Hero Image

UC's Pima Cotton Research Bolsters California's Cotton Industry

The Issue

Elevated world demand for fine garments and quality textiles has lead to improved prices for select high grade cottons. California growers produce nearly 90 percent of the nation's highest quality cottons, known as Pima or ELS (extra long staple) types, prized for their long, strong and fine fiber.

Because Pima yields are considerably lower than that of the conventionally grown upland cotton types, gaining domestic and world market share while remaining profitable is risky business. Variety development and testing programs are an integral part of identifying new germplasm that has the potential to meet the market demand for a high-quality product and the grower need to remain profitable.

What Has ANR Done?

Independent university testing of new Pima cotton varieties is an essential part of improving the quality and productivity of lint produced by San Joaquin Valley growers. The most popular Pima cotton varieties are evaluated in large-scale field trials alongside the newest varieties approved for widespread planting by the San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board. These scientific evaluations are conducted annually on grower fields and two UC Research and Extension Centers. All the major regions of the San Joaquin Valley are represented, allowing the varieties to be assessed over a range of climates, soils and management conditions. The yield and quality results are tabulated, summarized and distributed each winter, allowing growers to make decisions on new season planting acreage based on quality, price, and their own objectives. Evaluation data is posted in the California Cotton Review newsletter and on the ANR cotton workgroup Web site: http://cottoninfo.ucdavis.edu.

The Payoff

California cotton growers adopt improved varieties at a rapid pace

San Joaquin Valley cotton growers produced 200,000 bales in 1995 at a time when two varieties made up over 80 percent of Pima production. With the assistance of private industry breeding programs and a reliable UCCE testing program, three to four varieties now dominate annual plantings -- a key element in the long-term annual yield increase of 30 pounds of lint per acre.

UC Pima cotton trials are now being used by the industry as a primary source of independent grower information. Growers are making varietal selection decisions based on which variety is best suited to the farm's climate, soils and marketing goals. This up-to-date variety information has allowed California Pima growers to produce a record 683,000 bales with an average 1,532 pounds of lint per acre in the 2004 crop year, a yield unsurpassed by any large-scale plantings worldwide. More than 95 percent of the Pima cotton crop is purchased by overseas mills, contributing approximately $450 million to the state's economy and improving the U.S. trade balance.


Supporting Unit: Fresno County

Dan Munk, UCCE Fresno County, dsmunk@ucdavis.edu; Bob Hutmacher, UC Shafter/West Side REC, and UCCE at UCD Plant Sciences Dept.,rbhutmacher@ucdavis.edu; Brian Marsh, UCCE Kern County and Shafter REC, bhmarsh@ucdavis.edu; Steve Wright, UCCE Tulare County, sdwright@ucdavis.edu.