Cotton Cultivation; Planting, Harvesting Guide

Cotton Cultivation Guide:

Today, we detail cotton cultivation practices, farming methods, planting methods, and harvesting techniques.

Introduction to Cotton:- Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective case, round the seeds of the cotton plants of the genus Gossypium in the mallow family Malvaceae. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. Cotton is popularly known as a cash crop. Cotton is being cultivated on a commercial scale in most of Asia countries. China is the top producer of cotton in the world.

The plant is a shrub native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including the Americas, Africa, and India. The greatest diversity of wild cotton species is located in Mexico, followed by Australia and Africa. One can obtain excellent profits in commercial cotton cultivation under ideal crop management practices. Cotton can be grown organically also organic cotton cultivation is picking up at an extremely fast rate. When it comes to the Indian scenario, cotton, the most important fiber crop of India plays a dominant role in its agrarian and industrial market. It is the backbone of the textile industry, accounting for 70 percent of total fiber consumption in the textile sector, and 38 percent of the country’s export.

Scientific Name/Botanical Name of Cotton:- Gossypium.

Family Name of  Cotton:- Malvaceae.

World Top 10 Countries of Cotton Producers:- The following countries are top 10 producers of cotton.

  1. China
  2. India
  3. United States
  4. Pakistan
  5. Brazil
  6. Uzbekistan
  7. Turkey
  8. Australia
  9. Turkmenistan
  10. Mexico.

Varieties / Types (Cultivars) of Cotton:- The Popular cotton species cultivated across the world are:

  1. Gossypium hirsutum: Upland Cotton which accounts for at least 90 percent of world cotton production and gives typically high-quality cotton with high strength and elasticity.
  2. Gossypium herbaceum: Herbaceous cotton which is native to Pakistan, India and to some areas of Africa.
  3. Gossypium barbadense: This type is cultivated in Egypt, Sudan, USA, Brazil, and Peru.
  4. Gossypium arboreum: The cotton tree which is native to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and India. It is not widely cultivated since it generally gives short fibers of inferior quality.

There are many hybrids and improved cotton varieties are available under above species. Contact the local department of agriculture for best high yielding and disease resistant variety.

Climate Requirement for Cotton Production:- Cotton can be grown both in tropical and sub-tropical warm humid climates. Cotton crop thrives best in warm and moist climatic conditions where summer is long and where there is salinity in the soil. The optimal temperature for cotton growing is 24°C. Higher temperatures will injure the crop and result in poor yields. The ideal rainfall of 60 to 100 cm is required for cotton cultivation of cotton. In areas where low rainfall is recorded, cotton is grown under irrigated conditions.

Soil Requirement for Cotton Production:- Cotton can be cultivated in a wide range of soils. These soil may include the red-brown, yellow-brown, grey-brown and black types. However, loamy soil mixed with lime and potash is good for cotton cultivation and it grows well in Black Cotton Soil which is sticky in nature and has water retentive property. Cotton grows best in soil with a pH between 5.8 to 8.0. It is advisable to plant cotton on flat lands in which the soil is heavy and free draining since cotton doesn’t withstand water-logging.

Propagation for Cotton Crop:- Propagation of cotton crop is done by seeds.

Cotton Seeds.
Cotton Seeds.

Land Preparation for Cotton Production:- The land preparation should be done in the dry season well in advance of the planting of cotton crop in order to allow for weathering. The land which has not been cultivated for many years needs to be cleared of trees, bush, and significant vegetation. The roots of trees and bush need to be dug out, as these will cause severe problems for land cultivation equipment. You can harrow the field in two directions, or Disc Plow.

Seed Treatment for Cotton Production:- Cottonseed treatment of fungicides should be given @ 3 grams/1 kg of cottonseed. For seed treatment, a paste of fungicides / bio-fertilizer ought to be ready sufficient thick, which protect both the seeds and those seeds should be dried in shade  After fully dried seeds should be used for sowing.

Sowing and Spacing of Cotton Plants:- The cottonseed is one of the most important parameters at a great yield. Only certified seeds should be chosen, while seeds older than two years should be avoided.

Cotton seeds are sown directly in the field with special sowing machines. These machines open tiny trenches for the seeds, drop the seeds inside at certain distances between them and then cover lightly with soil. In most cases, those machines also fall a predefined quantity of fertilizer granules between the seeds. When it comes to seed rate, 25 to 30 kg of seed will fulfill the requirement of 1-acre cultivation. The seed rate may depend on cultivation methods and variety.

The preferred sowing depth of the cottonseed is about 4 to 5 cm. We leave an average distance of 3 ft between rows, in order to facilitate the mechanical harvest. In the sowing line, we sow the seeds leaving an average distance of 3 inches between them. On average, it takes around 90,000 to100,000 plants per hectare or 1 acre of land can accommodate around 40,000 plants.

The spacing of cotton plants varies for the variety of seed, irrigated and rainfed crops.

Irrigation requirement for Cotton Crop:- In the event of cotton germination, square initiation, flowering and boll formation and boll growth will be the critical phases for irrigation. The irrigated cotton harvest is largely sown following preliminary irrigation and next, the light watering is given in three or four days following germination. Subsequent watering is contingent on the character of the soil and the weather conditions. Flowering and boll formation would be the critical phases from the point of view of irrigation. The summer-sown harvest becomes regular irrigations at intervals of 8-12 days. The skip-row method ought to be followed if there is less availability of water. For the first interval of irrigation water ought to be applied in first, third, fifth row and next interval water ought to be applied in a second, fourth and sixth row.

