Dodds held up the treated plant again. “This one is much easier to control. It has a good fruit load and is somewhat regulating itself because of that. It won’t be much trouble to control the plant height.”

There are several reasons to keep the vegetative height under control. First, said Dodds, is better penetration of herbicides and insecticides. “Jeff (Gore, MSU entomologist) could probably write a book about how much more difficult it is to kill plant bugs in cotton that’s big and tall and rank and lush versus shorter, more compact plants.”

Another consideration is harvest efficiency. “Think about cotton that’s 50 inches tall versus 40 inches tall. You’re probably going to go through the shorter cotton quicker with your picker and make up ground. We’re always trying to make up ground in the fall because we know, at some point, rain is coming.”

Dodds received the first picture of a cracked boll in the state two days earlier. “That can relate to irrigation management. Historically, when we’re watering down the row and talk about cutting water off is when the first cracked boll shows up. With pivots, it’s a bit later just because of the amount of water being delivered.

“This year, because of the rains, we may not need to water again. I hope we don’t. Some of the rains we’ve had were advantageous. It’s been a pretty decent year for us.”

As producers near the decision to knock leaves off the crop, “I encourage you to walk into the field and pull some plants back. What I feel tends to happen is some drive by in the truck and look to see how much cotton is actually open in the field. I feel we tend to underestimate how much is actually open in the field. A lot of times, we’re defoliating at 70 to 80 percent open thinking it’s 50 to 60 percent…

“Walk out into the crop, make a few counts. If you’re 50 to 60 percent open, I’d go ahead and get the leaves off the crop. … Always carry a sharp knife in your pocket. Go to the uppermost boll you think will be in the picker and cut it. If you see well-formed cotyledons, dark seed coats, not a lot of wet-looking lint, it’s probably ready to go.”