Monday, October 3, 2011

Cooler Weather Puts Pima Defoliation in Holding Pattern

Ominous rain clouds hover over the California Aqueduct.

When it comes to farming there’s one prediction that’s sure to come true: Unpredictable weather.
That’s certainly the case for cotton growers.

First rain and cool weather pushed back spring plantings. Now, Mother Nature is at it again in early fall. Unseasonal cool daytime high temperatures and the chance of rain in the coming days have put prepping and defoliation plans on hold for pima cotton growers. (Acala bolls develop faster so growers don’t have to do prep work. They started defoliating last week).
Rain will impact work in cotton fields.
Pima growers will prep their plants with materials (boll openers) to enhance boll development before applying defoliants. You want plants to have at least 50 to 65 percent of the bolls open. 

 However, growers are in a holding pattern because any significant rainfall could wash away some material and force growers to spend more money on re-application. Moreover, daytime temperatures need to be above 80 degrees for several days to ensure proper defoliation. The forecast calls for highs in the 70s through Friday. Historically, Valley daytime highs hover in the 80s during the first couple weeks of October. So we wait. The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management website has more information about harvest aid chemicals for cotton.

For the optimists, a little rain could help clean off dust and any honeydew on the plants, which can prevent sticky cotton and a downgrade on fiber quality. If Mother Nature cooperates, we may see some Pima being harvested after Thanksgiving.

Overall, everything is pretty much moving ahead.  Pests aren’t a real concern now. And growers are expecting some good yields this season.
The media learns about cotton cultivation during our annual farm tour conducted at harvest time.
Annual Cotton Tour Reminder: Don’t forget to spread the word about our annual Cotton Tour on Tuesday, November 8. It’s a free event and includes lunch in downtown Firebaugh. Participants will have an opportunity to meet growers, visit a gin 
and even pick some cotton. Buses will leave the Best Western Apricot Inn – Interstate 5 and West Panoche Road about 23 miles southwest of Firebaugh – at 8:30 a.m. and return about 4 p.m. Registration is required. Sign up for the tour at

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