Biotech Leads To More No-Tilled Acres

Since herbicide-tolerant transgenic cotton varieties became widely available in 1997, the no-till cotton acreage has nearly doubled in the United States. A recent survey by the National Cotton Council indicates that no-till made up 29 percent of total cotton acres while reduced tillage made up 30 percent of all cotton acres in 2002.

The change is most prevalent in the Mid-South region, where two-thirds of cotton growers reported an increase in conservation tillage acres over the last 5 years. Conservation tillage in cotton is least prevalent in the West, where only 18 percent of the cotton acres is grown with conservation tillage.

Among growers who switched to less tillage, 79 percent indicated that the main reason was the introduction of herbicide-tolerant varieties. Compared to conventional tillage, conservation tillage resulted in a $20.13 per acre savings for fuel and labor.

“Weed control is critical for a good cotton crop, and biotechnology is giving growers another weed control tool while allowing them to move to more cost-effective, environmentally-sound methods of cotton production,” says Andrew Jordan, director of the National Cotton Council’s technical services department.

Results of a late winter study by U.S. Department of Agriculture officials indicate 38 percent of the corn planted this year will be genetically engineered, an increase of 4 percent from 2002. Some 80 percent of the soybean acreage is expected to be planted to biotech varieties this year, up 5 percent from the previous year.

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