If growers could pick one aspect of crop management that has the greatest impact on their success, most would choose timeliness. Here are three steps growers can take to maintain timeliness, preserve fiber quality and maximize yield:
Understand when to defoliate.
“Timely and proper defoliation is critical to terminating a cotton crop for maximum yield and quality,” says Bayer senior technical service representative Keith Rucker. “If you defoliate too early, it can rob you of yield potential from bolls that are not ready to pick. If you are too late, you risk losses from boll rot and reduced lint quality.”
Rucker suggests the following when deciding when to apply harvest aids:
- Count the total number of bolls on the plant and determine what percentage of them are open throughout the field. The Extension service in each state offers a recommended open boll percentage, at which growers should begin harvest.
- Using a sharp knife, look at the unopened bolls to determine whether they are mature. “If the knife cuts clean through, it is immature,” Rucker says. “If it ‘strings’ and the lint pulls through with the knife, the boll is considered mature.”
- Open the seeds in the bolls and determine if there are cotyledons inside the seed. Well-developed cotyledons inside the seed indicate a mature boll, ready for a harvest aid application.
- Finally, count the number of nodes between the uppermost boll that is cracked and the first position boll that you expect to harvest. When there are four nodes above cracked boll, it is safe to apply harvest aids.
The weather forecast is another essential decision aid, Rucker points out. “You always need to watch the weather. If a hurricane is brewing that might come ashore, you need to make a decision on whether to defoliate and harvest early, to avoid storm damage.”
“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. If it’s too cold, we need to watch our rates to make sure the product is going to perform like it should.”
Use products effectively.
Those modules 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.
“Our biggest thing is making sure that we understand the varieties that we’re going after and making sure our mixes are not so hot that we shut down the plant,” says Bayer senior technical service representative Gary Schwarzlose.
Particularly with new varieties, Schwarzlose suggests growers lean on available regional expertise.
“It’s that knowledge of what’s going on with harvest aids in individual territories that makes a program work,” Schwarzlose says. “We need to apply the right mix at the right time and understand how different varieties react to the same mix.”
When using the Sharp Knife Technique, “if the knife cuts clean through, it is immature,” says Keith Rucker, Bayer senior technical service representative.
The products proven to maximize yield and optimize quality are Finish Pro 6 and Ginstar defoliant.
The advantages of Finish Pro 6 are:
• Opens bolls faster
• Preserves quality
• Reduces risk
The advantages of Ginstar include:
• Superior regrowth control
• Cleaner cotton
• Tankmix options
Harvest when the bolls open.
Defoliation should be scheduled according to your picker capacity. The post-application step is a fast move; you don’t want to leave those open bolls hanging around in the field.
Though cotton weight is unknown until it’s ginned, and the value and quality until it’s classed, the opportunity for a profitable harvest is greatly enhanced by staying focused on timeliness until the last acre is picked.