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Removing Last Year’s Surviving Cotton from this Year’s Crop

I have had many questions about how to kill last year’s cotton that is sprouting from stalk stubs (Figure 1). As you are all aware, we did not have a cold winter and for that reason last year’s cotton stalks that were not pulled or destroyed survived and are doing quite well. This has turned into a BIG problem.

Figure 1.

There is no great solution for getting rid of these surviving stalks once a “new” cotton crop is planted. The root system from the stalks (Figure 2) is tremendous enhancing survival ability as well as there are limited cotton herbicide options available for control.

Figure 2.

Below are herbicides listed in order of their performance; however, options 2-4 are usually only effective on cotton emerging from seed and not stalks:

  1. Dicamba or 2,4-D (non-tolerant only)
  2. Gramoxone
  3. Liberty (non-tolerant only)
  4. Aim

ExtendiMax or Enlist Duo herbicides are options, but you have to know what cotton variety you are trying to kill and which variety you will be planting or have planted. These existing stalks are much harder to kill than seeded cotton plants.

Tillage is another option that may have to be considered and is likely the most effective solution.

Hopefully, upcoming winters will be cold enough to kill the previous year’s cotton crop. However, in the future all cotton growers may have to incorporate a plan into their operation for destroying cotton stalks after the cotton is harvested – whether it be pulling/shredding or disking – it will have to be more than just mowing.