A novel new way to achieve chemical-free defoliation of cotton is discussed. The research found that by severing the phloem tissue on the main stalk, via a girdling operation, the operation stimulated the cotton plant to alter its growth into an early senescence pathway that resulted in the plant shedding its leaves and opening up all its bolls, leaving the plant in the perfect state for machine harvesting. Even with follow-up rains, zero regrowth occurred in the treated plants, unlike the untreated control plots where significant regrowth did occur. This report compares the results of greenhouse and field trials where the girdling operation was performed by hand, flame, mechanical and via a CO2
laser to achieve phloem tissue severance. Design parameters for a prototype laser girdling system are also provided. Results suggest that for deficit irrigated cotton, girdling can provide an alternative means to defoliate cotton.
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