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Branch development and leaf arrangement on the cotton plant is a complex process governed by both genetic and environmental factors. The accompanying drawing illustrates the various plant parts. The cotyledons are seed leaves and are exactly opposite one another and at the same height. New nodes develop above the cotyledons at a three-eighths of a turn difference in stem placement. This arrangement provides for minimal self shading of lower leaves as new nodes develop. By the fourth to eighth node fruiting, branches begin to develop.
Varieties vary slightly in node development, but most produce new nodes at the rate of one for every 50 DD60s
Both vegetative and fruiting branches produce a series of nodes. Vegetative branches are branches of the main stem and have a leaf associated with each new node. Fruiting branches are differentiated by each node terminating with a leaf and a fruiting position (square or boll attached to the fruiting branch by a short stem called a peduncle). Early nodes of vegetative branches have only leaves, but if the branch is well developed, fruiting branches can be initiated from them just like the main stem. Fruiting branches can grow from well-developed vegetative branches after several nodes. However, these fruiting branches are weak and generally produce only one fruiting position.
After cotton begins fruiting, most new branches will be fruiting branches. These branches will initially develop at a rate of approximately one every 50 DD60s, or one every 2.5 to 3 days during warm weather. As the season progresses and resources are diverted to bolls, it may take 5 to 10 days per new node. When cut-out occurs, new node development stops.
Monitoring the number of fruiting branches above a first position square (squaring nodes) is a good measure of vigor and may be related to yield. At first square, the value of this measurement is zero and increases to its maximum at first bloom. When a plant has eight or nine fruiting branches above a first position square this indicates normal growth. If lower than seven, yield may be reduced from premature cutout due to plant stressors. The most common type of stress would be lack of water.
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.
Click here to learn about square set and retention.