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September cold front causes premature defoliation in dryland cotton

Crop injury in irrigated acres may not be known until it's harvested and ginned.

Temperatures dropped to less than 40 degrees for 18 hours across the northern Texas Panhandle as a cold front swept through maturing cotton fields, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. Some areas dipped to 35 degrees for four to five hours followed by cool, cloudy conditions the remainder of the week.

While the duration of the cold spell concerns Agronomist Jourdan Bell, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Research, Bushland, she says it's too soon to know if or how much cold temperatures affected fiber development. 

"Our irrigated fields, at this time, look relatively okay," Bell says. "But when we start talking about a field looking okay and is it really going to be okay, I think it's too early to say.

"We're not going to know what happened until we gin this cotton."  

See, Agronomist Jourdan Bell gives wheatlage production tips

Visiting with regional cotton specialists about expectations, including Lubbock Extension Cotton Specialist Murilo Maeda, Bell says historical research shows that fiber development stops at 45 degrees. But anecdotal farmer experience, which Bell says they depend on because "when you're out there making a living in those fields, you learn from what happens," is a mixed bag. Some growers say in the past, cold temperatures haven't damaged the crop, while others say it's been devasting. 

As for the already-stressed dryland fields? The cold front forced premature defoliation and raises concerns about low micronaire.

To learn more about the impact of the cold spell and harvest aid considerations, watch this video. 

See, Sorghum growers encouraged to scout fields up to harvest

Next, Bell discusses forage sorghum production and harvest considerations. 

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