The winter appears to be nearing its end in South Georgia and the time for Georgia cotton producers to start planting is getting closer each day. By the time planting starts, a considerable amount of decision making will have already occured for the 2018 cotton crop. Cotton producers have a tremendous amount of input costs tied up by the time seed are placed in the ground and decisions made now will impact profitability at the end of the year.
One of the most significant input costs for a cotton producer in 2018 will be associated with seed costs. Choosing which seed to plant is a decsion that requires careful consideration and proper planning. A considerable amount of information that is used to determine which varieties to choose is based on how well varieties have performed in previous years. Past performance, when correctly interpreted, can give producers an insight on which varieties will perform best this year.
The University of Georgia works to provide producers with information on performance of cotton varieties through two programs. The state-wide variety testing program conducts the OVT program to evaluate yield potential of a large number of new and commercial varieties in a slected number of irrigated and dryland small plot trials. The UGA On-Farm Cotton Variety Evaluation Program (UGA OFT) compares the performance of a much smaller set of varieties, which have been proven to have a fit in Georgia, in a significantly larger number of locations in large-plot, replicated strip-trials.
Both programs provide significant clues to which varieties will likely be the best performers in 2018. Data from the UGA On-Farm Cotton Variety Evaluation Program provides information on not only yield potential, which is one of the most important factors in choosing varieties, but consistency and stability of performance. Since the inception of this program, it has become clear that stability and consistency of performance in the past is one of the best ways to predict future performance.
In 2017, a total of 13 varieties from five seed companies were evaluated in the 2017 UGA OFT program. The 13 varieties were evaluated in a total of 19 on-farm strip trials, where 10 trials were in fields with irigation and nine trials were conducted in dryland conditions. The trials were conducted across the entire Coastal Plain of Georgia, where the vast majority of cotton is produced.
Cotton was harvested with commercial pickers and samples were taken to the UGA Microgin to determine lint percentage and ultimately fiber quality. Variety performance was compared based on average lint yield across all locations and consistency of performance among locations. Comparisons based on fiber quality characterisitcs were also made. Fiber quality data was used to calculate loan value and ultimately total relative value of each cotton variety.
Summary data from the 2017 program can be found in the links below. The data collected in 2017 provide quite a few clues to which varieties should perform best in 2018. It should be noted that all the varieties evaluated in this program have shown the potential to do well in Georgia and this program is intended to compare the “best of the best” choices for Georgia producers in 2018.
A special thanks is needed for all who participated in this program. The county agents and producers who participated spent quite a bit of time planting, managing and harvesting these trials and without their support this program would not exist.
For more information on cotton variety selection, contact your local county extension agent.