Writer: Kathleen Davis Phillips, (979) 845-2872, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Dr. John Mullet, (979) 845-0722, email@example.com
COLLEGE STATION — A unique link between industry and researchers from various public entities is yielding significant progress for cotton crop improvement just one year after it began.
“Frankly, I am quite pleased with the results that have been produced in just one year,” said Dr. John Mullet, director of the Crop Biotechnology Center and project coordinator for the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. “This clearly reflects the large investment that has been made by all involved.”
The project is TxCOT, a $1-million effort funded by the Texas legislature to use biotechnology to find ways to enhance the competitiveness of Texas cotton around the world. Cotton is the leading cash crop in Texas, generating nearly $1.6 billion for its producers in 1995.
Though it is a huge economic factor in the state, industry leaders believe its value can be even greater with solutions to weed and insect problems, and improvements in seed quality and the quality and yield. But cotton industry leaders and researchers realized that the answers would come sooner by combining biotechnology with ongoing crop breeding efforts. TxCOT was initiated by the Texas Legislature in 1995 to kick off the cooperative effort between the Texas cotton industry, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, the University of North Texas and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, and the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.
Already, virtually every agency involved with TxCOT has reported significant findings and successes including:
* The transfer of genes for herbicide and insect resistance into Texas cotton varieties with field testing to begin in late 1997.
* Initial steps in the transfer of a fiber strength gene from Sea Island cotton to Texas cotton, an effort that would have taken 10 years under traditional breeding methods. The strength of cotton fibers is one factor in determining its value.
* Identification and transfer of a gene into cotton that may reduce gossypol, a toxic substance in cottonseed that limits its use as a feed. This would provide for alternative uses of seed.
* The insertion of three genes that may make cotton plants more resistant to boll weevils or other insects.
* The cloning of six classes of genes that may inhibit root rot.
“There is unanimous agreement that the partners in this have formed a cooperative team to get the research done,” Mullet said. “We have limited resources and people to do this kind of work, so pulling together into a project like this is what makes the difference.”
He said because of these early successes in TxCOT, a similar effort is being developed to accelerate improvement of Texas rice, wheat, sorghum, corn, sugarcane, turfgrass and forage grass.