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Natural FibresTextile Fibres

Cultivation of Cotton

Cotton is primarily grown in dry tropical and subtropical climates at temperature between 25-28 degree Celsius. It is warm climate crop. Excessive exposure to dryness or moisture deteriorate the quality as well as yield (Production).

Cotton seeds should be planted in well prepared moist soil with high nutrient supplying capacity. Ridges are made on the soil before sowing the cotton seeds. Planting period varies in different regions. In U.S., usually it is March or April. While in India it is from April to August. 

The seeds are planted 1-10 cm deep and in rows/ridges which are 1 m apart. If the soil is sufficiently warm and moist, germination and seedling development starts. 

Young plant pushes up through the surface of the soil in 8-12 days. If the soil is too dry, germination may not take place and if it is wet and cold, germination is slow and uncertain. The leaves and the stem of young plants are very tender (Young and Immature). Leaves then become dark olive green and the plants grow rapidly. 

Flowering generally starts one and half months to two months after the crop is planted. Blooming will continue regularly for several weeks, even months as long as growing conditions are suitable. Formation of cotton flower bud takes place in this period. 

The open flower of cotton plant is yellowish to white in colour on first day. It turns pink on second day. This flower lasts for day or so and on third day flower falls down. After disappearance of the flower, the inner part of the bloom gradually develops into fruit which is called as Cotton Boll. Cotton bolls keep growing till full size. It will take about two months between blooming and 1st day of opening the boll. 

The immature seeds thus formed, grow rapidly and large cotton boll mature in 40-50 days. Cotton. Cotton fibres grow inside the closed boll on the cotton seed. Each cotton seed may contain 20,000 fibres on its surface and a single boll may contain 1,50,000 fibres or more.
Cultivation of cotton
Photo Credit: cottonsjourney

Figure 1 Cultivation of cotton

When seeds are nearly ripe, the boll bursts and opens. The cotton hairs project (Come out/ Exposed) forming a white fluffy mass which is usually accommodated in four sections on the boll as shown in following figure.

Open Cotton Boll
Photo Credit: wikimedia

Figure: Open Cotton Boll
The fibres now complete their ripening, the cell contents gradually dry up leaving the commercial cotton fibre. The drying of the fibre takes place under the influence of sun, which produces curl or twist in fibre, called as Convolutions. This is very important characteristic of cotton fibre. Number of convolutions vary according to quality of cotton.

Sr. No.
No. of Convolutions/inch
1
Sea Island
300
2
Egyptian
230
3
American
190
4
Indian
150

The bolls are now ready for harvesting. Cotton fibres are picked from boll either by hand picking or by means of machines.
After the cotton has been gathered, the cotton fibres are separated from seed by a process called as Ginning. The fibres collected after ginning process contain fragments of seed coats, leaves, stem, other impurities, etc. Depending on the fibre quality, the ginned cotton is graded and pressed into bales and then transported to the spinning mill. 

Yield

The possibilities of improving any Cotton plant for a better production per acre are almost unlimited. Higher production for a constant area can be achieved by: (a) timely planting, (b) addition of soil, (c) utilization of healthy and better seed, (d) addition of fertilizer in appropriate time, (e) weed control, (by controlling insects by chemicals, (f) watering by irrigation, (g) defoliation and (h) timely harvesting of the cotton balls. The proper selection of land for best yield is another most important factor. 
The yield per acre in the world is approximately 320 kg. The yield per acre in India is only 170 kg.

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