Growing Cotton - Know
How to Grow Organic Cotton Successfully
successfully needs the right conditions. See how to grow cotton, the
right soil conditions, climate and cultivation methods for successful
GROWING COTTON - THE RIGHT
TYPE OF SOIL
Almost any well-drained soil will produce cotton. The following kinds
of soil are admirably suited to this plant: red and gray loams with
good clay subsoil; sandy soils over clay and sandstone and limestone;
rich, well-drained bottom-lands. The safest soils are medium loams.
Cotton land must always be well drained.
GROWING COTTON - THE RIGHT
Cotton was originally a tropical plant, but, strange to say, it seems
to thrive best in temperate zones. The cotton plant does best in
climates which have (1) six months of freedom
from frost; (2) a moderate, well-distributed rainfall during the
plant's growing period (moderate rainfall, usually from 600 to 1200 mm
(24 to 48 inches); and (3) abundant sunshine and little rain during the
plant's maturing period.
GROWING COTTON - PREPARING THE LAND
The cotton plant is nourished by a tap-root that will seek food as
deeply as loose earth will permit the root to penetrate; hence, in
preparing land for this crop the first plowing should be deep
and thorough. This deep
plowing not only allows the tap-root to penetrate, but it also admits a
circulation of air.
On some cotton farms it is the practice to break the land in winter or
early spring and then let it lie naked until planting-time. This is not
a good practice. The winter rains wash more plant food out of
unprotected soil than a single crop would use. It would be better, in
the late summer or fall, to plant crimson clover or some other
protective and enriching cover crop on land that is to be
planted in cotton
in the spring. This cover crop, in addition to keeping the land from
injuriously washed, would greatly help the coming cotton crop by
leaving the soil full of vegetable matter.
In preparing for cotton-planting, first disk the land thoroughly, then
break with a heavy plow and harrow until a fine and mellow seed-bed is
formed. Do not spare the harrow at this time. It destroys many a weed
that, if allowed to grow, would have to be cut by costly hoeing.
Thorough work before planting saves much expensive work in the later
days of the crop. Moreover, no man can afford to allow his plant food
and moisture to go to nourish weeds, even for a short time.
GROWING COTTON - PLANTING
The rows should be from three to four feet apart. The width depends
upon the richness of the soil. On rich land the rows should be at least
four feet apart. This width allows the luxuriant plant to branch and
fruit well. On poorer lands the distance of the rows should not be so
great. The distribution of the seed in the row is of course most
cheaply done by the planter. As a rule it is best not to ridge the land
for the seed. Flat culture saves moisture and often prevents damage to
the roots. In some sections, however, where the land is flat and full
of water, ridging seems necessary if the land cannot be drained.
GROWING COTTON - CORRECT CULTIVATION METHODS
The cheapest way of cultivating a cotton crop is to prevent grass and
from rooting, not to wait to destroy them after they are well rooted.
To do this, it is well to run a harrow over the
land, across the rows, a few days after the young plants are up. Repeat
the harrowing in six or eight days. In addition to destroying the young
grass and weeds, this harrowing also removes many of the young cotton
plants and thereby saves much hoeing at "chopping-out" time. When the
plants are about two inches high they are "chopped out" to secure an
evenly distributed stand. It has been the custom to leave two stalks to
a hill, but many growers are now leaving only one.
The number of times the crop has to be worked depends on the soil and
the season. If the soil is dry and porous, cultivate as often as
possible, especially after each rain. Never allow a crust to form after
a rain; the roots of plants must have air. Cultivation after each rain
forms a dry mulch on the top of the soil and thus prevents rapid
evaporation of moisture.
Two things will keep the land in good condition: first, return manure
to the land in place of the seeds; second, at the last working sow some
crop like crimson clover or rye in the cotton rows to protect the soil
during the winter and to leave humus in the ground for the spring.
The stable manure should be broad casted over the fields at the rate of
six to ten tons an acre. When using organic fertilizers in growing
cotton it may be best to make two applications. To give the young
plants a good start, apply a portion of the fertilizer in the drill
just before planting. Then when the first blooms appear, put the
remainder of the fertilizer in drills near the plants but not too
close. Many cotton-growers, however, apply all the fertilizer at one
Needing so much farmyard manure means that cotton farmers and cattle
raising go hand-in-hand. The farmer cannot afford to neglect
cattle-raising when growing cotton. The cattle sections of the country
are likely to make the greatest progress in agriculture, because they
always have manure on hand. It is just so valuable to have.
Second, the nitrogen-gathering crops, while helping to feed the stock,
also reduce the fertilizer bills by supplying one of the costly
elements of the fertilizer. The ordinary cotton fertilizer consists
principally of nitrogen, of potash, and of phosphoric acid. Of these
three, by far the most costly is nitrogen. Now peas, beans, clover, and
peanuts will leave enough nitrogen in the soil for cotton, so that if
they are raised, it is necessary to replace only the phosphoric acid
and sometimes potash.
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