Submitted to: World Cotton Research Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/14/2007
Publication Date: 7/18/2008
Citation: Funk, P.A. 2008. Alternative cotton harvest preparation. In: Proceedings of the World Cotton Research Conference, September 9-15, 2007, Lubbock, Texas. 2007 CDROM. Interpretive Summary: This paper summarizes results from five years experimentation in three states showing that preparing cotton for harvest with heat does not damage the fiber compared to the conventional practice of preparing for harvest with chemical defoliants. It collects and presents major research findings from twelve recent publications that show heat treatment has several advantages over conventional chemical defoliation; harvest can commence immediately, insects responsible for stickiness are terminated, and treatment can take place on windy days or when rain or cold weather is expected.
Technical Abstract: Organic production practices, urban encroachment and the presence of certain protected crops on adjacent fields presently restrict the use of defoliant chemicals in some cotton acreage. New legislation or stricter interpretation of existing environmental regulations may greatly increase the amount of cotton acreage where organophosphate defoliants are prohibited. The US cotton industry is preparing to meet this possible challenge by developing crop termination technology that uses heat instead of chemicals. An experimental thermal defoliator was operated in California, New Mexico and Texas in 2002. A larger prototype unit was used from 2003 to 2006 for extensive trials in a variety of field conditions and cultivars. This paper summarizes physiological studies showing the efficacy of thermal defoliation and its impact on yield and harvest timing, fiber quality studies indicating no damage to lint value and entomological studies demonstrating reduced late season pest populations.