Monday, October 10, 2016

The Fall Harvest is in the Air for Central Valley Cotton Growers

As the almond and alfalfa season starts to wind down in the Valley, we now turn our attention to the cotton harvest.

The fall is always an exciting time of the year for cotton growers. It’s been a long six months and now they can start reaping the fruits of their labor.

In the northern part of the Valley, harvesters already have been working the fields. “In Dos Palos growers are really going along,” field scout Carlos Silva says about harvest activity in Merced County.

Cotton plants drying in the sun after they were defoliated.
Further south in Fresno County, many growers in areas such as Firebaugh are waiting for the right time to defoliate. One grower had to ground the defoliation treatmentdue to windy conditions and had to finish over the weekend.

“Everything has to fall into line,” Carlos points out about defoliation and harvest timing.
One consideration for growers is the farm’s harvest capacity.  As a rule, farm advisors say growers should defoliate just the amount of acreage that can be harvested within 12 days after treatment. That will help cut down lint exposure to poor weather, which can lead to possible pricing discounts due to a lower grade for quality.

Windy conditions forced one grower to delay defoliation.
This time of year the weather generally cools down and there always the threat of rain – although the drought the past five years has played havoc with traditional weather patterns. It’s critical to harvest before rain or fog arrives. In the past, we’ve seen growers rush to harvest – working all night long – to pick their cotton before a downpour. Other times, we’ve seen harvesters sit idle in the morning, waiting for a dense fog to lift and the lint dry a little to reduce the amount of moisture in the cotton.

 Growers often will use harvest aid chemicals to speed things up. UC IPM cites these reasons:
·         Stimulate boll opening and maturation.
·         Achieve more efficient mechanical harvesting during good weather conditions and the availability of harvest equipment.
·         Maximize the collection of harvestable crop.
·         Preserve high fiber quality to provide maximum economic returns.

To help growers determine what type of chemicals to use, go to theUPM IPM cotton site about harvest aid chemicals.

COTTON FARM TOUR: Want to get a behind-the-scenes look at California cotton production? The Sustainable Cotton Project’s annual Cotton Farm Tour is scheduled for Friday, October 21. Every year, dozens of people take advantage of this unique experience, where they can inspect the crop being harvested, tour a colored cotton field, see a perennial hedgerow and meet with farmers before visiting a cotton gin.If you can make it, please join us, and pass the information on to a friend or colleague. You canregister hereor contact SCP Program Director Marcia Gibbs at (530) 370-5325 or for more information.

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