Virginia Cotton: Uncertain Weather a Concern for Early Fields

This is a unique cotton season in that it is the earliest good crop we have ever had.

  • The magic number for cotton heat units is 2100 DD-60’s and we hit that number around September 7th on average for cotton planted May 1.  The western part of the region was even faster as Emporia hit 2300 DD-60’s today.
  • I estimate that much of the cotton that was planted the first week of the planting season (April 28 to May 4) is or will be ready for defoliation soon. The second week of planting has a few fields getting ready and more will follow soon.
  • I do come across a percentage of these early fields that are tricky due to areas that were delayed from either weather or a pix application followed by dry weather and put on a later crop once it got going again.
  • However, let me quickly point out that probably half of our cotton needs 1 to 3 more weeks, and cotton planted after May 25th may need till the middle of October.
  • I am feeling a bit of urgency on this early stuff primarily because of the possibility that the weather pattern could change.
  • The forecast actually is a little better this morning than it was yesterday; nevertheless, the advanced cotton will grade and yield better if it has the leaves removed with an increased risk of wetness and rising micronaire by not defoliating. There is also a tropical system being watched again.
  • Use a higher Dropp (TDZ) rate if you think you could be challenged with getting it picked when ready. Maybe 4 ounces with Prep or 2 ounces with Finish. Normally 3.2 with Prep, or 1.6 with Finish is enough.
  • Also, vary Def/herbicide rate from very low to medium depending on the weather. Cool weather or wash-off risk favors higher Def/herbicide rates.
  • The Take Home Message is, don’t jump the gun, but don’t drag your feet either.

Dilemma’s:

  • On Regrowth:  If your cotton cut out weeks ago and is starting to get green with new regrowth, that is a sign that the bolls are mature and ready for defoliation.  You still need to use the ‘rules’ or the ‘art’ to confirm maturity.  Use high Dropp rates in warm weather if your cotton turned green again.
  • Waiting on Top Bolls:  If it is just a few 6 NACB plants but a lot of 4’s, then you are not going to gain much yield by waiting compared to quality and delayed harvest risk.  BUT if you are averaging 6 with as many 7&8’s as 4&5’s, wait a week.
  • Waiting on top Junky bolls that need a month.  Just figure the yield to add for waiting vs the potential for loss at the bottom.  Figure 10 bolls/foot = 500 pounds at the bottom and 15/ foot at the top.

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