Disease tolerance is key for Americot breeders

Cotton farmers or seed company research scientists shouldn’t assume that recent improvements in yield potential have reached a plateau.

“Yield is always at the top of the list,” says Terry Campbell, general manager, Americot, Inc.

“But we also need fiber quality that fits into the international market standards,” he says. “That bar has been raised.”

Campbell says Americot, a privately-owned company in Lubbock, Texas, is working to improve cotton varieties for Texas and other growers across the Cotton Belt.

“Disease tolerance will be a key,” he says. “We’re looking for verticillium wilt tolerance in West Texas. We’re seeing more infection as farmers get away from stripper cotton varieties that have some tolerance. With the acquisition of the NexGen brand, we now have varieties with stripper backgrounds and disease tolerance. We also need to focus on fusarium wilt.

“We are also screening for Rootknot and Reniform nematode resistance in our breeding program. As genes have been identified that infer resistance we’ll incorporate them into our breeding lines.”

Cold tolerance offers another opportunity, Campbell says. “We’re not looking for something that will grow north of Kansas. We want varieties that offer better stand uniformity and that emerge under harsh conditions. We see a relationship between cold tolerance and early season vigor. We want cotton varieties that get off to a better start.”

Drought stress will be another focal point. “We likely will not use conventional breeding techniques to look for drought tolerance,” he says. “We hope to identify genetically modified traits to improve water use efficiency.”

Campbell says as an independent company Americot tries to develop varieties “that fit local needs and provide good yield, high fiber quality, and good seed quality with the technology traits farmers want.

“We look for field performance and provide turn-row service.” He says NexGen brand products helps provide for local conditions. “Growers in West Texas want high yielding B2RF and RF varieties with excellent fiber quality, disease tolerance and a storm-proof boll."

Americot is a “100 percent cotton seed company. We are trying to identify conventional cotton varieties with top yield potential, high quality and the disease and storm-proof package growers want. As new traits are introduced, we will insert them into our improved lines.

“As with all cotton seed companies our goal is to develop better varieties than are on the market today. Better meaning, improved yield potential, fiber quality, and disease tolerance.”

Campbell says the cotton industry faces challenges over the next few years. “Acreage is declining but with the NexGen acquisition in 2007 our sales have not dropped off. With Americot and NexGen we are growing our market share. NexGen helped separate us (from other cotton seed companies),” he says.

Americot was founded in 1987 in the Mid-South. “We were focusing on conventional varieties adapted to Northeast Arkansas and Western Tennessee. We moved to West Texas in the early 2000s, as Roundup Ready became available.

“We incorporated Roundup Ready technology into our conventional varieties and established a nursery and a breeding program near Seminole, Texas, in Gaines County.” Americot operates two other nurseries in Arkansas and Tennessee.”

Campbell says a new NexGen product, NG 3348 B2RF, an early to mid-maturity variety, offers excellent yield potential and fiber quality. “NG 3348 B2RF was developed in Idalou, Texas, and is a storm-proof variety with verticillium wilt tolerance.” For those growers planting straight Roundup Ready Flex varieties NexGen offers NG 3410 RF, a sister line of NG 3348 B2RF.

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TAGS: Cotton
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