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.
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 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

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
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
After the soil preparation is over, you can create uniform, planting rows by dragging a garden hoe in a straight line. Depending upon the size of the plantation site, you can finalize the number of rows. A space of about 30 inches should be left in between two rows, so as to give room to the developing cotton plants. Following this, water deeply in order to dampen the soil.

Planting Cotton Seeds
As cotton seeds require warm conditions for germination, you can check the soil temperature by using a thermometer. If the soil temperature is around 60 degree Fahrenheit at about 5 - 6 inches deep, then you can sow the cotton seeds. The seeds should be planted at about an inch deep in groups of three, leaving a space of 4 - 5 inches between them. Don't forget to cover the seeds properly with soil.

Care for the Cotton Plants
The cotton seeds will germinate within 6 - 10 days after plantation. There is no need for transplantation of cotton seedlings. As the plantlets emerge, water them lightly, but not frequently. In peak summer season, watering should be done once in 10 days or so. After two months of seed sowing, the flower buds will appear. The newly developed flower bud is often called a 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.