Genetic Resource Characterization for Breeding Improved Cotton Germplasm Adapted to the Southern High Plains
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The Southern High Plains region remains an important agricultural and cotton production region even in the face of declining U. S. mill consumption. Domestic consumption of U. S.-grown cotton is expected to be just over 17% in 2018/2019, with exports representing 83% of domestic production (Campiche et al., 2019). Cotton customers are increasingly looking to Texas for high quality cotton fiber as water issues, tree nut crops, and alternative commodity price volatility affects cotton acreage elsewhere in the United States. Global competition, a declining genetic base and environmental challenges associated with the Southern High Plains require a targeted breeding approach to significantly improve fiber quality of genetically diverse breeding stocks that produce good yield in a short-season environment with limited water resources. Cotton (Gossypium spp.) on the Southern High Plains is a high-value crop often exposed to cool temperatures, drought and vascular disease which adversely affects both yield and fiber quality. Yield plateaus and increased vulnerability of cultivated cotton to environmental stress is attributed to erosion of genetic diversity in breeding germplasm (Meredith 2000; Hinze et al., 2012).Cotton is important to the U.S. and global economies, with the U.S. currently ranked 3rd in global production (formerly ranked 2nd). Cotton is a major crop, with 10-year average of 16.2 million 480-pound bales produced across the cotton belt, and billions of dollars in annual revenue (NASS, 2019). Cotton is also the No. 1 value-added crop and a major oilseed crop responsible for >400,000 jobs. The state of Texas is ranked No. 1 in U.S. production, with more than 30% of U.S. cotton produced in the Southern High Plains of Texas.Production acres using some level of irrigation in the Southern High Plains have declined from ~60% to ~40% in the primarily cotton growing districts (Colaizzi et al., 2008). Water shortages are known to cause reduction in crop yield and quality (Boyer, 1982). As the Ogallala aquifer is being depleted at the rate of 9.7 million acre-feet per year, salinity issues emerge, and because of moderate tolerance to salinity (Maas, 1986), cotton remains a viable crop option. Breeding approaches to improve fiber quality in cotton for the Southern High Plains must include favorable fiber development and maturity under stressed conditions and short growing seasons..........