Cotton yield and fiber quality affected by row spacing and shading at different growth stages
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Carbohydrate production and reproductive structure development in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) depends on light availability, a determinant of cotton yield. Light availability is decreased by cloud cover or self-shading when cotton plants are grown in dense populations. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of shading during cotton growth and its interactions with plant row spacings on yield and fiber quality. Three independent experiments were conducted as follows: in Paranapanema (23 degrees 39'S; 48 degrees 58'W), cotton was planted in November in row spacings of 0.45, 0.75 and 0.96m; in Primavera do Leste (15 degrees 33'S; 54 degrees 11'W), planting was in January with at row spacings of 0.45 and 0.76 m; and in Chapaddo do Ceu (18 degrees 38'S; 52 degrees 40'W), cotton was planted in February in rows spaced at 0.45 and 0.90 m. Plants were exposed to shading during the phenological stages B1 (floral bud), F1 (early flowering), PF (peak flowering) and 3OB (fruit maturity). In addition, there was one treatment without shade. There were no interactions of crop spacing with shading. Increasing plant population and shading both decreased net photosynthetic rate. The number of bolls m(-2) increased with higher plant populations only when planting was delayed, and were not affected by shading. When cotton was planted in November and January, higher yields were obtained at 0.75/0.76 m, but when planting was delayed to February, 0.45 m resulted in higher yields with no effect on fiber quality. Shading for eight or ten days decreases boll weight and yields, but do not affect fiber quality. Cotton yield is the most decreased when shading occurs during flowering. These results may be used to build management strategies to minimize shading effects by adjusting cotton sowing time and plant density, by selecting cultivars with increased shade tolerance and by choosing an adequate irrigation period to improve yield. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.