In a perfect world, says Randy Dismuke, a cotton variety would satisfy everyone's demands — growers, ginners, oil mills, textile spinners and other downstream users.

“Unfortunately it's not a perfect world and we don't yet have a variety that's a ‘perfect 10,’” the senior vice president for Delta and Pine Land Co., Scott, MS, told members of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at its summer conference.

The ginners, many of whom are also growers, asked a panel of industry leaders to address the issue of why hugely popular and widely planted new cotton varieties have significantly less seed turnout than conventional varieties.

Cottonseed removed in the ginning process represents a significant source of revenue to ginners, and reduced seed tonnage from newer genetically modified varieties has been cutting into their bottom line.

Also, traditionally, the seed retained by the gin has offset the cost of ginning for the grower, a scenario that's becoming more difficult to maintain as ginning costs rise and seed weights/revenues decline.

“A Cottonseed Digest study shows the 10-year trendline is down,” Dismuke said, with a 14% decrease from 1995-96 to 2004-05. From 2003-04 to 2004-05, there was an 8% decline in seed yield.

“Our primary objective in variety selection is profitability potential for the grower,” he noted. “The key traits our breeders look for in early selections are yield and fiber quality. In those early stages, seed size and gin turnout are not normally a factor in selection; those are things we look at later.”

In many cases today, returns to ginners from seed will not cover the cost of ginning, said Sammy Wright, vice president, Chickasha of Georgia, Tifton, GA.

“We're fighting for our survival,” says B.B. Griffin, chairman of the board, Southeastern Cotton Ginners, Lewiston, NC. “With today's seed prices, we must charge a fee in addition to the value of the seed.”

Griffin says the lower the value of cottonseed, “the more ginners are taking it on the chin.

“But sooner or later it's going to come out of the grower's pocket through higher ginning costs. So the grower has to make a decision as to what he wants most: more yield, less seed and higher ginning costs, or vice-versa?”