White-tailed Deer Damage to Cotton in Alabama

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) damage to cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) was evaluated during 2 growing seasons in east-central Alabama. Deer began browsing cotton as soon as cotyledons emerged, and all plant parts were browsed during the growing season. Browsing of cotton cotyledons may kill plants and will reduce yields if it is extensive. However, browsing on cotyledons was rare in this study. Most feeding was done on cotton leaves, and occurred too late to reduce yields. Similarly, square and terminal removal after August and small boll removal after September occurred too late to impact harvestable yields. The most serious damage to cotton occurred when deer fed upon small squares and associated terminals in July and August and on small and medium (<27 days of age) bolls in August and September. Although deer browsing of cotton often was visually striking during this study, seed cotton yields were reduced (P < 0.05) only on the edges of lowland fields and large fields. Although whitetailed deer damage to cotton did not justify special depredation permits, some small, lowland fields were heavily damaged and were removed from cotton production.

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