The 2017 Cotton Breeders’ Tour (CBT) was organized by Dr. Don Jones from Cotton Incorporated and drew 75 scientists and seedsmen from five countries. The large majority came from the United States, but participants also came from Australia, Brazil, China, and Pakistan. Attendees began the tour Sunday afternoon in a classroom setting learning about various uses of the CottonGen database from Drs. Todd Campbell and Josh Udall. Dr. Roy Cantrell then spoke about how breeding has improved cotton’s sustainability footprint. Dr. Warwick Stiller from CSIRO gave an overview of Australian cotton production and the significant impact breeding has had on their production.
What followed next was a session devoted to learning about the emerging FOV issue facing the US upland cotton industry. Speakers included Drs. Peng Chee, Bob Hutmacher, Jinggao Liu, Robert Nichols, Jim Olvey, Warwick Stiller, and Mauricio Ulloa. They covered topics ranging from the diversity of virulence mechanisms to successful breeding solutions currently being deployed in both the US pima and Australian upland markets.
The CBT then moved to field site visits. Attendees observed several cotton research programs while visiting the USDA/University of Arizona research station near Maricopa.
Presenters from a host of disciplines spoke about high throughput phenotyping (HTP) efforts involving both ground and drone based systems using LIDAR, multi-spectral cameras, and various other precision ag tools. A highlight was observing the world’s largest robotic field scanner which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s effort to develop new crops for ever increasing food, feed, and fiber needs. This aim of this system is to develop reference grade protocols to collect vast amounts of temporal and spatial based data to improve the understanding of crop development. The group then visited private industry operations at both Bayer CropScience and Monsanto to learn about seed production capabilities that provide high quality seed for breeding programs across the US cotton belt.
Another classroom session was held in Tucson at the University of Arizona. A range of topics were covered. Dr Ramona Walls presented on Cyverse, a platform for big data management, Dr. Duke Pauli spoke about integration of phenomics and quantitative genetics, Dr. Judy Brown covered the global threat from cotton leaf curl viruses, and Dr. Peter Cotty concluded the morning describing his winning system for biological control of aflatoxin. The group then moved to Eloy to learn about Bridgestone’s guayule research from Dr. David Dierig and staff.
The 2017 Cotton Breeders’ Tour attendees enjoyed unusually cool desert temperatures. During both classroom sessions and field visits, attendees were attentive and asked probing questions – and accomplished the goal of the CBT which is to foster communication and provide training to cotton researchers to eventually deliver improved varieties for cotton growers.