The Perfect Step-by-step Guide on How to Grow Cotton

How to Grow Cotton
Cotton plant requires warm climatic conditions, rich soil, and timely watering for getting a good harvest. In the flowering stage, care should be taken to avoid infestation by destructive pests.
Gardenerdy Staff
Last Updated: Jul 17, 2018
White ripe cotton crop plants
Cotton plant is a shrub of the family Malvaceae, scientifically known by the genus name Gossypium. It grows up to a height of about 10 feet and has three to five-lobed leaves.
Cotton field
Cotton fibers of different colors such as white, brown, and green are available for cultivation. However, cotton plants of white-colored fibers are mostly grown, so as to avoid mixing of genetic components. In fact, growing colored cotton plants is banned in many countries.
Commercial Plantation of Cotton
Cotton plants rows in field
We all are aware about the importance of cotton in the textile and health care industries. Mass scale plantation of cotton plants is done for their fibers, which are present around the seeds in a structure, commonly referred to as a boll.
Two types of fibers are extracted from the cotton plant - the long fiber and the short fiber. Ginning method is used to extract cotton fibers for commercial use. The long fibers, also called staples, are removed in the first round of ginning; whereas the short fibers or linters are extracted in the second ginning process.
Tips on How to Grow Cotton
The prerequisites for planting this shrub are warm climate, well-drained soil, and accessibility to irrigation water. If these basic requirements are provided, growing cotton is no different from other plants.
Though cotton can be grown either by using seeds or plantlets, seed plantation is less expensive and commonly practiced. Whatever be the type of planting material, it is necessary to prepare the soil around late February or early March for growing cotton. If you are planning for small-scale growing of cotton, the following gardening tips will interest you.
Selecting the Cultivar
For any gardening project, careful selection of the cultivar is crucial for growing healthy plants. The same is applicable when it comes to finalizing the cotton varieties.
Some commercially planted cotton varieties are upland cotton, extra-long staple cotton, Levant cotton, and tree cotton. What you can do is, find out the cotton types suited in your area, and choose a variety that calls for least maintenance.
Ideal Soil Condition
Farmer Cultivating The Land
Cotton plant cannot tolerate waterlogged soil, or in other words, the planting soil shouldn't have drainage problems. It should be tilled at least 2 inches deep in order to avoid unwanted weeds.
For enriching the soil with plant nutrients, you can add farmyard compost, humus, or a combination of both. Make sure to add adequate amounts of supplements (about an inch) and till again to mix with soil.
Make Planting Rows
tractor in farm
After soil preparation, create uniform planting rows by dragging a garden hoe in a straight line. As per size of the plantation site, you can decide the number of rows. 30 inches space between two rows, helps the cotton plants to develop. Water deeply to dampen the soil.
Planting Cotton Seeds
Sowing seed
Cotton seeds need warm conditions to germinate. Check the soil temperature with a thermometer. If it is around 60°F at 5 - 6 inches deep, sow the cotton seeds at an inch deep in groups of three, with space of 4 - 5 inches between them, covering properly.
Care for the Cotton Plants
watering in Cotton farm
Cotton seeds will germinate 6 - 10 days after plantation. Transplanting cotton seedlings is not needed. As plantlets emerge, water them lightly, not frequently. In peak summer, water once in 10 days. Two months after seed sowing, the flower buds will appear, often called square.
Control Pest and Diseases
This is the stage when the cotton plants are highly susceptible to thrips and boll weevils. The plants should be examined carefully; you can use proper pesticides (if necessary) in order to control pest attacks.
Within three weeks, the square develops into a pinkish or yellowish bloom that withers after two days. As the petals fall away, you can notice the tiny boll in the center of the receptacle.
In the fall, the cotton bolls will mature and turn brown. At the same time, the foliage dries out and drops. The fibers inside the boll will continue to expand, until it splits open. In this stage, you can notice the fluffy cotton fibers bursting out of the boll, which indicates that the bolls are ready for harvesting.
For small plantation, harvesting of the ripe cotton bolls is done manually, while a picker or stripper machine is used for harvesting cotton cultivated over a large area.