Developing more drought tolerant cotton varieties adapted to Southwest growing conditions affects more than just individual or even area cotton yields.
“It’s about the region’s economic stability,” says Craig Bednarz, manager of the Bayer CropScience West Texas Breeding Program near Idalou.
“The 2011 drought drove home how important cotton is to the economic stability of this area,” Bednarz said following a recent cotton variety trial field day at the Idalou station. “That drought helped focus our group. We’ve been talking about drought tolerance for a long time. Now we understand that we have to do something about it.”
He said drought tolerant breeding efforts will focus on the Texas High Plains and Rolling Plains, including Southwest Oklahoma, “where the drought work is needed.”
The renewed emphasis will include a new position at the Idalou facility. “We’re adding a breeding position here,” Bednarz said, “and the focus will be on drought.”
The station has already made progress. “We have some lines very near commercialization. We’re looking for native sources.”
He said several new products from the breeding program are coming soon. “A couple of lines close to commercialization are focused on drought. In the short-term, we want to identify lines with drought tolerance. Upstream, we will go to the next level and yield potential and work with elite germplasm. “We‘re excited about the good products in the pipeline,” he said.
Bednarz also complimented public breeding programs through Land Grant universities for their work in developing drought tolerant cotton lines.
He said yield stability will be an important target and developing varieties that perform better under drought conditions will help reach that goal. “It can be done,” he said.