When deciding which cotton variety to plant, growers do so based on how that variety is expected to impact their bottom line. One of the factors determining that bottom line is the quality of the fiber says Gary Adams, vice president of economics and policy analysis for the National Cotton Council.

Ultimately, the “value” of quality in any given year will be reflected in the market though the price signals. Market-price data shows the differential between 31-3-35 and 41-4 -34, the past decade has exhibited an increasing trend in the premium associated with 31-3-35 with particularly strong increases over the past three years he says.

“Most growers will tell you that yield is at the top of their list when making the variety selection,” says Adams. “If you pencil it out, we'll generally find that a higher-yielding variety with slightly lower quality provides more return than a lower yielding variety with better quality. For example, another 100 lb. of 50¢ cotton offsets the lost revenue of a 5¢ discount on 1,000 lb.”

However, it's not a viable long-term strategy to mass-produce cotton while ignoring the demands of the customer, says Adams.

If lint quality matters to the customer, it matters in the marketplace, and it matters to the bottom line of the grower, he notes.

“It can be the difference between a profit and a loss. Variety selection is just the first decision a producer makes that determines quality,” Adams says. “Numerous opportunities to enhance, maintain or reduce fiber quality occur throughout the growing season, at harvest time and during ginning.”