Hybrid Cotton Hazera™ Getting Noticed

he concept of interspecific hybrid cotton received significant exposure and discussion at
the National Cotton Council’s most recent Beltwide Cotton Conferences in San Antonio. Five sessions
were dedicated to updates from around the world and included discussions of the potential of hybrid
cotton. While Israel-based Hazera Genetics Ltd.’s presentation focused on a new short-season hybrid
cotton variety, the other four presentations discussed the promising future of hybrid cotton,
especially in terms of it being a significant future source for quality fiber.

The idea behind the interspecific hybrid cotton is the conventional, non-genetically
modified organism (GMO) combination of the best characteristics of the upland/Acala cotton with
Pima cotton in a single plant. It is important to note the conventional crossing process leading to
the creation of the hybrid variety differs inherently from the use in GMO technologies, and aims at
improving traits such as yield, fiber quality and water consumption. Until now, use of GMO
technology in cotton was focused in other directions.

The upland/Acala cotton is well-known for its high yield, but it has relatively low fiber
quality. On the other hand, Pima cotton excels in high-quality fiber, but it is relatively
low-yielding and can be grown only in limited areas around the world. The combination of the traits
of high-yield and high-quality fiber, as enhanced by the hybrid heterosis, provides a recipe for a
winning cotton. Yet, in the crossing process, some negative characteristics also may be transferred
to the hybrid, while other, positive characteristics may wane. Breeding wisdom consists of
thoroughly understanding the process of inheriting genetic traits and developing such parent lines
that would result in a winning hybrid.

Hybrid cotton has many advantages and few shortcomings. The existing hybrid cotton varieties
have shown similar yield to the upland/Acala varieties and have excelled in comparison with
ordinary Pima varieties. HA195, the leading cotton hybrid from Hazera Genetics, has been shown in
the last five consecutive years of trials conducted by the University of California Cooperative
Extension (UCCE) to yield more lint per acre than any other tested variety
(See Figure 1).


Although they sell as extra-long-staple (ELS) cotton, the hybrid cotton varieties
still lag behind Pima in terms of fiber quality. On the other hand, the hybrid heterosis results in
extremely high vigor and rapid plant growth, dictating a controlled management from the second
irrigation onwards. Therefore, the water use efficiency (WUE) of the plants is very high, and
rain-fed management or water saving under an irrigation regime can be considered. In addition, the
hybrids have shown a tendency to mature 10 to 14 days earlier than Pima, which in many areas means
damage from autumn rain can be avoided.

Although ginning of hybrid cotton is 10-percent slower than for Pima, the biggest advantage
of Hybrid Cotton Hazera™ is its high adaptability to a wide range of growing conditions all over
the world. There are hybrids for the long season of California and for the short season of northern
Greece, and, notably, the hybrid cotton has shown outstanding adaptability to marginal ground,
where other ELS cotton varieties perform poorly.

The history of the interspecific Hybrid Cotton Hazera is rooted, like many other inventions,
in the rising standard of living and the constant search for new products to meet exacting market
demands. The textile industry has for many years been seeking high-quality fiber at a moderate
price to create better yarns, fabrics and clothing. Because Pima fiber can be grown only in limited
areas and yields are low — which accounts for its high price — the idea of interspecific hybrid
cotton crept in.

Twenty years ago, most of the big seed companies were engaged in various attempts in the
area of interspecific hybrid cotton. Most of them fled the battle after failing in the seed
production process, while a few are still engaged with intraspecific Hirsutum X Hirsutom hybrids.
Where others have failed, Yechiel Tal, Ph.D., a Hazera Genetics breeder, has succeeded, utilizing
cytoplasmic male sterility technology.

It took Hybrid Cotton Hazera fiber four years to make an entry into the marketplace. Eighty
thousand bales in California and Peru pushed the ginners, merchants and spinners to study this new
fiber and make the most of it. The ginning, spinning and weaving industries are accustomed to
working with short, weak and rough fiber such as upland; or with long, strong and fine fiber such
as Pima; and mixes of these two. Hybrid Cotton Hazera challenged the industries with ELS fiber that
is slightly shorter and weaker than Pima fiber, as fine as Pima, and longer and stronger by far
than any known upland or Acala fibers. A growing demand for this fiber only begins to tell the

According to Hazera Genetics, one also must consider the environmental friendliness of
Hybrid Cotton Hazera when discussing its advantages. It can be used in marginal and salty soils. It
saves on pesticide use thanks to its early maturity, and saves on fresh water use by its high WUE.
Yet, Hybrid Cotton Hazera is not a foolproof product. It is more sensitive to mismanagement, and it
takes longer to become familiar with it than other varieties; but once studied, it may be a
valuable asset for the grower and for the industry.

March/April 2006