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Nematode-resistant cotton varieties in trial stages

By Justin Walker

Cotton growers may soon have an additional tool in the fight against nematodes.

PhytoGen is working to develop nematode-resistance cotton varieties to help farmers deal with the pest.

“We’re looking at a new breeding trait as a solution to reniform nematode problems in cotton,” Jason Woodward, PhytoGen cotton development specialist, said. “We’re dealing with a breeding trait very similar to what we’ve see with our root-knot nematode resistance.”

Reniform and root-knot nematodes are the most common species of the pest to impact cotton fields. About five percent of the U.S. cotton crop is lost to nematodes each year, with some fields losing up to 25 percent.

Growers have had access to varieties resistant to root-knot nematodes for several years, Woodward said. However, they have had to rely on rotation and chemistry to deal with the reniform species. PhytoGen experts are working to see how the root-knot resistance trait can be used against reniform.

Trials have occurred across the Cotton Belt to evaluate in-season performance. Experts have paid close attention to the below-ground nematode populations within the soil.

The status of the trials is currently at proof of concept, Woodward said. Growers should expect to have seed available in several locations across the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Mid-South and West Texas.

“We’re getting a good understanding of what to expect,” he said.

The trials have not only shown to manage nematodes, but they have also improved yields in fields with identified reniform populations compared to susceptible varieties.

A growers testing program will allow a limited amount of material to be available in 2020, with a commercial launch planned for 2021, Woodward said. The varieties will include resistance traits for both reniform and root-knot species.

“Root-knot and reniform are the two most important nematodes throughout the Cotton Belt,” Woodward said. “We feel like the breeding traits we’re looking at here provide a good opportunity to manage those two nematodes. We’re going to have varieties with the two gene traits for root-knot resistance we’ve had in the past.”

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