It’s not unusual for cotton grown in the Southeastern U.S. to experience early season injury from hail storms, with damage ranging from seedling death and stand loss to little to no leaf removal.

The big question for growers is when is the damage severe enough to warrant replanting?

Experiments conducted in Tifton, Ga., this past year attempted to address the issue of cotton plant leaf removal and its effect on plant growth, maturity and yield.

“Hail damage is not necessarily uncommon throughout the Southeast,” says Guy Collins, University of Georgia Extension cotton agronomist.

“We typically experience some form of that on some portion of our cotton acreage in Georgia, enough to raise concerns. In most cases, when we receive significant hail damage, replanting is required.”

The end of the normal planting window is approximately June 15 in southwest Georgia, said Collins at the 2012 Beltwide Cotton Conferences held in Orlando.

“Events that may be occurring during that time might prevent us from replanting. Also, there have been reports of decent yields despite injured fields that were left alone and not replanted.”

Collins says his research focused on leaf removal and leaf matter remaining on the plant and did not account for stem damage or stand loss.

“If stands that remain after a hail event are acceptable, do we really need to replant? I don’t think so, because we have seen several reports, even with substantial injury, where cotton made a good yield.

“Recovery is possible if stands are not influenced below a critical level.

“We wanted to quantify the effects of certain amounts of leaf removal, and we wanted to try and find the least amount of leaf material needed to sustain normal growth and development of cotton,” he says.

For this trial, Phytogen 499 was planted in a dryland environment on June 8, near the end of the planting window for the Tifton, Ga., region.

“We did not kill the terminal bud, but any distinguishable true leaf in the bud was removed. Treatments consisted of factorial arrangements of true-leaf removal (none, and all true leaves removed) and cotyledon removal (none, one-half cotyledon removed, two one-half cotyledons removed, one cotyledon removed, one and one-half cotyledons removed, and two cotyledons removed).