Virginia Cotton: On-Time Defoliation Protects Micronaire

    ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

    Defoliation season is here.  It is important to spray early fields in order to keep the micronaire from getting to the high discount area.  If we let the leaves stay on, then micronaire keeps going up as those top bolls gain in fiber diameter.  Defoliating on time helps keep micronaire deductions from getting worse.

    Fields likely ready for defoliation share these characteristics:

    • Early Planting, particularly in April and through May 3.
    • Light soil. Good stands to thick plantings.  Thick cotton does not hold top bolls.
    • Early Varieties.  Our top two varieties are DP 1646 and PHY 340 are somewhat similar in maturity this year.  They are not the earliest but seem relatively early compared to say something like 499 used to be.  300 seems similar as well as 1916.  I think the newer PHY 350 is earlier as is PHY 333.
    • Cotton with low insect damage and high retention.  We did not have nearly the bug trouble this year as we did last year.
    • Aggressive Pix applications in August.


    Fields that need to wait longer for defoliation share these characteristics: 

    • DP 1851 seems like it might be about 5 days slower. I’m surprised at how uniform most of our other varieties are for maturity.
    • Gappy stands making more limb bolls and 3rd position bolls to compensate.
    • Early stress from wetness or herbicide injury.
    • Heavy bottoms tend to need a little more time.
    • Chicken Necks.  (uneven cotton) Some farmers don’t like the look of uneven cotton fields (it’s mainly a visual thing).  It is normal on sandy soil where less pix is used early with good fertility for more vigorous plants to keep adding bolls; you just need to give those ‘chicken neck’ bolls a little more time.  I like a chicken neck with bolls on it.

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