L. and Gossypium barbadense

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The Biology of Gossypium hirsutum & G. barbadense (cotton) Office of the Gene Technology Regulator

coat of arms australia with department and division titles

The Biology of
Gossypium hirsutum L. and Gossypium barbadense L. (cotton)

younger upland plant

Version 3.0 July 2016

This document provides an overview of baseline biological information relevant to risk assessment of genetically modified forms of the species that may be released into the Australian environment.

Version 3 has been updated to include new data on taxonomy and distribution of native Australian cotton species. Version 3 also contains new data on commercial uses of cotton, including yield, scale of cultivation and major commercial varieties used. New data has been added on toxins, water usage, weeds, pests and pathogens.

For information on the Australian Government Office of the Gene Technology Regulator visit the OGTR website.

Table of Contents

Abbreviations used in this document 5

Preamble 6

Section 1 Taxonomy 7

1.1 Taxonomy and distribution of native Australian cotton species 10

Section 2 Origin and Cultivation 11

2.1 Centre of diversity and domestication 11

2.2.1 Origin in Australia 13

2.2 Commercial uses 14

2.3 Cultivation in Australia 16

2.3.1 Commercial propagation 16

2.3.2 Scale of cultivation 17

2.3.3 Cultivation practices 23

2.4 Crop Improvement 25

2.4.1 Breeding 25

2.4.2 Genetic modification 26

Section 3 Morphology 27

3.1 Plant morphology 27

3.2 Reproductive morphology 29

Section 4 Development 31

4.1 Reproduction 31

4.1.1 Asexual reproduction 31

4.1.2 Sexual reproduction 31

4.2 Pollination and pollen dispersal 33

4.2.1 Pollen 33

4.2.2 Pollination 34

4.2.3 Out-crossing rates 35

4.3 Fruit/seed development and seed dispersal 37

4.3.1 Fruit development 37

4.3.2 Seed dispersal 38

4.4 Seed dormancy and germination 41

4.4.1 Seed dormancy 41

4.4.2 Germination 41

4.4.3 Seedling survival 43

4.5 Vegetative growth 43

Section 5 Biochemistry 43

5.1 Toxins 44

5.1.1 Gossypol 44

5.1.2 Cyclopropenoid Fatty Acids 46

5.2 Allergens 46

5.3 Beneficial phytochemicals 47

5.3.1 Medicines 47

5.3.2 Stock feed 47

Section 6 Abiotic Interactions 48

6.1 Nutrient requirements 48

6.2 Temperature requirements and tolerances 49

6.3 Water use 50

6.4 Other tolerances 51

Section 7 Biotic Interactions 52

7.1 Weeds 52

7.1.1 Weed Control 53

7.2 Pests and pathogens 53

7.2.1 Pests 53

7.2.2 Pathogens 57

7.3 Other interactions 59

Section 8 Weediness 60

8.1 Weediness status on a global scale 60

8.2 Weediness status in Australia 60

8.3 Weediness in agricultural ecosystems 61

8.4 Weediness in natural ecosystems 62

8.5 Control measures 63

8.6 Weed risk assessment of cotton 64

Section 9 Potential for Vertical Gene Transfer 65

9.1 Intraspecific crossing 65

9.2 Natural interspecific and intergeneric crossing 65

9.2.1 Crosses between G. barbadense and G. hirsutum 65

9.2.2 Crosses with native Gossypium spp 66

9.3 Crossing under experimental conditions 67

9.3.1 Cross-pollination with G- and K-genome natives 68

9.3.2 Cross-pollination with C-genome natives 69

9.3.3 Cross-pollination with other plant taxa 70


Appendix A Weeds of Cotton 99

APPENDIX B Weed Risk Assessment of Cotton 101

Abbreviations used in this document

ACT Australian Capital Territory

AFLP Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism

APVMA Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority

CBTV Cotton bunchy top virus

CLCuV Cotton leaf curl virus

CPFA Cyclopropenoid fatty acids

CRC Cooperative research Centre

CSIRO Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

DNA Deoxyribonucleic acid

DPI Department of Primary Industry

ELS Extra long-staple cotton

FSANZ Food Standards Australia New Zealand

GM Genetically modified

ha Hectare

ML megalitre

n Haploid number of chromosomes

NSW New South Wales

NT Northern Territory

OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

QLD Queensland

QTL Quantitative Trait Locus

RFLP Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphisms

SA South Australia

spp. Species

TAS Tasmania

VAM Vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae

VIC Victoria

WA Western Australia


This document describes the biology of Gossypium hirsutum (upland cotton) and Gossypium barbadense (pima cotton), with particular reference to the Australian environment, cultivation and use. Information included relates to the taxonomy and origins of cultivated G. hirsutum and G. barbadense, general descriptions of their morphology, reproductive biology, development, biochemistry, biotic and abiotic interactions. This document also addresses the potential for gene transfer to occur to closely related species. The purpose of this document is to provide baseline information about the parent organism in risk assessments of genetically modified G. hirsutum or G. barbadense that may be released into the Australian environment.

In this document, the word “cotton” is used to refer to information relevant to both G. hirsutum and G. barbadense, where the information only relates to one species it will be stated as G. hirsutum or G. barbadense.

In nature, G. hirsutum and G. barbadense are perennial shrubs. However, in the agricultural system both species are cultivated as annuals, with destruction of plants after harvesting the fruit for seed and fibre. The plants are mainly grown for their fibre, cotton lint, which is used in textiles and clothing. Neither species is native to Australia, but grown as a mostly irrigated crop in northern New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland (QLD).

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