Cotton Task Force
Historically cotton production has played an active role as a rotational crop as well as a primary source of income for New Mexico growers. Increased competition for cotton production from China, India and other factors has proven to be a real challenge for growers to continue cotton production. Recently at a New Mexico Cotton Growers Association meeting this past January, it was proposed to introduce a Cotton Task Force to evaluate and implement innovative ideas and techniques to make New Mexico more competitive. With help from technical advisers from a wide range of expertise a recent strategic planning session determined that New Mexico will need to produce a unique product that stands alone from other cotton growing regions.
In 1928 Dr. G. N. Stroman began developing and breeding a superior strain of cotton, Acala 1517, at New Mexico A&M College. The first strain was released by Stroman in 1937. This strain was an immediate success within the entire cotton industry. It elevated the status of western irrigated cotton from its lowest to highest point of demand by merchants and spinners.
Since this first strain was released, New Mexico had commanded a successful marketing program with Acala 1517 until genetically modified varieties came into play. Although these genetically modified varieties used to out produce 1517 the recent eradication of two key pests has given 1517 a competitive edge again. In addition, the cost of a bag of seed can be up to 10 times more than conventional 1517. With today's market price for cotton, producers have to explore every cost savings they can to be profitable. It is likely that most of these new GMOs have parentage that stems back to 1517. Today, in this green environmental climate, GMOs are being restricted in numerous countries which reopens the 1517 market. Growers will now have a choice depending on their needs.
Acala 1517 is superior to other varieties in length, strength, elongation, and disease tolerance. The disease tolerance and resistance demonstrated by Acala 1517 promotes a mature, high quality, micronaire fiber of exceptional spinning quality. The yield has been improved within recent years, increasing the lint percentage and reducing boll size.
Along with specialty marketing of 1517 NMSU and USDA, researchers are exploring methods to increase the value of byproducts produced from cotton waste, increase the efficiency of lint collection, develop innovative methods to process the lint and also develop new lines of cotton varieties that grow well in this arid climate.