Defoliation Options to Consider as Hurricanes Approach

As Hurricane Florence makes its way toward landfall along the North and South Carolina coasts, our thoughts and prayers go out to farmers in those areas who are bracing for the worst, yet hoping for the best.

And with each state’s cotton crop still in the fields this year, the question becomes what to do regarding defoliation. In a recent NC State Cotton blog, Extension Cotton Specialists Guy Collins and Keith Edmisten offered suggestions for growers to consider, depending on current crop maturity.


They do note, however, “There is no way to know the best approach with any certainty, until we know the full impact of the storm.”

Here’s a quick summary of some of their thoughts regarding defoliation timing in the face of the storm:

  • For cotton with mostly unopened bolls, wait until the storm passes before defoliating. Bolls that have not yet opened are relatively protected from the elements.
  • Cotton is likely to lodge and tangle in high winds, especially when closed bolls in the upper part of the plant make the plant top heavy. Defoliation after the storm can often help “stand the cotton back up” and help avoid boll rot in lodged cotton.
  • Regrowth is always a concern following significant rainfall. Heavy rains will delay the ability to re-enter fields and resume defoliating, and long delays could increase the amount of regrowth. Waiting until the storm passes will help address regrowth issues more effectively.
  • In cotton with open bolls, protecting lint from leaves may be difficult during heavy rain and wind, but older leaves may also offer some protection for opened bolls.

The entire blog, with additional explanation regarding defoliation options, can be found here.