The problem probably started before the storms struck, he says.

“Most of our crop was planted in April and was blooming in late June, which is about two weeks early. These early-planted fields had a heavy load of bolls, but too many of these bolls started opening early and in adverse conditions.

“Then, the early maturity was made worse by extreme heat and humidity in the later part of the growing season, and it pushed our maturity too fast. I believe a lot of the hard lock I saw in our cotton this year happened because bolls were opening in 90 degree heat and high humidity from Aug. 15 through Labor Day — that’s a bad combination for hard lock,” the Virginia cotton expert says.

“Then, Hurricane Irene hit and made a mess of our cotton fields. The wind didn’t damage the cotton so much, but it laid cotton plants every which way across rows. Defoliation was hard and picking the cotton was even harder. The result will be a loss of yield,” Parker adds.

Probably the worst damage to Virginia cotton came from Tropical Storm Lee. It hit on a Monday night and rained virtually all week, keeping cotton wet for the week. That second storm pushed our hard lock even more, he adds.

“The cotton remained on the plant, so we didn’t lose much cotton to the wind and rain — that’s the good news. The bad news is the hard lock and the trouble growers will have picking their cotton is going to turn what could have been an outstanding crop to just a good crop,” Parker contends.

After the storms hit Parker was in high gear trying to help growers figure out how to get into their cotton fields to defoliate and then how to best pick their crop. While some cotton experts were advising growers to spray and pick in a 45 degree angle to the planted row, Parker said going across the cotton field may provide a better result.

For sure going across a cotton field in a sprayer or a picker at a 90 degree angle to the planted row will put more bounce in your ride. Some growers contend using Parker’s tip helped them pick more cotton. “My thinking is that going at a 45 degree angle, the picker may be pushing cotton away from the picker head. Going at a 90 degree angle may push cotton into the picker head,” Parker says.

 Parker says he doesn’t expect an increase in acreage for 2012, but says he doubts there will be a decrease.  Regardless of the cotton acreage next year, Parker will be providing growers with some timely tips to help them maximize yield and quality.

rroberson@farmpress.com