Story by Howell Medders
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The new UA48 cotton variety developed by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture has set a new standard for fiber quality of upland cotton, the type grown in the Midsouth and South, according to reports from farmers and the StaplCotn marketing cooperative.
Jody Nail, a Prairie County farmer, said the UA48 cotton he delivered to the StaplCotn cooperative had a staple of 41. “The chart only goes to 37. They thought it was a mistake and retested it. It was literally off the charts.”
A staple length of 41 means lint fibers were 1.28 inches long. Normally, a rating of 36 (1.125 inches) is considered excellent for the upland cotton grown in the Midsouth, said Frederick Barrier, vice president for domestic sales with the StaplCotn cooperative in Greenwood, Miss., which markets most of the cotton grown in Arkansas.
Nail and other growers are hoping to receive a premium over the commodity market price to reward them for the superior fiber quality of their UA48 cotton. Barrier said StaplCotn is working on it.
“It is a very exciting product. You’ve got a bale (of cotton) here that exceeds anything we have had in the past,” Barrier said. UA48 cotton delivered to StaplCotn also posted very high scores for strength and uniformity of fiber length, Barrier said.
Barrier said he is optimistic about obtaining a price premium for growers, but he could not predict how much the premium will be until he identifies buyers for what he considers a unique product that exceeds current quality standards for upland cotton but is not Pima, the generic name for extra-long-staple cotton grown in California and Arizona.
“I think we can compete with California cotton,” Barrier said. “I will market the heck out of this, but we don’t have enough (from the 2011 crop),” he added. “You have got to find your customers for this product and develop the market.”
Joe Townsend, a crop consultant in Lula, Miss., said one of his clients picked a very high yield of UA48 cotton on 540 acres, and it had a staple length of 40. The grower does his own marketing and is pursuing a lead on a California buyer who is said to be in the market for superior quality upland cotton, Townsend said.
Fred Bourland, the Division’s cotton breeder who is also director of the Northeast Research and Extension Center at Keiser, developed the UA48 variety, and he has other breeding lines with similar genetics for exceptional fiber quality, high yield and early maturity.
In addition to a staple length of 41, UA48 fiber from Bourland’s test plots over several years had a “very high” strength rating of over 35 g/tex; a “base range” micronaire of 4.8, which relates to weight and fineness of the fiber; and a “very high” length uniformity of 87, which relates to the ratio of long to short fibers.