Southwest cotton growers have a plethora of planting possibilities as they get ready for the 2004 season, but many still have questions about how to take advantage of technology traits and stay within tight budget constraints.

A panel of seed company representatives from AFD Seed, All-Tex Seed, Bayer CropScience/FiberMax, Beltwide Cotton Genetics, Delta and Pine Land, and Stoneville accepted the challenge of answering some of those questions recently during the Southwest Crops Production Conference and Expo in Lubbock

The options are plentiful. Growers can choose from stripper or picker varieties, Roundup Ready, Bollgard, Bollgard II, Liberty Link or conventional.

Attendees, however, expressed more curiosity about the slow adoption of Bollgard technology in West Texas. It is either now available or soon will be from each company.

“There are lots of questions,” said Kenny Melton, Stoneville. “Price and the amount of pest pressure are factors. Maybe Bollgard II will increase growers' interest. It is expensive to control beet armyworms, and something built in (to the cottonseed) may be more attractive to growers.”

“Producers will say that Roundup Ready is probably worth the money because of weed control. The last couple of years, we haven't had to worry about worms up here,” said Russ Perkins, Bayer CropScience/FiberMax. “That's probably why you haven't seen a lot of the Bt technology in West Texas.”

One attendee pointed out that it is sometimes cheaper to spray for pests than pay the technology fee. However, seed company representatives said a growing number of people are asking for stacked genes.

“The technology is used on better, more productive land,” said Scott Brown of All-Tex Seed. “It will slowly creep in everywhere. People are adding more inputs and are getting more out of them.”

“Conventional varieties can yield very well. But what the market has demanded is more Roundup Ready and stacked gene,” said Melton.

However, an increase in technology usually means an increase in seed costs. Farmers wanted to know when, or if, the price of cottonseed would level off.

“Delta and Pine Land charges 24 cents per 1,000 seed. It is a more fair way to price seed and technology,” said Tom Speed of Delta and Pine Land. “All seed is priced the same per thousand, whether larger seed or smaller, it doesn't matter.”

“AFD does not sell seed by the thousand. We still sell seedy by the 50-pound bag and will continue to do so. We see a lot of growers who still prefer pricing by the bag,” said Bo Downer, AFD head cotton breeder.

“Delta and Pine Land is in the genetic improvement business. New conventional varieties will have better yield, fiber, and staple. New genes mean better products,” said Speed.

Many West Texas producers farm dry land cotton, and company spokesmen suggested a few varieties to fit those high-risk situations.

“Roundup Ready 3511 (AFD) is good for dry land and limited water,” said Downer. “It's a more northern-adapted variety under full irrigation, but it works well south of Lubbock on dry land or limited water, plus it works well as a late re-plant. AFD 2485 is good, and has done well in Texas Agricultural Experiment Station trials.”

Melton recommends Stoneville's 5303R, a picker variety, 4793R, an early picker, or 2454R, a stripper cotton. Brown said All-Tex Atlas is well adapted for dry land, but Excess or Top-Pick are good choices as well.

“FM 989 and FM 958 have done well for us on dry land conditions. It kind of depends on if you're north or south,” said Perkins.

“Thank you for the question,” said Terry Campbell, Beltwide Cotton Genetics. “The question reminds us that a lot of thought should go into the cotton variety decision process. It's more important to select the right variety in the right situation than to choose the right name.”

Campbell said BCG 24R would be a good choice for farmers with limited water resources or dryland conditions. “But growers need to ask the questions,” he said.

Though cottonseed technology gives both dry land and irrigated growers many options to combat weeds and pests, the panel warns growers to follow directions printed on chemical labels to make the products work right.

“If the label says you need to spray, let's say, a three-inch pigweed, then that's what you need to spray to get control and make the product perform like you want it to,” said Perkins. “If you spray a six-inch pigweed, you will get some control and suppression, but you're not going to be happy with it. So, you need to follow the label like it says. That label is written for a reason.”

Panelists emphasized that every cotton field is unique, and certain factors for each field must be considered before choosing a cottonseed.