Cotton Plant Monitoring

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    Calculating accurate plant population is important for season-long management.

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  • Plant Population–Establishing an adequate stand usually ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 plants per acre, is important because it affects plant growth and development and management will need to change accordingly.
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  • Plant Height and Total Mainstem Nodes—Both height and main stem nodes are important growth parameters to measure in determining current growth rate and stage. Growth rate in the form of height-to-node ratio is the change in plant height divided by the change in total nodes over a given period of time.
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  • Early-season Fruit Retention—Retention needs to be monitored. Any excessive losses, greater than 25% early in the season should be investigated. Whether loss is due to insects or environmental conditions, corrective actions need to be implemented immediately to help stop the loss and to maintain other fruiting sites on the plant. Additionally, future management decisions need to consider the possible delay in maturity.
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Midseason:13;10;

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    Monitor fruit retention to determine mid-season management needs.

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  • Current Vegetative Growth—Keeping close tabs on vegetative growth and fruit development is extremely important during this time so that excessive vegetative growth does not occur. Several tools, including a slide rule, help determine whether current growth is excessive and give plant growth regulator rates to match the plant size to help slow growth if needed.
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  • •9;Fruit Retention—First position fruit retention is important to keep track of and to determine any problems associated with insects, fertility, or other environmental factors. A large loss of fruit from one particular area of the plant may indicate micronaire problems at the end of the season.
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  • •9;Nodes Above White Flower (NAWF)—NAWF is a very quick and effective way to determine how far the crop is from cutout (NAWF of five or less). At the initiation of bloom, nodes above white flower should be around eight, more means that growth is excessive, less means that the crop may be heading towards an early cutout. NAWF should decrease by about one every week.
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Late Season:13;10;

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    Use late-season growth and activity for improved early- and mid-season management next season

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  • Any problems with yield, fiber quality, and micronaire can often be addressed by looking at final plant map information and locating areas of fruit loss which can then be correlated back to a particular time period during the growing season.
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  • Nodes Above Cracked Boll—When the first position cracked boll is within four nodes of the top of the plant (or the uppermost harvestable boll), defoliants should be applied.
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  • Plant Height and Total Mainstem Nodes—The above information along with plant height and total nodes will be the final record of all growth activity and stresses imposed on the crop for that year.
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This article is from the Cotton Management Guide, a publication with year-round advice on managing high-yielding cotton. Download the Deltapine Cotton Management Guide now or sign up for new content to be delivered to your email each month.​​​

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Click here to learn more about cotton growth management.​