High-Fructose Corn Syrup as a Replacement for Mepiquat to Reduce Vegetative Growth in Cotton
Plant growth regulators are applied to cotton to reduce the vegetative growth of the cotton and encourage greater growth of the bolls. Reducing plant vegetative growth can increase yield and decrease the occurrence of some diseases and difficulties in harvesting. The common product used is Pix (mepiquat chloride). This product is expensive, and can cause reductions in yield during extremely dry seasons.
Several organic growers have started to use high fructose corn syrup, or other sugar products, to replace Pix. These products are less toxic, and less expensive. However, little experimentation has been done to document the effectiveness of sugar syrup as a cotton plant growth regulator. If this alternative to Pix proves useful, sustainability of farms would be increased by reduction in the cost of production.
In 1996, the producer received a producer grant to fund research into alternatives to conventional chemicals in the peanut and cotton rotation, including the use of fructose as a cotton growth regulator. As a result of this producer grant, three of the participating farmers will eliminate the use of in-furrow insecticides on their peanuts this year, and approximately 10 producers not associated with the original grant will test eliminating the in-furrow insecticide. However, the results of the test of high-fructose corn syrup were mixed. The producer thought that the high-fructose corn syrup would work better if applied earlier, and with more frequent, smaller applications.
In this project the producer performed careful application of high-fructose corn syrup and designed the research to answer questions that he left unanswered in his earlier research. He coordinated the use of the high-fructose corn syrup on five farms, side by side with pix and an untreated check.
The high fructose corn syrup was successful in reducing vegetative growth. However, the results comparing it with mepiquat chloride and a control were too variable to be reliable and the high fructose corn syrup was never as successful as mepiquat chloride. Still, the results were interesting enough that the growers will try the application of high-fructose corn syrup again.