Can Cotton Harvest Wait?

Georgia growers push the seasonal envelope with late planted cotton.

Published on: Sep 7, 2011

As the last effective bloom period approaches for Georgia cotton, growers with late-planted cotton continue to pray for rain and now add late frost to the list.

Growers soon can get an idea of what yield to expect.

"The best way to determine yield potential of cotton planted beyond the recommended planting window is to wait until our last effective bloom date [Sept. 5-15 depending on fall weather and the date of first frost], and count harvestable bolls at that time," according to an article by University of Georgia Extension cotton specialists Guy Collins and Jared Whitaker in the Georgia Cotton Newsletter.

"The general rule of thumb for determining yield potential is 10 to 12 normal-size bolls per foot of row on 36-inch rows equals a bale per acre," the specialists report. "There is variability to this rule, due to differences in seed and boll size and gin turnout of the particular variety, the retention of these bolls - which will depend heavily  on  rainfall,  and  the  rate  of  development  and  size  of  these  bolls."

Yield expectations are not high for those acres. The recommended planting window for cotton in Georgia is June 15. Drought conditions on dryland acres pushed many growers beyond that window.

"Planting  beyond  our  recommended planting  window  requires  more  things  going  right  than  wrong,  and  generally  has  erratic, inconsistent,  and  unpredictable  results," Collins and Whitaker said. "Yield potential  will  likely  be  reduced  to  some  degree  depending  on  how  late  particular  fields  were actually planted, although the degree of reduced yield is likely going to be strongly correlated to the  amount  of  rainfall  that  occurs  which  may  enhance  earliness  in  these  fields."

Intense management, including irrigation, insect control and plant growth management where needed, can improve the yield of late planted cotton. What growers really need is perfect weather as the crop approaches harvest.

"Hopefully," the specialist said, "we  will experience fall conditions similar to that of 2010, when warm weather persisted without an early frost."

To read more about late season considerations in cotton, visit