “If plants get off to a good start, we see greater uniform yields across the field.”

Once a stand is established, Stiles turns his attention to weed control, one of the perennial yield challenges on his farm. With PhytoGen W3FE varieties, Stiles says, the Enlist® weed control system provides tremendous flexibility and several herbicide options — Enlist herbicides, glufosinate (Liberty® herbicide) and glyphosate — to protect yields from weeds. In 2019, he planted 100% Enlist E3® soybeans so he could use the Enlist system in both crops. The results were fantastic, he reports.

“It was the cleanest crop I’ve ever grown,” Stiles said. “I really like the Enlist system with my PhytoGen cotton and Enlist E3 soybeans because I can choose which herbicides to use depending on weed pressure. There are a lot of options with tank mixes.”

Going into the 2020 season, Stiles said he’s excited to get another look at two PhytoGen W3FE varieties he trialed last year: PhytoGen brand PHY 400 W3FE and PHY 360 W3FE. Both varieties offer the Enlist weed control system, three-gene Bt protection, root-knot-nematode resistance and bacterial blight resistance. That protection package provides more consistency for higher yields and better fiber quality at harvest.

Moving down river

Further south in the Mississippi Delta, John McKee of Friars Point said he also relies on the Enlist system and WideStrike® 3 Insect Protection for weed and worm control. In his experience, the technologies not only protect yield but also protect his pocketbook during the season.

“I can’t emphasize enough how superior the W3FE technology is — it beats everything on the market in both weed control and insect control,” McKee said. “It’s been three years now that we’ve used WideStrike 3, and we’ve never oversprayed for worms one time, on any field, yet. I’ve sprayed competitive varieties 2 to 3 times in a season, for $60 to $90 an acre. When you compare the bottom line, there’s a big advantage.”

Root-knot nematodes and bacterial blight are other potential yield challenges in the Mississippi Delta. PhytoGen Breeding Traits provide in-plant resistance to these pests. PhytoGen announced in January that PhytoGen Horizon Network growers will plant the industry’s first reniform-nematode-resistant cottonseed varieties in 2020. PhytoGen plans to offer reniform-nematode-resistant varieties beginning in 2021.

“The technologies in the varieties are getting better and better,” McKee said. “With PhytoGen, we already have bacterial blight and root-knot-nematode resistance, and we’re getting ready for reniform-nematode resistance. I think we have more nematode issues than we realize, so this is very exciting.”

New variety already a hit

PhytoGen Cotton Development Specialist Tom Eubank, Ph.D., works with Mississippi producers like McKee to provide agronomic information and conduct variety trials. Eubank said the newest PhytoGen W3FE varieties have the industry’s best yield protection and potential, evidenced by third-party Extension data.

“In last year’s Mississippi State On-Farm Cotton Variety Trials, PHY 400 W3FE was the No. 1-yielding variety, beating DP 1646 B2XF by 67 pounds,” Eubank said. “PhytoGen 400 is a great yielder. One reason for its consistent yield performance is the yield protection package with technologies such as 3-gene Bt protection, root-knot-nematode resistance and bacterial blight resistance.”

Eubank said PHY 400 W3FE was planted widely across the Midsouth this season, so more growers will see its performance in 2020.

“PHY 400 W3FE is the next big variety for Midsouth cotton producers, and its wide adaptation is due in part to in-plant resistance to critical pests,” Eubank said. “With our current PhytoGen Breeding Traits and the forthcoming reniform resistance in 2021, PhytoGen offers the best yield protection in the industry.”