The road from planting to defoliation is truly grueling. But you’re here. The essential part now is to keep your eye on the prize. Here are three steps growers can take to preserve the yield they amassed and the fiber they protected.
There’s an art to deciding when to defoliate.
The University of Georgia recommends defoliating at four nodes above highest 1st position cracked boll to uppermost harvestable 1st position boll (4 NACB), or 60- to 75-percent open boll, with 60% for a uniform crop. Bayer Southeast Agronomist Josh Mayfield says that may sound early to some growers, but studies show it’s more profitable than waiting.
“Going a little early typically pays off better than waiting until later to defoliate,” Mayfield says. “It certainly pays off on quality.”
Use products efficiently.
Those modules will bear not only the weight, but also the quality of your success. The most expensive mistakes a grower can make now are to skimp on harvest aids or ignore the weather.
“Looking at a long-range weather forecast as much as possible is important. We need to watch our temperatures,” says Bayer Agronomist Steve Lee, who works in the north Delta.
“If it’s too hot, we worry about sticking leaves,” Lee says “If it’s too cold, we need to watch our rates to make sure the product is going to perform like it should. We want to get the leaves off the plant so we can keep our grades up.”
Every grower has a particular recipe that works best for their fields. In many areas, two often-recommended ingredients for that recipe are Finish® 6 Pro cotton defoliant and boll opener premix and Ginstar® defoliant.
When choosing harvest aids, Lee notes, products should be evaluated on proven performance. Choosing a product based on price can be an expensive mistake.
“The speed of activity and how clean it defoliates are the big plusses with Finish 6 Pro.” Lee says. “We want to get the leaves off the plant so we can keep our grades up.”
Finish 6 Pro is the only hormonal cotton defoliant and boll opener premix. The advantages of Finish 6 Pro are:
- Faster boll opening. Finish 6 Pro opens bolls an average of three- to five-days faster than natural defoliation, without the harsh side effects of desiccants.
- Preserved quality. Faster opening reduces the amount of time lint is vulnerable to damage from wind and weather, preserving fiber quality and protecting profits.
- Reduced risk. Faster, more gentle opening reduces the risk of leaf grade and color discounts.
- Ginstar cotton defoliant is designed to deliver a clean, consistent drop of foliage with no leaf stick, leading to higher-value cotton and improved profit potential. The advantages of Ginstar include:
- Superior regrowth control. Regrowth is controlled regardless of the conditions, such as the tough regrowth conditions in the Delta and the Southeast.
- Cleaner cotton. Removes mature leaves, drops juvenile growth and sheds immature squares, reduces trash and staining, and preserves lint quality.
- Tankmix options. Use alone or tankmix with Finish 6 Pro harvest aid to pick cotton three- to five-days earlier.
Harvest when the bolls open.
Part of the first step was to schedule defoliation according to your picker capacity. The last step is a quick step; you don’t want to leave those open bolls hanging around in the field.
“Trying to manage the crop with your picker capacity is always important,” Lee says. “You want to open it up according to your picker capacity so you don’t leave it exposed to the environment too long.”
Ultimately, Lee says, cotton growers are focused on timeliness. The variable always is how well weather patterns are conducive to harvest. Grower experience, as always, pays off when making these decisions.