By Bill Robertson, Extension Cotton Agronomist
Harvest of the last large-plot county variety test was a long time coming as the 2019 harvest is all but complete in Arkansas. We strive to release yield information as quickly as possible to allow for unbiased comparisons to assist in the variety selection process for next year. Seed providers are encouraging producers to book seed now. Early booking does often increase the likelihood of availability of some of our most popular varieties.
Eleven varieties were included in our testing program. These included two varieties selected by each of the 5 seed providers along with DP 1518 B2XF which represented the most widely planted variety in 2018. Average rankings were calculated across the locations in which all 11 varieties were included. The producers often add varieties to the core 11 and yields are included. However, yields of the additional varieties were not part of the calculations across locations as our primary objective was to evaluate the yield of the 11 varieties to one another across multiple locations.
Variety selection is perhaps the most important decision a producer makes. Once planted, no amount of worry, work, or money can make up for a poor decision. Our recommendations for planting is that roughly two-thirds of your acres be planted with varieties that are proven on your farm. Of the remaining acres, limit new varieties to no more than 10% of your total acreage. The remaining 25% should be dedicated to those varieties in which you have limited experience. This strategy provides stability while allowing for evaluation of new varieties.
There are a number of unbiased information sources available to assist in selecting new varieties. Our primary source is the University Variety Testing Program. Results from the county tests and the Arkansas OVT conducted by Dr. Fred Bourland may be found at https://arkansas-variety-testing.uark.edu/cotton.aspx .
A great deal of information is collected in the OVT and presented in a way to help evaluate fiber quality, maturity, growth characteristics, and other variety traits as well as yield. County data included in this blog will also be included in the University Variety Testing Program publication.
Don’t restrict yourself to your home state or area. In Arkansas, it is appropriate to evaluate variety performance trials from neighboring states in the Mid-South. Evaluating the consistency of a variety under a wide array of conditions will be beneficial.
Contact your local county Extension agent for assistance in obtaining or interpreting variety performance data and to get the date and location of upcoming county production meetings.