Although the activity in the cotton fields is low and gins are shut down this time of year, Agrilife Extension researchers like Dr. Mark Kelley are hard at work calculating production results from the previous growing season. Kelley said that their 2012 cotton variety trial numbers are now up on the Agrilife Extension website, and against all odds, they even managed to harvest a dry land plot trial, too.
"We've got our variety test results back and we've included them all in our systems agronomic and economic evaluations of cotton varieties," Kelley said. "And all of that information is available on our Lubbock website, so anybody that wants to go on the Lubbock website and look at that particular book, all of the results from our trials from 2012 are available."
All of the Agrilife Extension cotton variety trials are grown on large plot farmer fields and include the full length of the season, at least as weather permits.
"They're basically mimicking what the producers would do out in the fields themselves," Kelley said. "We are able to replicate each one of those varieties three times and that way we can get a good statistical evaluation of the cotton varieties and how they perform."
Kelley and his team record key data points throughout the trials on plant and fiber quality, plus they finish up with ginning outcomes after harvest.
"What we look at is basically lent yield, seed yield, and how they perform as far as long value looking at their fiber quality. We look at the individual producers and their management practices and we include those in the sight descriptions so producers that look at them can and see which one of those locations best fit their management practices," Kelley said.
Rainfall and other weather events are always variables that all farmers have to deal with. But the Agrilife cotton variety trials are tested under a wide range of managements practices including dry land crops.
"We look at irrigation type, I mean we've got some that are on the leasa irrigated, which is the sprinkler irrigation as well as some leapa irrigation, center pivots where they drag the socks and the hoses, as well as some drip locations, so we pretty much cover all of the different irrigation practice, except for row water," Kelley said.
And Kelley said that each year the Extension Service includes some newly available commercial varieties in their trials, making it easy for producers to access production information at the end of the season on varieties they may not have grown before.
"You know with our competition on the world market, we're continuing to look at new varieties in terms of their fiber quality; length, strength, uniformity are all important, as well as micronaire which determines our loan values for these crops," Kelley said. "And the breeders are doing an excellent job of bringing out new varieties that continue to yield excellent yield potentials with the improved fiber qualities as well."
For the upcoming 2013 planting season Kelley, along with Dr. Jane Deevers will conduct a new round of variety trials. Cotton varieties will either be involved in systems trials, which are cooperatively funded, or race trials which are seed company supported.