Selecting the right cottonseed variety might mean the difference between making a profit and losing your shirt.

High Plains farmers continue to push the climate envelope by switching part of their acreage from traditional stripper varieties to picker types in an effort to improve fiber quality and yield potential.

Most say the risk of losing some cotton to late-season storms is worth the risk when balanced against higher production potential and fewer discounts.

“We need diversity in cottonseed,” says Steve Chapman, who raises cotton, peanuts and forage near Lorenzo, Texas.

‘Would be mistake’

“It would be a big mistake to let all the stripper cotton varieties get away from us. I can plant those a little later than I can picker types and it never pays to put all my eggs in one basket.”

Chapman bases variety selection mostly on water availability. He uses four systems: dryland production, row water, center pivot and drip irrigation.

“The first thing I consider is which variety will perform best under each of those systems,” he says. “Drip offers the best yield potential, so I select a variety with high production potential.”

He also looks for high yield potential under center pivots with good water availability and a strong rotation history. With lighter water or dryland production, he selects a variety that performs well under more stressful conditions and looks for something that “will wait for a rain.

“I found a few years back that some of our stripper varieties were shutting down with a prolonged drought. I needed a variety that would not quit in mid-summer.”

He uses Delta and Pine Land varieties. Under pivots with good water he's planting DPL 555. On his 120 acres of drip irrigation, he likes 555BGRR and DPL 444BGRR. “I like the yield potential and fiber quality,” he says.

With limited irrigation, he likes DPL 458BGRR or 5415RR. He'll use 5415RR on dryland acreage as well as some 434RR and 494RR.

Stripper variety

He's particularly pleased with the response he's had under sometimes adverse conditions with 5415RR. “Considering the increased yield, grade and gin turnout, I see a $50 to $100 per acre advantage,” he says.

He may plant one stripper variety, PM 2266RR. “I want a variety that I can use to replant if something gets hailed out,” he says.

Chapman says he's seen a “tremendous difference in quality from the picker varieties. Staple is better and micronaire is holding up, too. I'm getting better yield, plus about 3 cents more loan value. That's worth the risk of planting a variety that's less storm proof.

“I've had no real problems with later-maturing cotton. Maturity has been good. Most picker varieties have not taken as long to mature as we thought. Also, I think the climate in this area has changed. We don't get the September rains we used to have.”

Chapman says he'll try several varieties this year, looking for selections that perform well under his diverse conditions.

Everything he plants is Roundup Ready. “I'm going more and more to reduced tillage and Roundup Ready varieties are necessary for that system.”

He plants some stacked gene cotton “on fields where I have high yield potential, drip irrigation and center pivots with a peanut rotation. I'll invest more to make the best yields possible. I also do better on those fields with picker varieties. On areas with lighter water, I'll produce with less expense.”

Chapman says he likes to look at new varieties each season, but he also depends on those that “are tried and true. If something works, I'll stick with it.”

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com