Delta and Pine Land Company (D&PL) pushes cotton production to new heights this year with a limited U.S. launch of its newest variety, DP 555 BG/RR, which combines extremely high yield potential, solid fiber quality history, and Bollgard and Roundup Ready technologies in a stacked configuration.

“DP 555 BG/RR is a breakthrough in cotton genetics,” says Don Keim, D&PL cotton breeder for the lower Mid-South. “It is a complete package.

“This is the first of many new varieties coming out of our extensive worldwide breeding and testing programs that will combine the potential for both high yield and good fiber quality, plus the transgenic technologies farmers so widely desire.”

The new variety represents a step change for the industry, according to Jim Willeke, D&PL's vice president of sales and marketing. “It is a whole new generation of product entering the marketplace today,” he says.

A mid- to full-season variety, DP 555 BG/RR has performed spectacularly well in variety tests the past two years. It dominated the Moultrie, Ga., trials last year, out-yielding its nearest competitor by 291 pounds per acre. Because of its yield performance in trials throughout the Cotton Belt, this variety has caught the attention of variety testers.

“University Official Variety Trials across the Belt are confirming the high yields we have been seeing in our advanced tests,” says Tom Kerby, vice president of technical services at D&PL.

About 400 producers in the southern tier of the U.S. Cotton Belt planted from 40 to 80 acres each of DP 555 BG/RR this spring. The variety continues to be studied in D&PL's Advanced Testing Program and in all state Official Variety Trials.

The variety is a tall-growing plant that may require more attention to growth management.

“DP 555 BG/RR sustains vegetative growth during the early weeks of flowering, so use of Pix for growth control may be more likely during this time,” says Kerby. “Many varieties limit additional vegetative growth during flowering due to an accumulating boll load.

“DP 555 BG/RR sustains vegetative growth a little longer with an accumulating boll load than many varieties growers are more familiar with.”

In most cotton varieties, nodes above white flower begin to decline during the start of flowering and through the onset of fruit. Research shows that the yield potential of a field is determined in part by the plants' ability to maintain new leaf development at the same time as setting bolls, says Kerby.

“We believe that part of the yield potential of DP 555 BG/RR may be due to the plant's tendency to continue vegetative growth during the early weeks of boll setting,” he says. “You must manage this vegetative growth with plant growth regulators during the early stages of flowering, but that is the key to greater yield potential.”

DP 555 BG/RR is a small-seeded variety with good vigor, according to Kerby.

“Don't let the small seeds fool you,” he says. “You will get a similar percentage of seeds planted that produce a surviving plant as you do with most of the other varieties currently being planted.”

The yield increase potential has been realized both in the field and at the gin, where turnout in DP 555 BG/RR has been superior to any variety on the market today. A standard spindle-picked variety might be 35 to 36 percent turnout, but DP 555 BG/RR has run 38 and 39 percent in our tests, says Kerby.

“We have actually had some spindle-picked DP 555 BG/RR run through the gin at 40 percent turnout — that's a very high turnout,” he says.

“We have searched for a long time to find the right combination of genetics that brings about high yield potential and good fiber quality in a stacked-gene configuration,” says Keim.

“With DP 555 BG/RR, we've broken the mold. It has top yield performance potential, and its fiber quality has been very good. It has been within the preferred range of micronaire and fiber length textile mills are demanding.”

In D&PL's long history of cotton variety development, DP 555 BG/RR represents a major, significant release for the company, says Kerby.

“It's right up there with NuCOTN 33-B and DP Acala 90 as far as impacting the industry,” say Kerby. “NuCOTN 33-B launched the Bollgard technology and DP Acala 90 had a worldwide impact on the industry's cotton quality parameters. I believe DP 555 BG/RR will be a very dominant player in the stacked-gene market. It has beaten all others in yield comparisons.”

“DP 555 BG/RR is the most exciting mid- to full-season stacked-gene product introduced into the market,” says Willeke. “Yields have been consistently above other products in its class, and mills will love the fiber package. We believe it will definitely put more money in the farmer's pocket at the end of the season.”

Developed in D&PL's Australian breeding program, DP 555 BG/RR was tested for four years in Australia and two years in the United States before its limited launch this year. It spent the last two seasons in the company's testing program, and was tested in a wide range of locations including the universities' official variety trials in 2001.

With seed production for DP 555 BG/RR under way in four key areas — California, Arizona, Texas and the Mid-South — and given normal growing conditions, seed supply for 2003 should be ample, says Willeke.