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Scientists seek useful traits in wild cottons

ons could help scientists discover which physical traits help impart drought resistance and make more accurate trait selections in the future.

Natalia Castillo, Experiment Station research assistant, screens cotton grown hydroponically ?without soil ?for salt tolerance. Seedlings are incrementally subjected to different concentrations of salt, which can reach 30,000 parts per million.

If cotton breeders can impart more salt tolerance to commercial varieties, farmers on the Texas High Plains could one day irrigate their crop from the Santa Rosa Aquifer ?which lies underneath the heavily-tapped Ogallala Aquifer, Gannaway said.

"The Santa Rosa Aquifer is estimated to be 100 times larger than the Ogallala Aquifer, but it has a much higher concentration of dissolved salts," Gannaway said. "Salt tolerance could open up the Santa Rosa as an irrigation source."

Other Lubbock scientists are examining natural insect and disease resistance in obsolete and wild cottons. This resistance could lead to more "environmentally friendly" varieties that do not require harsh insecticides and fungicides to thrive in adverse conditions. Fiber from "greener" varieties may be more desirable with environmentally-savvy consumers, and help farmers reduce production costs without sacrificing yield or lint quality, Gannaway said.

Mark Arnold, Experiment Station research associate, and Monica Sheehan, Experiment Station research assistant, are screening cottons grown at Lubbock for thrips and Lygus bug resistance.

"Thrips are a serious cotton pest," Arnold said. "Thrips are very small. They can cause severe crop damage resulting in yield loss by feeding on the emerging leaves of cotton seedlings. Those leaves nurture the plant while it is establishing roots and gaining strength."

Treated seed and insecticides applied in the furrow at planting help farmers combat thrips, but these method
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Source:Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications


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