Damaged Cotton

Written By: Camp Hand, Assistant Professor and Extension Cotton Agronomist

I hope everyone fared well in the weather last night and is safe. At the end of the day, that is all that matters.

Just trying to get ahead of this, but there will likely be a good bit of hail damaged cotton across our state after the weather from last night. It seems like the hail may have been more concentrated in the SW part of Georgia based on pictures I have gotten so far, but I would be surprised if there were localized hail storms elsewhere. Here is a link to a blog post from Mississippi State on hail damaged cotton stands that I think is extremely helpful and mostly applies to our area as well: http://extension.msstate.edu/content/what-should-i-do-about-hail-damaged-cotton-stands. Please read this blog post before going on any calls about hail. A few more thoughts I have:

  1. First thing I would recommend doing is if your field was damaged by hail, call your crop insurance agent and make them aware.
  2. The second thing I would highly suggest doing is not making any rash decisions on a cotton crop today or tomorrow. In the next two days, make note of the fields that were damaged, make your crop insurance folks aware of those fields, then reevaluate them next week. The cotton will look terrible today and tomorrow, but within 5 to 10 days it should look better with a little warm weather and sunshine.
  3. At this point, being today is June 15 and it is far too wet to get in the field to do anything, I would have a very hard time recommending a grower replant cotton. If by next week the plant stand is so bad that they need to walk away from their cotton crop, we’ll have to get creative on what they should replant. Keep in mind residual herbicides that have been applied and future rotations.
  4. The Mississippi State blog post mentions their cutoff for remaining plant population being 20,000 plants – approximately 1.4 plants per foot (with the caveat that they are uniformly spaced). I think we can still make great cotton with fewer plants that that given that the stand is uniform. If you go on calls next week to evaluate final plant stands following hail, please pay great attention to skips and stand uniformity.
  5. One of my favorite lines in this blog post from Mississippi State is “If there is a doubt, keep it.” I would stick to that. Cotton is an amazing plant and given the right conditions, will recover.
  6. If fields were severely defoliated or later planted cotton had cotyledons/terminals removed from hail, it will take time for the plants to recover. Thus, in these situations, treat these fields like late planted cotton. More aggressive pix strategies (after the plant begins to recover), reduced N rates, etc. to hasten maturity in that crop.
  7. Last thought – there is no magical product that will bring cotton out of hail damage. Right now, the plants that are damaged probably don’t even have enough leaf area to take up foliar fed fertilizer or other foliar products that “stimulate plant growth”. All the cotton needs is warm weather, sunshine, and time. Purchasing and spraying any product that is alleged to encourage plant growth following a hail event will likely not result in a return, thus making it a waste of money and diesel fuel.