It has been a week now since our first significant cold front moved through. It was supposed to have brought with it, beside cold air and wind, some measurable precipitation. Unfortunately, while the weatherman got the wind correct, it was about 5 degrees colder (38 F) than they anticipated, and it was not a wet front for us at all.
As a result, we are seeing many acres of cotton looking like the top picture below. Many have speculated the damage is a result of either disease or freeze. Well it is neither. Though we can see symptoms of various diseases (verticillium wilt, bacterial blight, etc.) these are not the primary cause of the damage to the foliage.
If you look in drip cotton acres you will see spots where a leak has occurred (bottom picture) and this cotton is not damaged, or on center pivots look if cotton in front of the pivot is damaged versus that behind the pivot, which was last watered, is not as bad, unless irrigation was shut off back in August.
So, this damage reflects how water was managed, or how much stress the plant was under when the weather event on September 7-9 moved through our area. The weather then exacerbated this stress by adding cold-dry wind at +30 mph for many hours out of the north. Therefore, you may even see east-west rows have more pronounced damage than north-south rows.
The smell of injured tissue which some may have smelled, like after a freeze, was most likely from actual freeze damage 50-100 miles north of us. So, stressed plants combined with cold desiccating winds is the primary culprit of this damage, which is very widespread. Its impact will not be fully realized until harvest.