Rolling Toward The Finish Line

FLORIDA David Wright

David Wright FLEven though we can set fruit through early September, most cotton fields have the crop set that will be harvested, and many will be defoliating in late September or early October. Cotton generally had a late start but has caught up and has good yield potential in most fields. Most of our cotton is past the point of needing additional irrigation or fertility and needs time to finish the bolls that were set. Lower cotton prices have put a damper on the economics of our state’s cotton production, and we hope for a turnaround before next season.


Mike Milam MOMissouri is past the last effective bloom date, and it won’t be long before defoliation and harvest begin. We should be able to start defoliation in the warmer weather. We have been fortunate this year. According to the Drought Monitor, we have not been in the abnormally dry category all season. The projection for the rest of the season is to have an equal chance of above, below and average temperatures. The precipitation is forecast to be above average for the remainder of the season. A good estimate is that we are about two weeks late, but we have very good boll loads and have hope for a decent crop. With the cool, wet conditions during planting and a later crop, we are vulnerable to weather problems. With 97 percent of our cotton in the fairto- excellent range, it looks like we have good potential if we can get the weather to cooperate during the rest of the season. The good news is that with the equipment available, it takes less time to harvest the crop, so we can make progress following the rainy spells. According to the Aug. 14 Cotton and Wool Outlook, the first yield projection is 1,087 pounds per acre. Although the temperatures were cooler this summer, we still have more heat units than we did in 2008, which is the year Missouri set a yield record of 1,106 pounds per acre.


Keith Edmisten NCThe cotton crop started out a little late but did a lot of catching up during July and August. On average, we should be defoliating earlier in the growing season than we have in the past few years. Last year we were very delayed and in several recent years much defoliation was delayed waiting on the top crop. Defoliating earlier means defoliating when warm temperatures are more likely to be favorable for regrowth. This will potentially be a challenge if there is residual nitrogen to promote regrowth. We had enough rainfall this year that a lot of fields were running out of nitrogen in August as the cotton was cutting out. Although these fields will be defoliated when temperatures favor regrowth, low nitrogen levels should limit regrowth. The fields we really have to worry about for regrowth prevention are the fields with residual nitrogen. Thidiazuron is our best option for preventing regrowth. Rates of thidiazuron used in defoliation mixtures should be adjusted based on regrowth potential and the length of time regrowth control is needed. This is fairly easy when you are using a pure thidiazuron product as part of your defoliation mixture. It becomes a bit more difficult when using thidiazuron containing premixed products. If you adjust the rates of something like a thidiazuron + diuron premix high enough to provide two to three weeks of regrowth control, you will likely desiccate your cotton leaves when defoliating in warm weather. If you are using a premix in warm weather, you will want to set the rate of the premix for the temperatures at the time of defoliation and consider spiking the mixture with a pure thidiazuron product to give the desired amount of regrowth control. Keep in mind it is much easier to prevent regrowth than it is to take it off.


Dan Fromme LAYield potential of the 2014 cotton crop continues to look very favorable. Current estimates are around 1,157 pounds of lint per acre, down 66 pounds from the 2013 record crop. This year’s cotton crop has received timely rainfall throughout the season. Excessive amounts of rainfall in some areas have created boll rot problems. Temperatures were moderate throughout the season. Heat unit accumulations for this year’s crop are 15 percent below the historical average. As the season winds down, less insect pressure from bollworms and plant bugs is being experienced during the early part of August. Defoliation will begin in the latter part of August, and harvest will begin in the earlier planted fields during the last week of August. As we prepare the 2014 crop for harvest, we should review some of the basic defoliation timing principles. There is always a balancing act between yield and fiber quality when defoliating cotton. There are several accepted methods to time defoliation, and all methods have strengths and weaknesses. The following is a review of some of the more common defoliation-timing techniques. These three methods or options for timing the defoliation of cotton are: 60 percent open boll, four nodes above cracked boll or 1,050 heat units beyond cutout (NAWF=4). Most importantly, whatever method is employed, producers should include inspecting the uppermost harvestable boll prior to defoliation by cutting a cross-section of the selected bolls. A boll is considered mature if it is difficult to slice with a knife, and seeds have begun to form a tan/brown or black seed coat. Once a dark seed coat has formed, defoliation will not adversely affect the yield of those bolls.


Darrin Dodds MSProducers in Mississippi appear to have a very respectable crop as we approach harvest. Fruit retention in many fields appears higher than average; however, many fields have somewhat reduced node counts. While the first cracked boll was reported on Aug. 11, many fields did not begin to open until the latter part of August and some about the time you are reading this article. As the time to make harvest-aid applications approaches, several things should be kept in mind. First and foremost is determining when to make these applications. Most folks make applications when cotton is 60 percent open; however, the number is often underestimated from the turnrow. In many cases, we are making applications to a crop that is 70 to 80 percent open as opposed to 60 percent open. Spend a few minutes and walk into a given field and make some counts to determine where your crop is. Be very flexible in terms of products and rates that you use for harvest-aid applications. Many recommendations can change on what seems like a daily basis. Flexibility in these applications will reduce the count of stuck leaves and application failures. It has often been said that harvest-aid applications are as much art as they are science. Keeping that in mind, let your inner artist shine this fall but be conservative as it is easier to make a second application than to unstick leaves.

