Call it serendipitous, but the arrival of BASF's new Pentia plant regulator appears to be tailor-made for the more-vigorous, higher-yielding cotton varieties that have begun showing up in farmers' fields.

BASF, which received EPA registration for Pentia in late 2002, began working on its “next generation” plant regulator in the mid-1990s. Pentia contains a boron molecule in its active ingredient, mepiquat pentaborate, which significantly increases the absorption of Pentia by the cotton plant.

“As the market shifted to the new, more-vigorous germplasm, we saw an opportunity to bring out this new technology,” says Matt Plitt, BASF cotton market manager. “We believe Pentia is particularly effective on today's high-performing robust cotton varieties.”

Following EPA's approval of Pentia, state registrations have been received for Pentia in all of the cotton-producing states with the exception of California.

The registrations have arrived in time for a use season that has been described as anything but normal. Heavy rains have delayed planting and forced replanting in the many parts of the Cotton Belt while near-drought conditions have prevailed in others.

BASF technical representatives say their tests have shown that Pentia provides stronger, more-pronounced results than mepiquat chloride, the active ingredient in Pix, BASF's first-generation plant growth regulator.

“The most impressive benefit has been the faster uptake of Pentia,” says Chandler Mazour, technical market manager for BASF. “According to our trials, Pentia is absorbed by the plant 25 percent faster than mepiquat chloride over a six-hour period and almost 23 percent faster over a 24-hour timeframe.”

Mazour said the faster uptake results in improved vegetative growth suppression, better early boll retention, earlier maturity and maximized yield potential.

“Pentia is very different in that it has no chloride component,” he said. “The chloride part of the active ingredient has been replaced with five borons, which is something the plant can use.

“In our trials, we've been seeing earlier-maturing cotton; in some cases, five to 10 days earlier. That could be important this year when you consider how late the crop may be because of the adverse weather conditions this spring.”

In 46 head-to-head comparisons in 2002, he said, Pentia-treated cotton produced an average of 3.6 percent more lint than cotton treated with plant growth regulators containing mepiquat chloride. In one set of trials at the Memphis, Tenn., AgriCenter, a 1x rate of Pentia produced 262 more pounds of lint that a 1x rate of mepiquat chloride.

Tests with Pentia also indicated a 4 percent reduction in plant height over 21 head-to-head trials, 14 percent higher retention of first- and second-position bolls in 24 comparisons, and 12 percent more open bolls per plant in 33 trials. “Pentia produces highly visible results,” said Mazour. “You can really see the difference in yield.”

BASF is recommending that growers make the first Pentia application at matchhead square. Subsequent applications should be based on weather and plant growth. BASF recommends growers measure the latter with the Pentia Stik, which is available from BASF dealers.

For now, BASF's recommendations do not differ between the older and the newer, more vigorously growing varieties, according to Mazour.

“We are evaluating whether or not there is a need for different timing recommendations based on the newer varieties this summer, and we will incorporate our findings in our recommendations for 2004,” he notes.