Part I: First Harvest Aid Application
By Adam Hixson, BASF Technical Service Representative
In West Texas and Southwest Oklahoma, the cotton crop is a week to two weeks behind. Because we’ve had plenty of rain, some of the dryland fields look amazing. At the earliest, we will kick off harvest aid season at the end of September, going north to south.
Farmers in the northern Texas Panhandle will be some of the first to start preparing the crop for harvest to avoid an early frost or freeze. Their main goal is to open bolls. When a frost or freeze is predicted in the next 14 days, I recommend cutting the top bolls in half. If the seed coat is brown and starting to string out, then it’s time to apply ethephon. If the seed coat is whitish or milky tan in color, and the weather is going to be in the 70s to 80s for the next seven to 10 days, let the top bolls continue to mature.
My earliest late September recommendation for the area north of Plainview is ethephon @ 32-48 fl oz/A followed by Sharpen® Herbicide @ 1 fl oz/A + MSO @ 1% v/v + AMS @ 8.5 lbs/100 gallons. I never like to go above the 1 fluid ounce application of Sharpen in the initial application. Applying it at a higher rate can stick leaves instead of giving them time to dry out and fall off the plant. One fluid ounce also allows you to use Sharpen in the second application. In the areas south of Plainview (Lubbock, Lamesa and down to San Angelo), early to mid-October is the key time for a harvest aid application. I recommend applying Sharpen @ 1 fl oz/A + ethephon @ 32-48 fl oz/A, which will open the bolls and dry up the leaves. Sharpen is very fast, and you will see activity within a day or two.
This year, I expect weeds, such as Palmer amaranth, morningglory and bindweed, to be in the field at harvest time. If healthy and green, they will slow down harvest and stain the lint, causing dockage at the gin. Even if weeds are large, Sharpen will dry them down, crisp them up and get some of the leaves off, which improves the quality of your lint and the speed at which you can harvest. Also, Sharpen is one of the best PPO inhibitors for delaying regrowth that can also stain the lint.
If weather is coming, and you have 1- to 1 ½-bale cotton, my best one-shot harvest aid application recommendation is Sharpen + ethephon + a defoliant containing tribufos. This allows you to open bolls, desiccate and drop leaves, dry up weeds and prevent regrowth.