About this time each year, the Wilde household takes on a full blown campaign atmosphere. The Farmer I Kiss and I both have very strong opinions about which brand and variety of cottonseed to plant. Lying around the house you will find lots of magazines and brochures conspicuously left opened to a favorite brand, or maybe a new, exciting variety. Big red circles have been drawn around the front runners.
Underneath all the hub-bub, Daniel studies carefully to try and find just that right combination of hybrid and genetic technologies which could give him just a tiny edge up on the Chihuahuan Desert. The main concern right now is finding a variety that will tolerate both the extremely low humidity and extremely high heat which we have been experiencing the past few years. Many brands have varieties that are proving to be drought tolarant, but not all droughts are the same. Producing cotton with less rainfall is one thing. Producing cotton with less rainfall, 10% humidity and 110 degree heat is quite another. This is where he depends on the years of cross breeding done by seed companies, followed by farmer planted trial plots to finally isolate the traits which will form the perfect "Edge of the Chihuahuan Desert" dryland cotton variety.
Last year in the Concho Valley, one particular brand and variety, Deltapine 1044 seemed to beat all the rest in both production and quality. Unfortunately, we didn't plant that variety. We planted a variety that has been a top producer with excellent quality for several years, but just didn't hold up to the low humidity and high heat of 2012, FiberMax 1740. Daniel likes to choose a variety that has a good showing from farm to farm in the farmer field trials. Not the one that suddenly jumps out of no where to the front of one trial and not the one that lags at the bottom of all the trials.
Daniel also has to take into consideration how early he will plant. The relative maturity of varieties come in Early, Medium and Full season. If he plants in mid to late May, that takes an entirely different variety than when he has to wait until late June. Trying to guess the rainfall situation in May or June in order to pre-book a variety now does not always work out as planned! A change in planting intentions can leave him with a barn of Full season seed while he frantically tries to locate somewhere to buy a barn full of Early seed!
Another vital issue is insect pressure. Every storm from the south can bring in a new crop of boll worms. These vile little creatures can strip a cotton plant clean in a matter of a few days. That makes the bollworm resistant genetic trait (Bt) very important in the decision. Thanks to the Bt trait, our farms have been insecticide free for five years. A friend of ours decided three years ago to forego the Bt trait and planted conventional cottonseed. He had to spray his fields four times with insecticide and still lost over 30% of the crop. My brother-in-law farms cotton up on the plains north of here where there is very little insect pressure. He plants cottonseed every year that does not contain the Bt genetic trait. For us the choice is Bt genetics or lots of insecticide.
So what variety of cottonseed is ahead in the polls? Will it be one of the big name front runners or a small time dark horse that makes its way to the planter boxes of the Farmer I Kiss? More campaigning is needed before Decision 2013!