|A guide to Cotton Growing|
|Friday, 20 December 2013 10:19|
A GUIDE TO COTTON GROWING
Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development
The editor of this publication wishes to thank his colleagues of the Cotton Project for their assistance. I would also like to thank
Mr. Ian Gibbs
Mr. Michael James
Mr. Mark Byer
Mr. Ralph Farnum
Mr. Charleston Lucas
Mr. Samuel Inniss
for their help. Thanks also to the Chief Agricultural Officer Mr. Barton Clarke for his support in the revision of this document. I hope that this Crop Recommendation will be useful to all who use it.
The Ministry of Agriculture has recognized the tremendous potential and obvious importance of Sea Island Cotton to the Agricultural Sector of Barbados in this the 21stCentury. It is thus making every effort to support and sustain a viable and strong Integrated Cotton Industry.
This however must be developed on the basis of good and sustained production at the field level, and by bringing more farms, and farmers into sustained high levels of production. This is a crop in which we have some considerable comparative advantage. It is with this in mind that this Crop Recommendation has been updated at this time. It is hoped that it will benefit all who use it.
Environmental Requirements. 1
Soil Type. 1
Seed Material 1
Field Selection and Soil Conservation Measures. 2
Land Preparation for Uncultivated Lands. 2
Primary Tillage. 2
Secondary Tillage - Seed Bed Preparation. 2
Planting Material 3
Planting Dates. 3
Planting and Spacing. 3
Machine Planting. 3
Hand Planting. 4
Weed Control 4
Chemical Control (Herbicides) 5
Soil Sampling. 5
Pest Control 6
Insect Pest Control 6
Crop Rotation. 6
Pest Scouting. 7
Strict Observance of the Cotton Close Season. 7
Controlling Cotton Pests. 7
Cotton Disease. 9
Some Chemicals Recommended For Control of Cotton Pests. 10
Destruction of Cotton Stalks. 11
The Cotton Close Season. 11
Concessions and Incentives. 12
Machinery and Equipment 12
Agricultural Chemicals. 12
Hand Tools. 12
Other Items. 13
Special Inputs. 13
Cotton Development 13
Spraying and Weed Control Equipment 14
Rebate on Land Tax. 1
In Barbados cotton is grown under rain fed conditions. The average annual of 1516mm (59.69″) is quite adequate for crop establishment, development and maturity.
Land preparation for cotton production is done during the drier months of the year when the monthly averages are less than 101.6mm (4″) occasionally it may be necessary to do some late preparation during June and July. There are times when it may be necessary to supplement rainfall with some type of irrigation in order to ensure good germination, ensure good boll filling or solve a pest problem.
Cotton can be adequately grown on most soil types in Barbados. The majority of our soil types (such as the red brown, yellow brown, grey brown and black associations) will support the growth of this crop. It is advisable to plant cotton on flat lands where the soil is deep and free draining since cotton does not withstand water-logging
Montserrat Sea Island Cotton (MSI) is the variety currently grown. This variety has the following characteristics:
Seed Weight: 100 seeds weigh about 13g,
454 g (1lb) gives about 3500 seeds.
Days to squaring: About 45 days after planting.
Days to first flower: About 60 days after planting
Days to first open boll: About 120 days after planting.
Number of nodes To first fruiting branch
Eleven to Twelve nodes:
Number of seeds per Locule: This ranges from three to eight.
Boll weight: This ranges from 2.5- 3.5g of seed cotton.
Field Selection and Soil Conservation Measures
Field selection should be done with soil conservation and harvesting considerations in mind.
Land Preparation for Uncultivated Lands
Land which has not been cultivated for many years needs to be cleared of trees, bush, and major vegetation. The roots of trees and bush need to be dug out, as these will cause severe problems for land cultivation equipment. Depending on the weed status of the field at this stage e.g. If very weedy it should be sprayed with Roundup before primary cultivation is started.
Harrow the field in two directions, or Disc plough.
This land preparation should be done in the dry season well in advance of the planting in order to allow for weathering (the crumbling of soil and decomposition of crop residues). Crop stubble can present problems for the planter at the time of sowing.
Secondary Tillage - Seed Bed Preparation
Triple super phosphate at the rate of 100 kg /acre should be put in at the start of secondary tillage, so that it can be incorporated into the soil at the furrowing and bedding up stage. At the end of the furrowing stage the seed beds should be either 152.4cm (5ft) or 167.6cm (5ft.6″) in width.