Pollination of Cotton Plants:- Some cotton plants are self-fertile and self-pollinating, while some need pollinators. Theoretically, the typical self-pollinating cotton plant doesn’t require bees in order to pollinate and produce fiber or seeds. But, it has been estimated that the visits of bees to most cotton plants (self-fertile or not) increase final fiber production by at least 10% in weight, while the quantity of seed production also increases. Each cotton plant could only be pollinated on average for only one day, the day once the blossom is open.

Intercultural Operations of Cotton Crop:- As we know weeds compete with fertilizers/nutrients/water and can reduce the yield. Hence good weed control is important for successful cotton cultivation.

Weed control: Weeds can be controlled in three ways.

  • Weeds can be controlled manually by hand pulling or weeding
  • Mechanically by utilizing inter-row cultivators, molding discs and spring tynes.
  • Chemical control with herbicides.

Thinning: In the case of irrigated cotton at the time of dibbling 3 to 4 cotton seeds should be sown dibbled. The thinning operation should be carried out after 2 to 3 weeks of sowing by keeping only two healthy plants at each hill.

Gap Filling: If you find any seeds that are not germinating even after 1 week of sowing, gap filling should be carried out by planting healthy cotton plants. You can also fill the gaps during thinning.

Intercropping: Farmers can get additional income cultivating intercrops during initial days of planting. During the initial phase, the growth speed of cotton is slow. So it is beneficial to take short duration intercrops. Mainly brief duration cereals like black gram, green gram and soybean are suitable. Intercropping is accepted as 2:1 proportion. That is just two rows of cotton plus one row of intercrop.

Removing Leaves in Cotton Cultivation: In deep black cotton soil due to chemical fertilizer and irrigation, there is excessive vegetative growth. In the event of irrigated hybrid cotton due to this, there is less boll growth and also branches may break due to the weight of bolls. Hence after 75 to 80 days eliminated a growing point of the main division is done and leaves of lower branches may be removed alternatively. Due to this, there is aeration and bolls not rotten and less incidence of insect and diseases of cotton.

Growth Regulators: To avoid shedding of square, blossom, and bolls of cotton spraying of naphthalic acetic acid at the rate of 1 ml in 4.5-liter soft water needs to be done in the time of square formation. Secondly, spraying ought to be carried out 2 to 3 weeks after first spraying.

Manures and Fertilizers of Cotton Crop:- The fertilizer required for irrigated cotton is 100:50:50kg nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash per hectare is suggested. The application of nitrogen is given by ring process. 20% nitrogen and entire phosphorus and potash ought to be given in the time of sowing and 40% nitrogen in the time of square formation and final 40% nitrogen in the time of flowering. In the event of rainfed cotton fertilizer dose for Indian variety is 50:50:25 kg nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash per hectare. For hybrid varieties, fertilizer dose is 80:40:40 kg nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash per hectare. 1/4th nitrogen and entire phosphorus and potash are given in the time of sowing while 1/2 nitrogen is given 4 months after sowing and remaining 1/4 nitrogen are given through spraying.

Pests and Diseases of Cotton Crop:- Controlling pests and diseases in cotton cultivation is the utmost priority for getting high yields and quality cotton.

  • Pests: American Bollworm, Red cotton bug, Cotton leaf roller, and Jassid and aphids are some common pests found in cotton cultivation. Contact the local department of agriculture for symptoms and control measures of the cotton crop.
  • Diseases: Anthracnose, Leaf spots, and Powdery mildew are common diseases found in the cotton field. Department of agriculture or any Agriculture technical officer is your point of contact for controlling these diseases.

Note: Your local department of horticulture is a good source of finding information about pests and diseases in Cotton Cultivation. Don’t experiment on your own without knowing the symptoms and causes.

Harvesting of Cotton Crop:- Usually cotton matures in 6 to 8 months after it is sown. However, it depends on the variety. Cotton is harvested by picking the fully opened bolls. First picking of cotton should be done when 30-35% bolls open fully. In the time of picking first pick clean cotton after which affected cotton. It should be picked individually of different varieties. Second picking ought to be done 2 to 3 weeks after first picking. After picking it should be dried for 4 days in the sun with due care. Cotton should be stored in a clean and dry location.

The yield of Cotton:- Yield of the crop depends on many factors such as variety, irrigation, climate, pest control, soil type, and other crop management practices. The yield varies in both rainfed and irrigated crop.

In the case of the rainfed crop:

  • Indian local varieties may yield 9 to 10 quintal/hectare.
  • American variety may yield: 11 to 12 quintals/hectare
  • Hybrid varieties may yield 13 to 15 quintal/hectare.

In the case of the Irrigated crop:

  • Hybrid varieties may yield 28 to 30 quintals/hectare.
  • Improved varieties- 20 to 25 quintals/hectare.

Marketing of Cotton:- You can transport freshly harvested cotton to local markets or spinning mills.

Read: How to Build an NFT Hydroponic System.


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