The 2015 Cotton Breeders’ Tour (CBT) drew 135 scientists and seedsmen from six countries, with the large majority coming from the United States. Attendees began the tour Sunday afternoon in a classroom setting learning from Drs. Andy Paterson, Candace Haigler, and James Holland about applying the cotton genome sequence to breeding, fiber development, and genomic selection, respectively. On Monday morning Berrye Worsham, Cotton Incorporated CEO, spoke about the mission and role of the company, Mark Messura, Senior VP, presented on strategy and marketing, and Dr. Kater Hake, VP of Agricultural and Environmental Research, discussed the many disciplines AERD supports. Tour guests then enjoyed an informative visit to Cotton Incorporated World Headquarters and learned about fiber/yarn measurement and processing, fabric development and design, laser and digital printing technology, and mechanical seed delinting.
The CBT then moved to field site visits for the remainder of the week. Attendees observed cotton programs and discussed breeding strategies while visiting North Carolina State University, Clemson University/USDA-ARS, University of Georgia, Bayer CropScience, Dow, and Monsanto. To expand the toolbox cotton scientists have to develop improved varieties, attendees also heard from breeding experts in corn, muscadine, peanuts, sorghum, soybean, sweet potato, tobacco, and turfgrass during the week. Because of its increasing role in breeding programs, we also heard two presentations about high-throughput phenotyping (HTP). HTP is becoming increasingly valuable to collect vast amounts of field data using tractor-based and drone technology.
The week-long 2015 Cotton Breeders’ Tour covered 1,145 miles and included two 14 hour working days. Attendees enjoyed traditional southern meals which featured distinctly different BBQ styles over the geography covered. Even with the long days, participants were attentive and asked probing questions – and accomplished the goal of the CBT which is to foster communication among scientists and deliver improved varieties for cotton growers.