Cotton and fiber symposium announced

Farm Forum

Cotton production is a $25 billion-per-year industry in the United States. Indeed, it’s the “fabric of our lives” according to Cotton Incorporated’s ad campaign.

Because of the importance of fiber crops to the United States, there will be an “Exploring Genetic Diversity for Fiber Improvement” symposium at the Synergy in Science ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, MN, on Sunday, November 15, 2015. The meeting is sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America.

“Cotton, as a plant, is remarkable both for its extraordinary natural diversity and its importance to humankind,” says Jonathan Wendel, a professor with Iowa State. “There are more than 50 recognized species that grow from arid to semi-arid regions of the tropics and subtropics.”

“From a genomics perspective, there’s not the diversity in upland cotton as there is in other crops like corn and wheat,” says Wayne Smith, the organizer of the symposium, and a professor at Texas A&M. “Many of the fifty-two species of cotton are not cross compatible, so moving traits from ‘wild’ species into commercial cotton appears more difficult than in some other crops. Even in the species that are compatible and can be cross fertilized, cotton’s genomic structure appears to prevent, or at least inhibit, the genetic movement of desirable traits into the upland genome through conventional breeding methods.”

Making cotton more competitive with synthetic fibers is the focus of Eric Hequet’s talk. “Cotton has lost half its market share to synthetic fiber,” says Hequet. We need to develop “cotton fiber with reduced variability, so it performs more predictably at the mill.” Hequet is a professor at Texas Tech.

Phil Bauer, a scientist with the USDA-ARS, will discuss fiber crops and climate change, especially drought tolerance. “Improved cultivars for changing climate will include more tolerance to heat and drought. Farmers will also likely be changing their management practices so these cultivars may require traits that optimize production with those practices.”

For more information about the Synergy in Science 2015 meeting, visit are invited to attend the conference. Pre-registration by Nov. 1, 2015, is required. Visit for registration information. For information about the Fiber symposium, visit