The growth regulator mepiquat chloride (MC) is used in cotton production across the globe to control plant growth and maximize yield and quality of cotton. With the conversion from hand picking to mechanical harvesting in China, plant densities are increased, and more compact plants are required, leading to the need to reconsider MC application schedules. Experiments were carried out in 2009 and 2010 to identify optimal use schedules of MC at four plant densities: 3.0, 4.5, 6.0 and 7.5 plants m-2. Eleven MC schedules were compared with respect to their effect on cotton yield and quality. Application of MC at squaring stage or at both squaring and flowering stages significantly improved cotton quality parameters: fiber length (by 1.7%) and fiber strength (by 2.8%) at all tested plant densities without significant loss of yields. However, average lint yield of all MC treatments over all densities and years was decreased by 4.6% due to a decrease in boll density and lint percentage which was only partly offset by an increase in boll weight. No effects on yield were also observed if MC applications were started at flowering stage, but such later starting application schedules only slightly improved fiber quality. The results suggest that use of MC at squaring or at both squaring and flowering stages is a viable strategy to improve cotton architecture, productivity and quality at high plant density in mechanized cotton production in the Yellow River cotton growing region in China.
- irrigated cotton
- leaf senescence