The 2017 Cotton Breeders’ Tour (CBT) was designed to foster communication and provide training to cotton researchers to eventually deliver improved varieties for cotton growers. Organized by Dr. Don C Jones of Cotton Incorporated, the tour 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 the sustainability footprint of cotton. Next attendees learned about the significant impact breeding has made on Australian production from CIIRSO scientist Dr. Warwick Stiller.
The next session was 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. The 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 them moved to Eloy to learn about Bridgestone’s guayule research from Dr. David Dierig and staff.