Fruit Shed: Determine the Cause (Collins, Edmisten, & Reisig)

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Many areas of NC have been impacted recently by severe heat and drought. As we’ve stated many times, when temperatures reach the high 90’s, soil moisture is depleted in as little as a couple of days. As I write this at 4:45 p.m. on August 15th, rains have thankfully returned to many of these drought-stricken areas. The forecast for the remainder of the day is very positive for more rainfall across most of the state. Let’s hope that comes to fruition.

Due to recent drought stress, many fields have reached cutout, as blooms can be seen across the top of plants across most areas we’ve visited. Depending on this rain, and subsequent rains, the crop could come out of cutout and continue to set fruit, at least temporarily. However, it can be expected that the crop will shed a lot of recent fruit. Many of these fruit could be squares, but upon closer observation, you will see that a lot of them are actually small bolls that recently bloomed. This is a result of the physiological process that enables cotton to recover from periodic stress.

If this is observed, it will be important to know whether the fruit shed is a product of recent drought stress, in which the shedding is often triggered by a recent rain, or if it is the result of insect damage. The plant has already decided which fruit to abort, the rain brings the moisture to facilitate the final step of the abortion process.

Check both squares and bolls on the ground. Both squares and bolls with a visible round hole were almost certainly shed due to bollworm feeding. Bolls without a visible hole were likely shed due to physiological stress. Check squares without a visible hole by dissecting them with a razor. Squares that have not desiccated uniformly and have one or more internal feeding punctures were probably shed from tarnished plant bug feeding. Those that desiccated uniformly without punctures were likely shed due to physiological stress.