Early maturity, complete defoliation and boll opening are essential for the efficient machine harvesting of cotton. Chemical topping, involving one extra application of mepiquat chloride (MC) in addition to its traditional multiple-application strategy, may be able to replace manual topping. However, it is not known whether this chemical topping technique will influence maturity or cotton responses to harvest aids. In this 2-yr field study, we determined the effects of the timing of chemical topping using various rates of MC on boll opening percentage (BOP) before application of harvest aids (50% thidiazuron·ethephon suspension concentrate, referred to as TE), and the defoliation percentage (DP) and BOP 14 days after TE application. The results indicated that late chemical topping (near the physiological cutout, when the nodes above white flower is equal to 5.0) significantly decreased BOP before TE by 5.9–11.2% compared with early (at peak bloom) or middle (seven days after peak bloom) treatments in 2019, which was a relatively normal year based on crop condition. Also, a high MC rate (270 g ha–1) showed a significantly lower (22.0%) BOP before TE than low (90 g ha–1) or medium (180 g ha–1) rates. In 2020, which was characterized by stronger vegetative growth in the late season, the late chemical topping reduced the number of leaves before TE application relative to early or middle treatments, but had lower DP (23.2–27.2%) 14 days after TE application. The high MC rate showed a leaf count before TE application that was similar to the low and medium rates, but it showed the most leaves after TE and much lower (15.0–21.7%) DP in 2020. These results suggest that late timing of chemical topping and a high MC rate decreased the sensitivity of leaves to harvest aids. Further analysis indicated that the late chemical topping mainly affected the leaf drop from the mainstem and fruiting branches where the late regrowth occurred, and the high MC rate reduced leaf shedding from these parts and also from the vegetative branches. In conclusion, chemical topping with MC during the bloom period affected cotton maturity and responses to harvest aids in different ways according to the crop condition. To avoid the risks of delayed maturity and poor defoliation after the application of harvest aids, chemical topping should not be performed too late (i.e., near the physiological cutout) by using MC at more than 180 g ha–1. The optimum timing of chemical topping probably varies from peak bloom to around seven days later, and the safest MC rates for chemical topping should be less than 180 g ha–1.
Copyright © Journal of Integrative Agriculture
Sponsored by Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS)
Co-sponsored by China Association of Agricultural Science Societies (CAASS)
Publishing Service by Elsevier B.V.
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