Cotton - cultivation

Cotton is grown in more than sixty countries of the world, but United States, India, Russia, Brazil, Egypt and China are some of the largest producers of cotton. Cotton cultivation practices vary from country to country but the general practice is as follows :

The land is broken by a plough in winter or early spring to prepare a seed bed for planting. This preparation allows the land to hold the moisture falling on it. The planting season varies depending on the geographical location. In United States it is from March to middle of May, in Egypt, from early March to the end of April, in Russia, India and China from April to August. In tropical countries, the cotton plant assumes a tree like structure. Before the full height is reached (in about 40 days after the plant appears) the plant begins to form flower stalks. Flowering takes another 30 days. The opened flower is yellowish white on the first day when pollination occurs; it turns to pink on the next day when fertilisation takes place and the petals of the flowers fall on the third day. The immature seeds thus formed grow rapidly and the large cotton boll matures in 40-50 days.

When the cotton bolls are ripe, they burst, exposing a soft mass of cotton fibres. When the cotton fibers are exposed as a result of the bursting of the ripened boll, the cotton must be picked to prevent the fibers getting discoloured due to exposure to sunlight and air. In former times cotton harvesting was a hand operation, requiring considerable amount of hard labour. Now machine harvesting is also practised. In the picking method the cotton sections of the opened balls are removed from the burs leaving the burs on the stalk. In the pulling method, the open balls and burs are removed together. Sometimes leaves and other foreign matters also find their way in the cotton collected. Hence, pulled cotton is not as clean as picked cotton.

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