A ‘Clean Pick,’ While Relative, Can Be Managed For

We’ve all heard a grower brag about fields, or even a cotton variety, picking clean. While “clean” is all relative to the individual farmer, getting a once-over clean harvest is a multistep crop management strategy where timing and weather conditions will have to fit together for the ultimate outcome: a clean harvest of cotton that reaches its yield potential.

After harvest is a great time to conduct an analysis on management practices. Look at how each input did or did not work as well as how well they fit together throughout the season to bring the crop along for best fruit retention and set the stage for a clean and successful harvest.

No two crop seasons are the same. Luckily, the cotton plant has a unique ability to tell us what it needs, according to growing conditions and pest issues. And while intense scouting is often required, the information gathered from that scouting can help you make the correct timely management decisions.

Variety Selection

When the goal is a once-over clean harvest, choosing the right variety is important, but not for what you’d think. It’s more about choosing the right plant type and maturities for your fields and matching that with correctly timed plant growth regulator (PGR) applications. Optimum PGR management is critical in cotton for helping to obtain maximum fruit set and retention out of the crop. Knowing how a variety grows — as well as its relative maturity and levels of indeterminacy — and matching that with soil types, growing conditions and weather patterns can help guide a solid PGR management program. 

Choosing different maturities has its advantages when it comes to timing a cotton harvest. With today’s machinery, a typical grower can plant almost twice as many acres in a day as they can harvest in a day. To maintain maximum yield and fiber quality potential of a cotton crop, it must be harvested as soon as the maximum number of bolls are opened. So, a range of maturities can result in a staggered harvest, leaving less chance of open cotton sitting in adverse fall weather, which can work against the goal of a once-over clean harvest. 

The strength of the Deltapine® brand portfolio is a range of cotton varieties and maturities with strong proven performance in early maturities, such as DP 2012 B3XF, to mid-to-full types, such as DP 2038 B3XF, and to full maturities, such as DP 2055 B3XF, and the Class of ’21 cotton varieties that fit into those maturity ranges. Cotton varieties are not bred to pick clean, per se. They are managed for a once-over clean harvest, and even the best management practices can be thwarted by Mother Nature.

Start Clean, Pick Clean

Variety selection and placement is just a first step to managing for once-over clean harvest. Timely burndown applications prior to planting and a start clean, stay clean approach to weed control are proven keys to help prevent moisture and nutrient-hungry weed pests from competing with young cotton plants. Early-season and midseason insect management are also an important management practice. Scouting regularly for insect pressure is critical for maintaining healthy growth in developing cotton plants. High plant bug pressure, for example, can affect fruit retention and make it difficult to maintain. Crops adversely affected by insect feeding could change the PGR management of the field. 


Once the crop reaches the cutout stage, it is time to think about defoliation and harvest aids. There are many factors to consider when making these applications in a timely fashion, including what the plants are showing and what the weather is doing. Proper rates and timing of defoliants and harvest aids, coupled with the weather conditions provided by nature, are very important keys to getting bolls opened for a once-over clean harvest.

When all the modules are on the gin yard, it is a good time to go over the entire management system, from variety selection to a harvest aid program, from insect management to PGR management. Ask yourself if you were happy with the harvest. Did it pick clean? Did it yield well? And then go back and look at each management decision you made. Make an effort to tweak what did not seem to work, and enhance those practices that did work to accomplish your final objective of a once-over clean harvest of cotton that reaches its yield potential.

ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW GRAIN MARKETING AND ALL OTHER STEWARDSHIP PRACTICES AND PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Bayer Cross and Bayer, Deltapine® are registered trademarks of Bayer Group. ©2021 Bayer Group. All Rights Reserved.


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