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Cotton Seed Sprouting

The cloudy, rainy days that we have been seeing every day for the last two weeks are more than likely going to cause some quality and yield issues in our cotton crop.  One of those issues will be cotton seed sprouting in the boll.

Here is a picture sent to me yesterday by a local crop consultant.


Dr. Guy Collins, Extension Cotton Agronomist from NC State University, recently wrote a good article about this phenomenon. The entire article can be found at   Below are some important excerpts from his article regarding seed sprouting.

This is something that unfortunately is not surprising, given the unrelenting prolonged and excessively wet conditions that have occurred for approximately 10 days now. The warmer temperatures earlier this week likely contributed to this as well (in addition to the continuously wet conditions), and we are hoping that the development of this will slow down with cooler weather, however once it starts, it may not subside until sunny dry weather arrives. Seed sprouting can occur in any opened bolls under these conditions, but may be a little more severe in fields that have been defoliated where most or all bolls are opened, versus fields that have yet to be defoliated which likely have a few unopened bolls.

Seed sprouting can result in higher trash content, seed coat fragments, and lint discoloration due to staining. Additionally, if fields are harvested before sprouted seed dry down, this could lead to undesirable moisture in lint as well as additional discoloration.

In order to minimize problems, growers should watch fields closely and document the proportion of the crop that is affected. It is absolutely critical to wait until these germinated seed completely dry out before harvesting these fields.

Additionally, it is reasonable to expect that once these fields are harvested the moisture content of the harvested seedcotton will be higher than normal. It is important to monitor modules for increases in temperature which will lead to further quality concerns and ginning difficulties.

Lastly, if fields have already been defoliated, growers could apply a desiccant (such as paraquat or one of the PPO-inhibitor herbicidal defoliants) shortly before harvest to accelerate the drying process. Results could be inconsistent, but if this is the case, it is important to observe label restrictions regarding pre-harvest intervals.

If warm, dry conditions prevail, waiting a couple of days more before harvesting could provide the same result or outcome.


If you have any questions, contact your local county agent for more information.