Stripped Down: Three Steps to a Profitable Harvest

Maximize harvest of those bolls that were on the bottom or the middle of the plant — what Bayer Senior Technical Representative Russ Perkins calls the heart of the plant. Those first-position bolls are the ones that pay the most.

The road from planting to defoliation is truly grueling. But you made it here again. It’s essential now to maintain focus on quality and yield. Here are three steps you can take to preserve fiber quality and yield:

Be timely.

There’s an art to deciding when to defoliate. Go too soon, you leave behind yield. Go too late, you lose yield and quality deteriorates. Bayer Agronomist Craig Bednarz knows the thin wire growers walk as they weigh the decision on when to defoliate.

“We need to be careful that we don’t go too early,” Bednarz says. “It takes good products to maximize quality, but it also takes time,” Bednarz says.

The weather forecast is an essential decision aid, points out Gary Schwarzlose, Bayer senior technical service representative. Cotton crops move into harvest just as hurricane season moves into the Cotton Belt. “Know what the weather conditions are when you’re making that application,” Schwarzlose says.

Use products efficiently.

You have a lot of bolls riding on these decisions; make your harvest-aid decision based on performance.

“A good harvest-aid program dovetails right in with fiber quality and yield at the end of the season,” says Russ Perkins, Bayer senior technical representative.

Bayer Agronomist Heath Reeves stresses the importance of using the right product, at the right rate, at the right time.

“You’ve gone the entire year putting forth maximum effort on this crop. We don’t need to let up now,” Reeves says. “Make sure you put out the best material you can to prevent sticking leaves and maintain the quality of your crop. It will pay off because you’ll get better leaf grades and better color grades.”

Yield expectations and environmental conditions factor into which products and which rates will optimize harvest in a given field.

“Our biggest thing is making sure that we understand the varieties that we’re going after and making sure our mixes are not so hot that we shut down the plant,” Schwarzlose says.

Particularly with new varieties, Schwarzlose suggests growers lean on the regional expertise available from their Bayer Technical Service Representatives.

“It’s that knowledge of what’s going on with harvest aids in individual territories that makes a program work,” Schwarzlose says. “We need to apply the right mix at the right time and understand how different varieties react to the same mix.”

That said, the products proven to maximize yield and optimize quality are Finish® Pro 6, the only hormonal defoliant and boll-opener premix, and Ginstar® defoliant.

The advantages of Finish Pro 6 are:

  • Open bolls faster. Opens bolls fast without the harsh side effect of desiccants and PPO-type defoliants.
  • Preserves quality. Faster opening reduces the amount of time lint is vulnerable to damage from wind and weather, preserving fiber quality and protecting profits.
  • Reduced risk. Faster, more gentle opening reduces the risk of leaf grade and color discounts.

Ginstar defoliant is designed to deliver a clean, consistent drop of foliage with no leaf stick, leading to higher-value cotton and improved profit potential. The advantages of Ginstar include:

  • Superior regrowth control. Regrowth is controlled regardless of the conditions, such as the cooler temperatures of the Texas High Plains region and the arid conditions of the West.
  • Cleaner cotton. Removes mature leaves, drops juvenile growth and sheds immature squares, reduces trash and staining, and preserves lint quality
  • Tankmix options. Use alone or tankmix with Finish Pro 6 harvest aid to pick cotton faster.

A PPO can be considered for a second application, if such is needed. But a PPO is not recommended as the first treatment. “Once you stick a leaf with a PPO, it’s not coming off,” Reeves says. “A PPO has a time and a place; make sure you use it at the right time and in the right place.”

“If you go with a product that doesn’t open all those bolls - or only drops those leaves 50%, it’s ultimately going to cost you more,” Perkins says. “A good harvest aid shot on the front end will certainly pay benefits on the back side.”

Harvest when the bolls open.

Part of the first step was to schedule defoliation according to your harvester’s capacity. Don’t leave those open bolls hanging around in the field.

“Harvest losses can occur from weathering and also from trying to get cotton in before bad weather hits,” Bednarz says. “Leaving the bolls open in the field can cause yield loses and reduce quality. Harvesting a field too soon after harvest aid applications can create opportunity for deducts from high leaf grade.

Rely on your experience in the art of harvest aids to bring you around the storm and into the gin.

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