Phytogen introduces first SJV Bt Acala

Phytogen will be releasing its first lepidopterous-resistant Acala cotton for the San Joaquin Valley this spring when it makes available limited supplies of PHY 755WRF, according to Joel Mahill, senior scientist Western plant breeder for Phytogen.

The new variety's parentage is PHY 72 Acala, one of the most popular and widely adapted Acalas ever planted in the valley, according to David Anderson, global leader for cotton breeding for Dow AgroSciences and head of research and development for Phytogen Seeds. Anderson said PHY755WRF is higher yielding than PHY 72 with a higher strength, as well.

Jennifer Evans, Dow AgroSciences/Phytogen representative in Kern County, said the new variety's Widestrike technology contains two genes to ward off worm damage.

“This new variety will provide season-long control for worm pests in the San Joaquin Valley,” she told growers and pest control advisors at the recent Central Coast Cotton Conference in Monterey.

The technology fee for this new variety will be the equivalent to one worm spray, she noted. Beet Armyworm can be a troublesome problem in certain locations in the San Joaquin Valley and Phytogen's new double Bt-gene cotton controls BAW along with other worm pests like loopers. Evans reminded growers that worms can damage leaves as well as bolls, cutting production under heavy feeding any time during the season. The new variety also contains the Roundup Flex gene, which allows the use of Roundup almost up to harvest time.

Phytogen has made a name for itself in the valley where its varieties have dominated for the past decade. Last year almost 80 percent of the uplands planted in the valley were Phytogen varieties.

Its Pima cottons, specifically PHY 800, also dominate. This variety was planted on more acres than any other variety in 2007, upland or Pima. It accounted for more than 62 percent of the U.S. Pima acreage and 68 percent of the SJV Pima acreage

Conventional PHY 72 has been the SJV Acala/upland front runner for Phytogen for years, even though there have been a wide array of transgenics available to valley growers at the same time. Phytogen had planned to release an improved conventional variety in 2008 and even promoted it at its field days last fall, but early ginning results turned up a thin seed coat and unacceptable levels of seed coat fragments. Phytogen elected to withhold its release for the near future.

Anderson and Mahill said the company is evaluating conversion of 700 into future RF and/or WRF varieties in the hopes of screening and eliminating the seed coat fragments.

The unreleased PHY 700 is a very high strength cotton, two grams per tex stronger than 72. It has high gin turnout. Staple is 38 and micronaire is 4.5, lower than 72.

“Yield is still the name of the game in cotton breeding. However, length, strength and micronaire are moving up the ladder of importance,” said Mahill. “Quality is playing an increasingly larger role.”

A look at the list of Phytogen varieties shows that the company has moved well beyond the non-transgenic PHY 72. It is rich in alphabet soup varieties.

In fact, its leading California variety in 2007 was PHY 725RF, a Roundup Flex variety. It took over the top spot from PHY 72 and accounted for almost 47 percent of the California upland cotton acreage. It is another variety out of 72, said Mahill. It adapts well to roller ginning, a growing practice in the valley that captures an extra few cents per pound by reducing neps and improving overall lint quality. Mahill said it also has better strength and has longer fiber than 72.

Phytogen's roots in the San Joaquin Valley began as a joint venture between J.G. Boswell Company and Dow AgroSciences with emphasis on SJV quality.

Phytogen is only a small player in the U.S. with slightly less than 3.5 percent of the U.S. acreage. However, Mahill points out that with a research station now in Mississippi, the high quality Phytogens will become more evident in other parts of the U.S.

The company has introduced a new Pima cotton for the valley and elsewhere. It is PHY 830. It has the same quality package as PHY 800. However, it matures earlier than 800, opening up the Northern San Joaquin Valley to Extra Long Staple cotton. According to Dow AgroSciences Tulare County Representative Harry Peck, there will be “decent” seed supplies of 830 for 2008.

As Pima cotton continues to consume more cotton acreage growers are clamoring for transgenic Pimas. Phytogen has developed a stacked gene Pima, 855 WRF.

However, Pima is a barbadense cotton and cottonseed is not registered for import into Japan and other countries. Japan will accept seed from upland or hirsutum. Although both are cottons, the two species are totally different plant types.

Evans indicated Phytogen hoped to release its 855 WRF in 2009 with world registration of transgenic Pimas. Other seed companies have similar transgenic Pimas on the shelf awaiting world de-regulation of transgenic barbadense.

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