Alternatively one can furrow at 83.8cm (2ft.9″) or 76.2cm (2ft.6″) band the fertilizer in the centre of every other furrow, and then reform the beds.
Moulding discs or Furrowing bodies are used to make beds of suitable width, and a height of 15-20cm (6-8″) to allow for proper drainage.
Start land preparation early in the dry season so there is enough weathering of the soil to give a fine enough tilth to the seed beds. There are however times when rotavation may be needed to achieve this. Land preparation should be completed by the end of July to meet the planting season which starts August 16th
Treated seed will be available from Exclusive Cottons of the Caribbean Inc. Seed should be collected as close as possible to the actual date of planting in order to avoid long term storage on farms. Where however storage of seed becomes necessary it should be in a well ventilated room on wooden pallets.
Under no circumstances should seed be allowed to get wet.
The planting season starts on August 16th and planting should be completed by the end of September. Cotton planted after this time results in short plants, which do not realize their full yield potential. In worst case scenarios this cotton matures after the harvesting period has finished.
Planting and Spacing
There are two methods of planting: Machine planting and Hand planting.
In both methods of planting the seeds should not be placed deeper than 5cm (2″) into the soil.
Precision and pneumatic planters can sow at lower seed rates than those above. One should always set the planters to the rate required, and test them for accuracy before planting.
The planters must be adjusted by the top link, and hydraulics of the tractor to ensure that seeds are not placed on the surface of the soil, or not more than 5cm (2″) into the soil.
The seeds must be placed by hand into soil at depth of 3-5cm (1-2″). The soil covering them should be firmly pressed against the seeds. Some 2-4 seeds are placed in a hole. The holes should be made every 35.5 cm (14″) along the bed.
Persons planting should be equipped with measuring sticks.
One should plant slightly over the required stand to avoid the need to supply the field.
Planting should follow at least 12.7mm (½″) rain rather than in anticipation of it.
Immediately after planting a pre-emergent herbicide should be applied, and definitely no later than 36 hours after planting. A combination of Prowl and Gramoxone can be used. Treflan or Cotoran can also be used as pre-emergent herbicides.
Once planting operations have been completed, thinning can be started as soon as the cotton is about 10 cm (4″) tall. A spacing of 30-36cm (12-14″) is recommended. Growers should aim at 7000-8000 plants per acre as a final stand.
Weeds significantly reduce the yield of cotton. Hence good weed control is important for successful cotton production.
Weeds can be controlled:
Manual methods are slow, and often costly.
Weeding with inter-row cultivators, moulding discs, or spring tynes, is quite efficient, and where these implements can be used with high clearance tractors, weed control should be continued in the crop right up to canopy closure.
Chemical Control (Herbicides)
These herbicides are generally applied on bare soil for weed suppression immediately after the cotton has been planted and before germination occurs. Definitely no later than 36 hours after planting.
Post-emergence herbicides have to be used with much more caution than pre-emergence applications, only a few of them that can be safely sprayed over the top of cotton. Most post-emergent herbicides are applied as a directed spray, covering the inter-row space but not reaching the cotton rows or plants. Use fan jet nozzles with protective shields. The following are examples that are commonly used.
Soil analysis is a way of assessing the fertilizer requirements for the crop. This however depends on adequate soil sampling, since only a very small quantity of soil is analysed. A minimum of 20 samples should be taken randomly at two depths from the field.e.g.
Place the samples in bags and label, recording:
The samples can be taken to the Government Analytical Laboratory at Culloden Road, where analysis will be done.
The Eastern Caribbean Fertilizer Company in St. John also offers a soil testing service.
The following fertilizer recommendation is given as a general guide, there are going to be different soil types, and rain fall regimes across the island. The farmer will need to modify these accordingly.
Triple super phosphate at a rate of 100kg /acre should be applied before planting, and incorporated below the planting depth.
Immediately after thinning band 100kg /acre of 24:0:18 or Sulphate of Ammonia
At first flowering (about 9-11wks after sowing) apply 100kg /acre of Muriate of Potash.
Thereafter, depending on the level of rainfall i.e. (Heavy and consistent) and the condition of the plants split applications of 50kg of 24:0:18. Plants that show a pale yellow colour is usually an indication of a lack of nitrogen.
Muriate of Potash can be used to boost the level of flowering once the plant has gone into the reproductive stage.