GEORGIA Guy Collins

Guy Collins GAAs I write this on Aug. 12, the Georgia cotton crop is variable but in decent shape. Rains have remained spotty throughout most of July and into early August, resulting in some producers experiencing decent and timely rains, while other areas have experienced noticeable and prolonged dry weather. At this point, much of the dryland crop and/or early planted cotton has reached cutout. Some fields in this situation are the result of hot dry weather, while others that received timely rains have ceased blooming due to time. Drought-induced boll opening has been observed only in a few field edges of early planted cotton and only in the lowest bolls on the plant. Later planted cotton ranges from near first bloom to midbloom, and crop status varies widely due to rainfall. The USDA-NASS Crop Production Report released recently indicates that Georgia producers anticipate harvesting 1.44 million acres with an expected yield of 967 pounds per acre. Hopefully, the rest of the season will allow us to achieve this. Depending on when cotton was planted, producers should be scouting for insect pressure so that timely action can be taken. For early planted cotton, defoliation decisions will soon be made. Producers should take into account crop status, prevailing weather and weather forecasts when deciding on products and/or rates to use. An application volume of 15 to 20 gallons per acre could improve overall defoliation or prevent the need for a second application.

TEXAS Mark Kelley

Mark Kelley TXCotton fields on the Texas High Plains have come a long way thanks to open sunny skies and near perfect temperatures. Most irrigated fields are at or near cutout with a few still slightly behind at 6-7 nodes above white flower. Timely rainfall events have led to decent dryland cotton in some areas as well. Also, continued light insect pressure has resulted in excellent fruit retention across the region. With an open fall, the area should see good to excellent yields of quality cotton in spite of the rough


ARKANSAS Bill Robertson

Bill Robertson ARThis September has the potential to be one of the most pivotal months of the season for our current crop. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released its first state-by-state estimate of yield and production on Aug. 12. Arkansas is estimated to reach a new record yield this year of 1,193 pounds of lint per acre. As discussed last month in this magazine, our crop is slightly behind schedule. We have made up some ground with continued milder-than-average weather, helping us to keep fruit retention high. The majority of our May-planted cotton reached cutout on Aug. 10-15, which is in line with our latest possible cutout dates (Aug. 11 NE and Aug. 20 SE). This date is the point in the season that 850 heat units needed to mature a white flower will occur half the time. The other side of the coin is that we have a 50-50 chance of not accumulating 850 heat units on a white flower produced on this date. Knowing our most mature fields is critical in harvest management. Boll slicing may be our best tool to evaluate maturity this season. Pushing a crop and chasing bolls that have little impact on lint yield and profitability could cut into yield and quality potential. An almost perfect September for maturing our crop, coupled with wise management to help preserve yield and quality potential, will be needed for us to have a shot at reaching record yields again this season.


Tyson Raper TNTennessee cotton has made up quite a bit of lost ground during the first part of August, but most fields are still in need of a warm September. Cooler temperatures than normal at the beginning of the month were accompanied by well-timed rains. These rains were critical this year as our wet season has resulted in a fairly shallow, drought-susceptible root system. Still, plants appear to be loading well, and I would say our average field is just past cutout here on Aug. 20. Several fields, which received all nitrogen (N) pre-plant applications, are beginning to show signs of N deficiencies. These will undoubtedly increase in severity as we move further into the boll-fill period. This season, these deficiencies highlight the potential N loss we can experience if the entire N application for the crop is made prior to or immediately following planting. Splitting our N application during the growing season (30 percent to 50 percent at planting followed by the remainder side-dressed prior to first bloom) is a surefire way of increasing the efficiency of your fertilizer applications.


John IdowuThe cotton crop has continued to do well in New Mexico after the initial problems of prolonged cold and hail incidences during the early part of the season. Most cotton fields have already reached cutout stage, and bolls have started setting. There has been rain in many parts of the cotton-producing areas of New Mexico to complement the irrigation water from canals and wells. The rain has been a great help for cotton. We have not noticed any incidence of pest or diseases in the fields and are hoping for an average yield at the end of the season.

VIRGINIA Hunter Frame

Hunter Frame“Scary” is one word I have heard from producers to describe the yield potential in 2014. Ample rainfall has again blessed the southeastern corner of Virginia, and producers are expecting another good season. Everyone is hoping to challenge the 2012 record yield of 1,129 pounds of lint per acre. As I am writing this, producers are in full-on protection mode with stink bug and bollworm sprays. The crop is currently in the fifth to sixth week of bloom, and, as we move into September, everyone is hoping for a mild tropical season and clear skies to finish out the crop strong. Given the favorable conditions during 2014, producers are facing cotton 40 to 50 inches tall in many fields, which may affect defoliation. A “Harvest Aid Cheat Sheet” can be found at http://- This publication draws from current literature on the efficacy of harvest-aid chemicals in leaf drop, regrowth and boll opening. The weather during early fall can be unpredictable in Virginia. An example of this was last year when overnight temperatures fell to 25 degrees at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension station on Oct. 26. Other locations in Virginia fell to 29 degrees.

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