Defoliation is under way in the northernmost region of the Delta, according to Mike Milam, cotton agronomy specialist for Dunklin and Pemiscot counties in the Missouri Bootheel.

The crop is at least two weeks ahead of pace, Milam says. “We normally need 2,150 to 2,300 DD-60s by Sept. 21. We reached that level 10 days ago (mid-August). It’s cooled off a little bit, but I have never seen this much cotton defoliated this time of the year.”

Yields in irrigated cotton could approach or exceed 3 bales per acre for some growers, but dryland cotton “is suffering.” USDA is projecting an average yield of 983 pounds for the region.

Production costs, especially for weed control, are definitely higher, according to Milam. “They’re fighting Palmer amaranth like crazy with hoe crews. We also had some center pivots that were turned on in May and weren’t turned off until last week.”

West Tennessee

Chris Main, Extension cotton specialist for Tennessee, says the state’s crop is rapidly moving toward defoliation. “In fact, there’s probably some cotton that should have been defoliated, but producers are hesitant to pull the trigger when the calendar is still in August.”

The Tennessee cotton crop was set in about 21 days this season, noted Main. “We had really good retention early on in early July to mid-July. Once temperatures got into the 100s, we lost a lot of the top crop. By the time it cooled back down, we had enough big bolls to hold it back. So we’re going to have a real early crop this year.”

Main said the crop is at least two weeks ahead of normal and perhaps as much as a month ahead of last year. “Last year, we didn’t defoliate or pick a lot of cotton until the second week of October.”

The Tennessee crop is probably going to cost a little more than the average crop mostly due to resistant weeds, Main says. “If producers weren’t fighting glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed, they were at least planning on fighting them. We put more money in the herbicide category this year. The number of plant bug sprays has been a little above average, and we’ve been overspraying a lot of our WideStrike cotton for bollworms. We’re about 62 percent WideStrike cotton varieties this year.”