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LOGO: Journal of Cotton Science


Merging of Plant Breeding and Pathology: A History of Cotton Breeding at Auburn

Authors: Jenny Koebernick, Jessica Ahl, and David Weaver
Pages: 175-182
Breeding and Genetics
DOI: (

Understanding the focus and history of a breeding program allows fellow researchers to build upon prior knowledge and helps determine the best expertise for specific objectives. To date, the cotton-breeding program at Auburn University has had a series of breeders that have worked directly with a plant pathologist. Homer Tisdale, the program’s first breeder, was hired in 1913 with the goal of Fusarium wilt (FOV) resistance, a focus that was destined to become fundamental to the program. With the discovery of a "hot" field in Tallassee, Alabama, the program soon combined cotton variety testing and FOV screening tests. This led to the release of the most iconic variety of the program – Auburn 56 and characterizing of the relationship between root knot nematode and FOV. In 1965, the program shifted to a USDA cotton genetics project, led by R.L. Shepherd, who refined screening techniques and identified multiple sources of root knot nematode resistance. He released 40 cotton breeding lines, the most in the program’s history, which ended in 1984 when the USDA lab was moved to Mississippi. In the late 1990’s, breeder David Weaver joined a region-wide effort to investigate reniform nematode resistance. The current program, led by Jenny Koebernick, has a large emphasis on disease resistance. In 2019, attention shifted to identifying sources of resistance for the cotton leaf roll dwarf virus, collaborating directly with plant pathologists and entomologists. Overall, the greatest contribution of the program has been the synergy created between breeding and pathology that has helped advance cotton resistance to nematodes, fusarium wilt and bacterial blight.