Plant protection unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) consist of light and small UAVs with pesticide spraying equipment. The advantage of UAVs is using low-volume spray technology to replace the traditional large-volume mass locomotive spray technology. Defoliant spraying is a key link in the mechanized cotton harvest, as sufficient and uniform spraying can improve the defoliation quality and decrease the cotton trash content. However, cotton is planted at high density in Xinjiang, with leaves in two adjacent rows seriously overlapped, making the lower leaves poorly sprayed. Thus, the defoliation effect is poor, and the cotton quality is degraded. To improve the effect of defoliation and reduce the losses caused by boom sprayer rolling, the effect of defoliant dosage on defoliation, boll opening, absorption and decontamination in cotton leaves and the effect of spraying volume on absorption and decontamination in cotton leaves sprayed by UAVs are studied. The pooled results indicate that plant protection UAVs could be used for cotton defoliants spraying with a twice defoliant spraying strategy, and the defoliant dosage has no significant effect on seed cotton yield and fiber quality in Xinjiang. The residue of thidiazuron in cotton leaves reaches the maximum at four days after spraying, the residue of diuron in cotton leaves reaches the maximum at one day after second spraying. The thidiazuron and diuron residues are increased with spraying volume at rang of 17.6–29.0 L/ha. When the spraying volume is less than 17.6 L/ha, the residue of thidiazuron and diuron is reduced. The research results could provide a reference for further optimization of the spraying parameters of cotton defoliant by plant protection UAVs.
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