National Cotton Variety Test Program is 50 Years
By Jan Suszkiw
January 19, 2010
Quite a bit of science has gone into
American cotton over the years. Take, for example, the
Cotton Variety Test (NCVT).
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this month, the
Service (ARS)-led program was originally created in 1960 to standardize the
collection and analysis of field data necessary for objectively evaluating new
upland and pima cotton varieties.
To that end, the NCVT called for partitioning the U.S. Cotton
Beltwhich spreads south from Virginia to Georgia, and west to southern
Californiainto six distinct growing regions. This arrangement has allowed
researchers to systematically evaluate new, region-specific varieties and
establish national standards in every test to serve as a link between regions,
Meredith, a geneticist who coordinates the program at the
Crop Genetics Research Unit in Stoneville, Miss.
To date, the NCVT program has tested more than 1,300 varieties, germplasms
and strains. One of the greatest accomplishments coming out of the program's
so-called "regional high-quality" test was the release of the variety
DES 56. It's the "parent" or "grandparent" of almost all
varieties grown in the Cotton Belt's Eastern, Delta and Central regions,
according to Meredith.
Data amassed by the NCVT documents notable cotton production trends and
helps determine the contributions of genetics, locations, years and
crop-management methods to fiber yield and quality. For example, through plant
breeding programs, cotton seed and boll size have decreased, while lint and
yield have increased. And cotton grown today requires much less insecticide and
herbicide than it did 50 years ago.
ARS' collaborators on the program include state experiment station personnel
who conduct the tests, cotton growers, other industry members, trade groups
such as the National Cotton Council of
America, and agricultural companies.
more about this program in the January 2010 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of