Questions about cotton following a hurricane
Was the desiccation of cotton leaves due to the salt content in the hurricane?
This has been a common misconception. Many cotton fields across the state have desiccated leaves similar to symptoms from an application of Sodium Chlorate. However most of this is in the mature cotton leaves that have already started producing ethylene and abscisic acid. Ethylene and abscisic acid are hormones that accelerate senescence and leaf abscission. When the cotton plant is injured in any way, in this case 50 - 70 mph winds, these hormones are rapidly increased in the plant. This causes the leaves to increase the senescence process and begin to dry up. This coupled with the high winds for extended periods of time have left us with the "Sodium Chlorate" effect on the leaf tissue.
Winds have knocked off most of the leaves on my crop. Should I go ahead and defoliate or wait?
If your cotton crop is ready to defoliate (at least 60% open, and top harvestable boll is mature) then yes, you should begin defoliation. However, if your fields are only 30-40% open, defoliating will most likely lead to decreased yield and fiber quality, particularly length. Even though most of the leaves may be gone, cotton has a tremendous ability to compensate and may transport needed nutrients to immature bolls. Leaves will also re-grow in an attempt to compensate. Within 7-10 days if the crop is not recovering, you will know because the bolls will begin to open very quickly.
Will my cotton stand back up?
In most cases the cotton will straighten up if not but just a little bit. This is especially true when the cotton is defoliated where the leaves have it tangled up. In many cases where the cotton was rank and the top crop was heavy, it may take a little longer. However in years past when we have experienced high winds the cotton has always made an attempt to stand back up.
How much boll rot and hard-lock can we expect?
If the cotton bolls are lying on the ground, there is a pretty good probability that they will rot. The bolls that were beginning to crack when the storm hit stand a pretty good probability of hard-locking. Overall we shouldn't see more than a boll or two that will rot or hard-lock per plant. The fact that the wind took many leaves off will help to alleviate the rot problems.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Rain, cool weather, more rain and some wind have slowed cotton maturation, but since the crop was a little behind schedule, the damage may be less than if harvest were already underway.
Darrin Dodds, cotton specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said recent weather is causing some yield loss, but it is hard to estimate how much.
“Being late to a degree helped the crop because rain did not string out open cotton, but given that we are running out of heat, we may have been better off with an earlier crop that had been defoliated and was standing up when the rain came,” Dodds said.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Cotton will always have challenges, but few of them will ever compare to the boll weevils that thrived in Mississippi from 1904 until 2009.
“It is nearly impossible for this younger generation of consultants, scouts and growers to understand how hard boll weevils were to control and how much boll weevil control hurt beneficial insects and complicated cotton management,” said Will McCarty, who served as the Mississippi State University Extension Service cotton specialist during “the boll weevil wars.”
MACON, Miss. -- Farmers' independent natures make them strong, but when agricultural producers join forces, they can take success to the next level.
Darrin Dodds, cotton specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, commended Mississippi farmers for their efforts to unite in the battle to eradicate boll weevils from the state.
“Historically, boll weevils were the prime pest in cotton fields. To control them, it took numerous pesticide applications,” he said. “Those treatments were costly and ate into the growers’ profit margins.”
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi’s row crops have had enough rain, and most fields just need sunshine.
Erick Larson, grain crops specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said corn is mature and will gain no benefit from additional moisture. In the first couple of weeks of August, skies were overcast or rain was falling across most of the state.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Tropical Storm Cindy did not help the state's cotton crop that struggled with cool and wet weather all spring.
Darrin Dodds, cotton specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said in mid-June, cotton received about a week of the heat and sun it needs to thrive. Weather before that was not ideal, and rain remains in the forecast.