Cotton Leaf Grade as Influenced by Harvest Aid Regimes and Cultivar Characteristics
Cotton, Gossypium hirsutum L., leaf grade values can significantly increase with remnants of leaf and bract materials, and can result in increased ginning costs and discounts to the producer. Cotton classed through the USDA-AMS Classing Office in Corpus Christi, Texas has reported increases in leaf grade values beginning in 2000 (USDA, 2012). The impacts of the interaction of agronomic characteristics of cotton cultivars with those of various harvest aid regimes were studied over three growing seasons, and data were used to narrow possible contributors to the observed increased leaf grade values. Multiple trials were conducted throughout the Coastal Bend and Blackland Prairie of Texas, in addition to Tifton, Georgia. Cotton was harvested, lint samples were ginned in a microgin, and lint quality was quantified with HVI. Harvest aid regimes selected provided a broad range of defoliation and desiccation, from a multiple herbicidal and hormonal modes-of-action. Defoliation levels ranged from 0 to 96% and desiccation levels ranged from 0 to 90%. Harvest aid treatments had no impact (P?0.05) on leaf grade values for either of the years of the trials. Multiple trials were conducted in five counties in Texas, including the Lower and Upper Coastal Bend and the Blackland Prairie, and were defoliated with a uniform harvest aid treatment to identify leaf and bract morphological differences, and to determine their role in leaf grade. Multi-acre module trials were conducted with a smooth leaf cultivar and a hairy leaf cultivar to obtain leaf grade values following commercial ginning. Leaf and bract pubescence, and leaf and bract area were collected to analyze the resulting impact on cotton leaf grade values. Visual quantification of leaf and bract trichome density was quantified on 10 youngest fully-expanded leaves and 10 mid-canopy full sized bolls, respectively, when cotton was at physiological cut-out. Trichome density quantification indicated substantial variation in cultivars and discrepancies from company based rating systems. Leaf grades values generally increased with increasing trichomes densities, although not always statistically significant. In the split plot cultivar and harvest aid trial, harvest aid efficacy was similar for each of the cultivars, but cultivar trichome density was positively influence the cotton leaf grade value.