Monday, September 23, 2013

Defoliation Getting Started Across SJ Valley Cotton Fields

 The arrival of fall means cotton picking time is around the corner.

Across the Valley, cotton growers are preparing the final step before it’s time to pick the fiber. We’re talking about using harvest aids to defoliate the cotton plants in the field.
A lot of cotton is ready for defoliation.

Our cotton and alfalfa field scout Carlos Silva reports that some growers have started applying defoliants and more farmers expect to begin treatments this week. Caution signs warning workers and the public about the upcoming chemical applications are popping up along the border of the fields every day. (A few days of steady winds last week forced some growers to postpone applications.) Two to three weeks after defoliation, the crop will be ready for picking.

Warning signs going up before cotton defoliation.
To the uninitiated, defoliation is the typical cotton production management practice designed to prepare the crop for harvest and boost the quality of the fiber. 

Defoliation helps the mature bolls open fully and ensures that  lint is free from leaves and other trash.  On the other hand, immature bolls will stay immature. The treatment causes the leaves to drop and plant to start drying. This helps the harvesting machines pick the cotton cleanly off the plants and lessen the amount of leaves and debris (we call it trash) collected during the harvest.

Cotton experts like to describe defoliation as an art and a science. Defoliate too soon and your yields could suffer because of an abundance of immature bolls. Defoliate too late and you could suffer insect damage. A lot dollars are hinging on making the right decision. To read more about this topic, go to UC IPM online and check out timing cotton defoliation.
The annual Cotton Tour is coming up next month. This popular free event is a unique opportunity to get an inside look at cotton production – from the field to the gin. Set for Tuesday, October 29, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., the tour begins at the Best Western Apricot Inn at Interstate 5 and West Panoche Road, about 23 miles southwest of Firebaugh. Go to the Sustainable Cotton Project website  to reserve a spot. Spread the word to your friends. Space is limited.

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