Drought made it hard to grow cotton this year, but it is also making it hard to kill the cotton in preparation for wheat or other follow-up crops, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service specialist.

Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension state cotton specialist, said many producers in the Blacklands and Rolling Plains are looking at planting or have planted wheat into harvested or destroyed cotton fields, which could present some problems.

“As the cotton stalk-destruction deadline quickly approaches in East and Central Texas, numerous farmers have indicated cotton stalks are more difficult to control with both tillage and chemicals this season,” Morgan said.

“Cotton is a perennial plant that we grow as an annual crop,” he said. “This is never more obvious than when we are trying to kill the cotton plants and prevent host plants for the boll weevil.”

Morgan said factors contributing to increased difficulty with control of cotton stalks this year include:

  • Early harvested fields have more time to regrow following tillage or herbicide applications and prior to the first killing freeze.
  • Under moisture-stressed conditions, herbicide efficacy is reduced.
  • Residual nutrients that were not used by the cotton plant early in the season can encourage regrowth.

“Unfortunately, there is no ‘one recommendation fits all’ for killing cotton stalks, especially in a dry year with prolonged growing conditions following harvest,” he said. “However, there are some general management strategies that should be considered and have proven effective in the past.”

On the tillage front, pulling stalks has typically been quite effective, followed by other tillage methods, Morgan said. However, it is common to have a sufficient number of stalks still standing that require another tillage operation or herbicide application to meet the Texas Department of Agriculture stalk-destruction requirements.