The new company is Beltwide Cotton Genetics, LLC, and the variety was BCG-295, a conventional picker cotton variety with early to medium maturity and a compact growth habit.

The cotton was harvested by Thomas and Merita Zdansky, who grow cotton, milo and sugar cane in Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy counties, on June 12 and 13 and ginned in Lyford, Texas. Zdansky also won the first-bale contest in 1999.

T.J. Lawhon, an account representative and part-owner of Beltwide Cotton Genetics, says that the company was honored that Zdansky, a proven "first bale in the nation" contest winner, chose a new Beltwide Cotton Genetics variety to plant in the field he believed had the best possibility of producing the first bale for 2003.

The 524-pound bale of cotton was delivered to the Harlingen Police Department at 10:35 a.m. on June 13, 2003, for certification as the first bale of cotton harvested this year. The cotton was hand picked from a 40-acre field.

According to Thomas Zdansky, the BCG-295 cotton variety was planted on February 2. A tank mix of trifluralin herbicide and 15 gallons of 20-10-0 was applied broadcast and disked in prior to planting the cotton.

"This BCG-295 cotton is a new variety for us," Zdansky says. "It really looked good this year. I'll sure be planting more of this new variety."

Beltwide Cotton Genetics introduced five new picker cotton varieties into Texas in 2003 and sold out of all seed inventory for the season. Lawhon estimates that the five new BCG cotton varieties were planted on more than 100,000 acres across the state.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com