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Cotton Genetics - A Work in Progress

Research has shown genetic improvement among cotton germplasms of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service’s (USDA-ARS) Pee Dee program, following 70 years of cotton breeding.

As pressure to increase the quality and quantity of cotton production systems rises globally, assessing the success of breeding methods is an important task.

Eighty-two germplasm lines developed since 1935 were used in the research and separated into separate groups based on their breeding cycle. These germplasm lines, as well as current commercial cultivars, were tested for agronomic and fiber quality in 14 southeastern U.S. production environments over a three year period. The data gathered was used to estimate the Pee Dee germplasm program’s impact on genetic improvement.

The results show that genetic agronomic traits have improved approximately 3% per breeding cycle, while fiber quality performance decreased 1% per breeding cycle. These results show that the negative relationship between lint yield and fiber quality has been minimized through the various breeding methods in the past 70 years.

The Pee Dee cotton germplasm program suggests that sufficient genetic variation in cotton cultivars exists to improve agronomic performance and help meet the global demand for both the fiber quality and lint yield of cotton. The research conducted at USDA-ARS is ongoing, and should determine the origin of the beneficial fiber genetics found in the Pee Dee germplasm collection.

You can find the complete results from the study in the May-June issue of Crop Science.

A peer-reviewed international journal of agriculture and natural resource sciences, Agronomy Journal is published six times a year by the American Society of Agronomy, with articles relating to original research in soil science, crop science, agroclimatology and agronomic modeling, production agriculture, and software. For more information visit:

The Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), founded in 1955, is an international scientific society comprised of 6,000+ members with its headquarters in Madison, WI. Members advance the discipline of crop science by acquiring and disseminating information about crop breeding and genetics; crop physiology; crop ecology, management, and quality; seed physiology, production, and technology; turfgrass science; forage and grazinglands; genomics, molecular genetics, and biotechnology; and biomedical and enhanced plants.

CSSA fosters the transfer of knowledge through an array of programs and services, including publications, meetings, career services, and science policy initiatives. For more information, visit

Sara Uttech | Newswise Science News
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