Cotton Seed Sprouting and Regrowth

Several days of rainfall and overcast skies in late September raised concerns about cotton seed sprouting and late-season regrowth. Similar conditions in 2015 caused significant seed sprouting and challenging regrowth. Fortunately, much of the upper Southeast cotton crop had not yet been defoliated when the rains came this year, leaving much less of the crop vulnerable to seed sprouting.

“Cotton growers should plan to defoliate on a normal schedule, realizing that the cooler temperatures this fall will mean that defoliants will be slower to act, says Guy Collins, cotton extension associate professor, North Carolina State University. (G. Collins, personal communication, September 27, 2016)

Once cotton is defoliated and bolls begin to open, the lint and seeds are exposed to moisture. “Much of our cotton was planted later this year and most of it had not been defoliated when the rains came in September,says Collins. “We got three or four days of rain that could have started some seed sprouting, but it didn’t take but a dry day or two to pretty well stop the sprouting. If more rain comes before harvest, growers should scout frequently to determine if seed are beginning to sprout.

Sprouted seed can cause several issues, including: higher trash content, seed coat fragments, and lint discoloration. In addition, if fields are harvested before sprouted seeds dry down, this could lead to undesirable moisture in harvested cotton. Sprouted seed may also result in decreased seed quality and significantly less seed available to offset ginning costs. It is important for farmers to monitor modules for increases in temperature from high-moisture cotton that could lead to further reduced quality and ginning difficulties.

“It is absolutely critical to wait until these germinated seed completely dry out before harvesting these fields, says Collins. He says warm, sunny, dry weather can quickly dry sprouted seed, reducing moisture content and decreasing harvesting and ginning challenges.

Plentiful moisture late in the season may also stimulate regrowth in the top and possibly from the bottom of plants. Under these conditions, Collins urges growers to use defoliation products that will kill regrowth and prevent additional regrowth.​