Defoliation is the corner turn on the home stretch to the gin. Now is the time to bear down. It’s essential to maintain focus to produce the best fiber quality and yield. Here are three steps you can take to do so:
Understand when to defoliate. Go too soon, you leave behind yield. Go too late, you lose yield and quality deteriorates. Bayer agronomist Craig Bednarz knows the importance of the decision on when to defoliate.
“We need to be careful that we don’t go too early,” Bednarz says. “It takes good products to maximize quality, but it also takes time.”
The weather forecast is another essential decision aid, points out Gary Schwarzlose, Bayer senior technical service representative. Cotton crops move into harvest just as hurricane season moves into the Cotton Belt. “Know what the weather conditions are when you’re making that application,” says Schwarzlose.
Use products effectively.
You have a lot of bolls riding on these decisions; select a harvest-aid with proven performance.
“A good harvest-aid program dovetails right in with fiber quality and yield at the end of the season,” says Russ Perkins, Bayer senior technical representative.
Bayer agronomist Heath Reeves stresses the importance of using the right product, at the right rate, at the right time.
“You’ve gone the entire year putting forth maximum effort on this crop. We don’t need to let up now,” Reeves says. “Make sure you put out the best material you can to prevent sticking leaves and maintain the quality of your crop. It will pay off because you’ll get better leaf grades and better color grades.”
Yield expectations and environmental conditions factor into which products and which rates will optimize harvest in a given field.
“Our biggest thing is making sure that we understand the varieties that we’re going after and making sure our mixes are not so hot that we shut down the plant,” Schwarzlose says.
Particularly with new varieties, Schwarzlose suggests growers lean on available regional expertise.
“It’s that knowledge of what’s going on with harvest aids in individual territories that makes a program work,” Schwarzlose says. “We need to apply the right mix at the right time and understand how different varieties react to the same mix.”
Deciding whether to wait on the top crop? Bayer Senior Technical Representative Russ Perkins advises growers to maximize harvest of first-position bolls – they pay the most.
That said, two products proven to maximize yield and optimize quality are Finish® 6 Pro and Ginstar® defoliant.
The advantages of Finish 6 Pro are:
• Open bolls faster.
• Preserves quality.
• Reduces risk.
The advantages of Ginstar include:
• Superior regrowth control.
• Cleaner cotton.
• Tankmix options.
A PPO can be considered for a second application, if one is needed. Note that a PPO is not recommended as the first treatment. “Once you stick a leaf with a PPO, it’s not coming off,” Reeves says. “A PPO has a time and a place; make sure you use it at the right time and in the right place.”
Perkins adds, “A good harvest aid shot on the front end will certainly pay benefits on the back side.”
Harvest when the bolls open.
Defoliation should be scheduled according to your stripper capacity. You don’t want to leave those open bolls hanging around in the field.
“Harvest losses can occur from weathering and trying to get cotton in before bad weather hits,” Bednarz says. “Leaving the bolls open in the field can cause yield loses and reduce quality.
It’s important to rely on your experience in the art of harvest aids to bring you around the storm and into the gin.