georgia cotton commission

Cotton Defoliation: GCC/UGA Remind Producers About Timely Applications

Clint Thompson Georgia Cotton Commission

georgia cotton commission

By Clint Thompson

The Georgia Cotton Commission and the University of Georgia Extension Cotton Team remind producers about the importance of being timely with their defoliation applications.

Timeliness leads to increased yields and better quality, says Camp Hand, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension cotton agronomist.

“We need to start thinking about defoliation, particularly, timing and being timely with our decisions,” Hand said. “Since the year has been so abnormal and difficult in some areas, I think the timing decision will be complicated because of the year that we’ve had.”

Defoliation Process

The defoliation process removes the plant’s leaves, prevents re-growth and opens up the cotton bolls. Hand said the most profitable bolls are located in the bottom of the plant. If growers are not timely, they could lose yield and quality in the bottom of plant. That means producers would lose the majority of money they would make on that crop.

“Being timely is just as important as any other decision,” Hand said. “What defoliation does is it knocks leaves off, opens the bolls up and it helps us to harvest that crop in a timely manner, make as much money as possible with respect to quality and yield.”

There are three main methods to determine when to defoliate your cotton.

One is if there is 60% to 75% open bolls. This means the plant is mature enough for defoliation.

Another method is the nodes above cracked boll. Find the highest opened, cracked boll on a plant and count the number of nodes on the stem above it until you get to the highest unopened harvestable boll. When that number is four, growers can pull the trigger.

The third method is to take a sharp knife cut into the highest, most harvestable boll and check to see if the seed coat is well developed. If the seeds are well formed and are dark brown or black with very little liquid jelly left inside the seed, the boll is close to being mature and safe to defoliate.

Hand recommends growers use at least two of the three methods.

For more information about the state’s cotton crop, see the UGA Extension cotton news website at