In a year like this it is critical to be on-time with defoliation. No grower wants to sacrifice yield by defoliating too early, but on the other hand in a year with lots of rank cotton, you can’t afford to wait too long to defoliate.

There is plenty of rank cotton in North Carolina this year, which has generated lots of questions about when to defoliate, Edmisten says. The first inclination is to up the rate of defoliant to get better defoliation of rank cotton.

“If you do up defoliant rates, all you will usually do, especially with herbicide defoliants, is stick a bunch a leaves in the top of the plant and get poor defoliation in the bottom part of the plant.

“With rank cotton, I tell growers to use the same defoliation rate and practice, keeping the sprayer pressure high enough to get good coverage, that they would use on healthy, not rank cotton.

“Then, re-evaluate in a week or so, and determine whether you need to come back and defoliate the cotton again,” Edmisten says.

This year cotton growers in North Carolina used a lot of nitrogen on their crop, compared to the past two years, when they had plenty of residual nitrogen in the ground, because of the dry weather.

The residual nitrogen caused lots of problems with re-growth and growers tended to up the rate of materials like Dropp to take care of re-growth.

“In most of the cotton in North Carolina, it appears nitrogen is playing out as we move toward harvest season, so there may not be as much need to add extra materials to manage re-growth,” Edmisten says.

Standing in a beautiful field of Phytogen 499 cotton on Sept. 12, Halifax, N.C., grower Lee Dickens was living out Edmisten’s advice to be patient.

“I’m ready to defoliate this cotton field, but it’s just not ready. The past couple of years by this time, this field of cotton was nearly ready to be defoliated and some of my early maturing varieties were ready,”  Dickens said.

The North Carolina grower said he has been blessed with good rainfall throughout the growing season and it’s that anticipation of a good crop that makes him want to get the cotton ready to pick.