Talkin' Cotton: Timing harvest aid applications complicated by cool weather

Cotton harvest aid applications are on Dr. J.C. Banks' mind these days. The Oklahoma State University Extension state cotton specialist says weather conditions have made timing the cotton harvest and application of harvest aids "a moving target."

"Cloudy days in August plus cooler than normal temperatures are both factors to consider when planning cotton harvest work," he said. "I observed some fields in early September where, based on the cut boll technique and bolls above cracked boll, I estimated they would be ready for harvest aid application about the middle of September.

"These fields are not ready yet, and may not be ready for a couple of weeks. When our late August cloudy and rainy weather occurred, we expected and received a heavy fruit shed of bolls from flowering to about thumb sized. After this fruit shed, the plant had a lot of squares that would normally have been shed later due to fruit load but stayed on because a portion of the fruit load had been lost due to the cloudy days.

"Now, these squares are mid- to full-sized bolls and will contribute to yield and are worth keeping. Even though many of the bolls are nearly full-sized, they will not be fully matured until early- to mid-October. This is especially critical in dryland areas because dry weather prior to late August had limited boll set and the young bolls will be a significant portion of total yield.

"In some fields, the difference between a thumb-sized and a full-sized (but not yet mature) boll is about 8 to 10 days. In dryland areas this year, many small bolls in the lower and middle part of the plant had stopped development due to drought. Unfortunately, these bolls will not start developing again. There is nothing we can apply to the plant to start these bolls growing again.

"Our yield and quality will depend on late and warmer than usual fall weather to mature the crop. We've had these weather conditions in two of the last three years, so, again, we are betting on these conditions to deliver a good yield for the state."

TALKIN' COTTON is produced by NTOK Cotton, a cotton industry partnership, which supports and encourages cotton production in the Rolling Plains of North Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. For more information on the cotton scene, see and For questions and comments on Talkin' Cotton, contact [email protected].

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