Cotton Links


Weather Dictates Late Crop
Harvest Strategies

By Carroll Smith
Senior Writer

Delayed planting in the Mid-South sets the stage for a potentially late crop in certain areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. At this point, crystal-ball predictions are no better than a guess as to how many acres will actually fall into this category. But as the season progresses, it does not hurt to have a harvest time management plan in your hip pocket.

In Louisiana, most of the cotton acres below I-20 were planted in a timely manner. However, fields above the Interstate experienced flooding and some seepage from rivers that meant many farmers in that area missed the optimum cotton-planting window.

With that in mind, Don Boquet, LSU AgCenter Extension cotton specialist, says, “I consider about 20 percent of our acreage ‘late’ and five percent ‘very late.’ But these percentages don’t represent a huge amount of acres because our overall cotton acreage is down to 222,000 acres.”

Boquet notes that from a yield standpoint, there likely will be a 30 to 40 percent reduction in yield potential on the very late cotton and possibly a 10 to 20 percent yield reduction on the late cotton.

“Fortunately, we have a lot of good defoliants on the market,” he says. “If the weather turns cooler and the crop is very late, you can compensate for this in your defoliation strategy by adjusting rates, adding adjuvants and using tankmixes.”

The best advice Boquet can offer cotton producers who find themselves facing a late-crop scenario is to assess the conditions at the time of application in the fall and then consult the LSU AgCenter Cooperative Extension Service Publication 2927 – Cotton Defoliation Guidelines for Louisiana – for specific recommendations.

Consider Earlier Defoliation

Tom Barber, Extension cotton specialist in Arkansas, says the cotton crop looks good in central and southern Arkansas, but the crop north of I-40 – Mississippi, Craighead, Greene and Clay Counties – is a later crop because of the early season rains that inundated the area at planting time.

“We still have the potential for a good crop in the northern part of the state, but it’s all going to depend on the fall weather,” he says.

“If the crop is late, we may have to pull the defoliation trigger a little earlier, say, 20 to 30 percent open bolls, to help the cotton mature and open up a little quicker if we happen to see a frost coming.

“We definitely want to get the leaves off before a frost hits,” he adds.

Fit Products To Temperature

In Mississippi, Extension cotton specialist Darrin Dodds notes that it stands to reason that since farmers got started late, they may finish late.

“The first thing I think of when talking about getting later into the fall with defoliation is product selection,” he says. “Certain products, such as the thidiazurons, are very temperature sensitive and tend to be the ones that make up the base for our defoliation programs, at least in the beginning.”

However, later in the fall when temperatures begin to cool off, producers tend to move to a product like Ginstar, which is a combination of thidiazuron and diuron, which provides a bit more flexibility as far as the temperatures are concerned.

“But once the temperatures turn cold,” Dodds says, “consider using herbicidal-type defoliants, such as Aim, ET, Def, etc.”

The bottom line is that the preferred defoliation strategy for late-planted Mid-South cotton will become more clear as harvest time draws closer. Remember, for the best results, keep one eye on the crop’s progress and the other on the weather forecast.

Contact Carroll Smith at (901) 767-4020 or csmith@onegrower.com.

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