Cotton farmers urged to hold off the defoliant as Isaac passes

MANILA, AR (KAIT) - Despite little rain in Manila, winds topped out over 30 miles per hour, curbing any thought of spraying defoliant.

That comes as good news to University of Arkansas Cotton Specialist Ray Benson.

Defoliant may be crucial to harvest, but the cotton needs cover during this unsettled weather.

"We've hinted around at people to slow down a little on defoliation and see what this system does. And one of the main reasons for that is we're still early. It's still in August. So there's no rush."

With Isaac looming on the horizon, cotton plants could better withstand heavy rain and wind with their leaves intact, providing protection for open and unopened bolls, alike.

There's a window to defoliate, so timing is everything.

Too late or too soon, and the door is opened for disease.

"Hard lock is more of a problem if we defoliate, and as they're trying to open, we get a heavy rain. Boll rot, if we wait too long to get the leaves off and let it get air into the canopy, we can increase that chance."

Benson says heavy rain can affect the fiber quality of cotton just as much as hot, dry weather, leading to a reduced price for the crop.

"The least amount of lint you can have exposed to rain, the better."

Isaac is just one obstacle farmers have overcome during this growing season.

It's been a non-stop war against plant bugs, at numbers five to six times the normal treatment level.

"The most common we have here is the tarnished plant bug. Feeds on the buds or squares, and it can cause those to abort. We've been at treatment level of the fields two, three, four weeks in a row. I mean, they've been very difficult to control this year."

Benson adds that despite the bug problem and exceptional lack of rain, most cotton should be out of the field by October.

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