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Cotton Defoliation ALERT: Tropical Storm Isaac
Author: Tom Barber, Extension Weed Scientist

Several calls have come in this morning with concern of what path Tropical Storm Isaac may take once it reaches land.  One thing we do know as far as hurricanes go is that most of the rain usually falls on the east and northeast side of the eye.  Rainfall, although welcome at my house and most of Western Arkansas, can be detrimental to this maturing cotton crop, especially several days of rainfall coupled with high sustained winds.  Cotton bolls are opening at high rates, and there are only 3 things that can happen to this crop at this time and two of the three are bad.  Constant rainfall over a three day period will result in lost yield due to extensive hard lock and boll rot.  For the bolls that are already open, this will string out the lint and significantly delay the quality.  This cotton crop will withstand the heavy rains and winds much better with the leaves on, which will provide some protection for both open and unopened bolls.

With TS Isaac’s path in question, I would hold off on all defoliation applications at least until Wednesday.  By Wednesday we should have a better idea of where Isaac will make landfall and where the track will be.  If Isaac tracks to the east of the Mississippi, then we will probably not receive much rain and applications can resume.  If it tracks towards western Arkansas, higher amounts of rainfall are possible and all defoliation applications should be delayed until after the storm passes.  High winds could cause cotton to lodge with this storm, making defoliation applications more difficult and expensive, but it has been my experience that the plants will stand back up at least somewhat following defoliation.

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