Improving yield and fiber quality will remain top priorities for Bayer CropScience as cottonseed breeders work to build on the solid reputations of both its FiberMax and Stoneville brands.

But improving transgenic trait packages also offers significant potential for enhancing cotton farmers’ profit potential within the next five years.

“We’re interested in delivering what growers want and need,” says Lloyd McCall, Bayer CropScience global cotton breeding manager. “We believe if we have varieties growers need we will be successful.”

McCall says in the next five years Bayer CropScience will introduce significant new options for farmers. GlyTol will be the first. GlyTol is proprietary technology for glyphosate resistance and is expected to be introduced in 2009. That will be followed by a combination glyphosate and Ignite resistant technology in 2010. Bollgard II will be stacked with the two-way herbicide resistance with variety releases expected in 2011. TwinLink, a proprietary two-gene Bt product from Bayer CropScience, will be offered in 2012 or 2013.

GlyTol uses a different gene than is found in glyphosate-tolerant varieties. “We have a wider window of opportunity for application,” McCall says. “Yield potential data so far is solid. We’ve seen good performance, just what we expected.”

McCall expects all the proposed new releases to yield better than current industry standards. He says breeders also are looking for nematode resistance and are beginning to screen for some disease resistance.

New breeding technology, such as marker assisted breeding (MAB), McCall says, improves efficiency. “This is a young program and is still growing,” he says. “MAB came in with the Stoneville acquisition and has expanded across our entire breeding program.”

Lee Rivenbark, director of U.S. Cotton Operations for Bayer CropScience, says they are looking ahead to provide what growers across the Cotton Belt will need. “Predicting what growers will need in the future is a big issue. We have to make decisions today about what varieties we will launch in five years.”

He says drought tolerance is on the horizon, along with nitrogen efficiency, flame retardant fiber and better dyeing characteristics.

“Our most exciting objective is that we feel with FiberMax cotton we have a leadership position in fiber quality,” Rivenbark says. “That’s what we’re doing with our Certified FiberMax Program and with Stoneville heritage and loyalty. We constantly ask ourselves what Bayer CropScience can do to make U.S. cotton viable long term.”

He says an important goal is to offer growers more choices for biotech traits. “Within the next five years we will show aggressive introduction of new traits, about one per year with both FiberMax and Stoneville.”

He says Bayer CropScience is also committed to high quality cottonseed. “Farmers want the best quality seed they can get, with good emergence and strong plants when they come up. They want good cool and warm germination rates.”

Rivenbark says Bayer CropScience currently puts 5 percent of turnover into research and development. “By 2015, we hope to increase that to 15 percent. That’s a significant commitment to the biotech business.”

He says seed companies will have tough decisions to make in the next few years as they bring on new varieties to replace older ones. “We can’t get emotional about varieties,” Rivenbark says. “We expect some vigorous debates internally on variety and technology selections, but we must keep in full view that the objective is to provide our customers with improved, consistent and performing products, both germplasm and traits.

“We believe in cotton and will continue to invest in cotton. Bayer CropScience will do all we can to support the U.S. cotton industry at the farm and abroad.”

email: rsmith@farmpress.com