Adding a few pennies for premium on top of standard price can quickly turn a break-even crop into a profitable season. Earning a 5-cent premium on top of a 62-cent-per-pound price is like adding 8 percent to yield per acre — without adding any cost for harvest or ginning.

What does that mean for Southeast growers? It requires they follow the first harvest mantra: harvest on time.

Defoliate at 60 to 70 percent open boll, say Steve Brown, Ph.D., and Russell Nuti, Ph.D., PhytoGen cotton development specialists.

“We really shouldn’t wait on the top crop to open,” Brown says. “We can defoliate earlier — four nodes above cracked boll, or 4NACB — and still maximize weight and quality.”

Brown recommends three ways to determine when to defoliate:

  1. When the last expected, harvestable boll is hard, speckled and difficult to cut
  2. When the crop is 60 to 70 percent open, assuming a fairly uniform fruit set
  3. When remaining bolls are only four to five nodes above a cracked first position boll

Of course, the path to a premium starts with variety selection. Cotton varieties such as PhytoGen® brand PHY 444 WRF offer exceptional fiber quality. PHY 444 WRF brings new levels of fiber length, strength and consistently lower micronaire to the Upland market.