Texas Cotton: Managing Late Fields – Hale And Swisher Counties

    Generally, cotton has come through its crunch time in better shape than most would have been able to hope for earlier in the season. There are several truly late fields in the area that need some serious reining in with maturity management now and through September so that they can finish up the season without too many problems.

    The vast majority of our program’s cotton fields have reached absolute cut-out (3.5 NAWF) with a remarkable boll load. A good number of our fields reached this goal only recently. We have not spotted any open bolls yet.

    From the data before me, it appears that a fair number of fields from Plainview south can be deemed slightly late. With some slight management and/or a good fall, these fields should not have major maturity problems. From Plainview north it appears that the fields are either solidly cut-out in a very timely manner, or are very late. Only a small percentage of our fields fall into the late category, but they can cause quite a bit of heartburn as we start transitioning into harvest aid season next month.

    These late standouts all have legitimate reasons for being so late. Most were either replanted in June or had severe damage early and were slow to recover and now have gap issues. Those few late fields ranged in stage from 5 NAWF to 4.6 NAWF this week. Aside from being a few inches taller and having a touch more PGR applied to them, these fields are right where their predecessors were a few weeks ago.

    Boll retention in this part of the Texas cotton crop looks good and the pest pressure is light. Only now, we cannot guarantee that all of those squares that are about to turn into blooms will make it.

    I feel like the first step in managing these late fields is to cut the irrigation and let the boll load and heat do what they do best. If we can let nature pull these fields into line quickly, we are usually better off than spending additional dollars that may not return, if we are not too late. Fruit drop through early September will increase as we strangle the growthy plants for water, but those ‘bolls’ that will be dropping have almost no chance of maturing anyway. Only after these fields reach cut-out would I consider returning with limited irrigation.

    Next could be a managed maturity treatment consideration. Each field will need to be evaluated separately at the time, but fields like these are usually prime candidates for utilizing minute amounts of Aim or similar products, sprayed over-the-top to help manage maturity in late September through the first half of October. In minute amounts, these treatments can ‘fry’ off green leaves, excess growth, and small squares while stopping terminal growth.

    As a result the plants are forced into focusing all their energies on harvestable fruit just as the last of the season’s heat units accumulate. Deciding whether to make these applications will depend on crop stage, desired harvest aid timing, weather, and predicted freeze date.

    For the bulk of our program’s cotton acres, we could be talking seriously about regular harvest aid treatments in three to four weeks. I find that amazing from where we started this season.

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