Cotton usually responds well to foliar fertilizers. One should choose a foliar fertilizer that contains Sulphur(S), Zinc (Zn),
Magnesium (Mg) and Boron (B). These can be applied during the development stages of the crop.
Insect Pest Control
Cotton in Barbados is attacked by a wide range of insects, most of which can cause serious damage. Almost every stage of development of the plant is prone to attack. The Pink Bollworm is the most devastating pest.
Cotton pest control requires a comprehensive integrated approach in which insecticides are used but they should complement the controlling effect of beneficial insects like the predatory lacewing bugs, ladybird beetles, and various species of parasitic wasps.
An integrated pest control programme for cotton would include:
Cotton grown in rotation with sugarcane has tremendous benefits for the cotton farmer. These include a reduction in the build up of cotton pests, maintaining soil fertility in the field, and a reduction in weeds common to cotton fields.
Cotton should not be planted in close proximity to corn, pigeon pea and okra. Corn harbours Heliothis zea, pigeon pea harbours the pod borer (Heliothis virescens) and okra harbours the Pink Bollworm. All three of these insects are important pests of cotton.
Pest Scouting is the careful examination of selected plants within a cotton field. The entire plant should be examined i.e. the top and bottom surfaces of leaves, the squares, flowers and bolls. You are essentially looking for pest at any stage of their life cycle (eggs, larvae, pupae or adults). You need to determine whether the pests you find are beneficial to the crop or harmful. This will then determine your plan of action. Checking 25-50 plants well spread out along the diagonal of the field will give you a good indication of what is happening throughout the entire field. These scouting exercises should be dated and recorded on appropriate forms. Scouting should be done at least twice a week once the cotton has started squaring. Any unusual occurrence should also be noted e.g. numerous fallen squares and lots of flared squares.
The information obtained from these scouting exercises determines if pest control is necessary at a particular stage, and what form it should take.
Strict Observance of the Cotton Close Season
See sections after harvesting
Controlling Cotton Pests
Those pests that attack and damage the squares, flowers, and cotton bolls are generally more dangerous than those that only attack the leaves. Hence Pink Bollworm and the Heliothis Bollworms are the most serious. However in recent seasons Thrips have proven to be equally dangerous.
The only diseases of economic importance recorded in Barbados are Boll Rot, Angular Leaf Spot, and Damping-off.
Some Chemicals Recommended For Control of Cotton Pests
Cotton planted in August to September can be harvested from January onwards. Harvesting should start when enough mature bolls are fully open, which usually occurs from the middle to the end of January. It is important that harvesting should be supervised for higher yields and a more complete pick. Persons picking cotton should not be allowed to randomly pick all over the fields as they wish, but should be assigned specific rows at a time. Stained cotton and trash should not be harvested
N.B: SNAPPING OF BOLLS INCREASES THE TRASH CONTENT. DO NOT HARVEST WET OR DAMP COTTON
An apron should be tied around the waist forming a “pouch”. Cotton should be picked and placed in the apron and the bags filled periodically.
Light crocus bags (hessian) are excellent for harvesting.
Growers should provide adequate ventilated storage space for up to half their expected cotton crop. As a rough guide it requires 15 sq. ft of floor space to store 100 lbs. of seed cotton. Cotton can also be stored directly in the cart in which it will be transported to the Ginnery.
It is possible to obtain yields of 2000 lbs. of seed cotton per acre with excellent management. Growers, however, should aim for not less than 1200 lbs. of seed cotton per acre.
Destruction of Cotton Stalks
Cotton stalks must be destroyed directly after harvesting is completed. The stalks can be cut and piled. Burning should be a part of the destruction process.
The Cotton Close Season
The Cotton Close Season is from May 1st to August 15th of every year. During this 14 week period, cotton farmers can use a number of methods to clean up their fields. You should swipe, rake and burn the crop residues or swipe the fields and then plough or harrow them. These practices will destroy any of the remaining Pink Bollworm larvae that are in the crop residues. If these are not done and in a timely manner, then Pink Bollworm larvae will remain in the crop residues and ready to infest your new cotton crop when it begins to form bolls. In addition, any wild or volunteer cotton on your property should be destroyed during the close season as these can also harbor the Pink Bollworm. The life cycle of the Pink Bollworm indicates that these measures are absolutely essential if we want to control this very serious pest of cotton.
It is best if okra is not grown on your farm or near to where you are growing your cotton crop. However, if any okra is grown during this period, it should be harvested every two days. Okras are an alternative host plant for the Pink Bollworm and old, dry okra pods will provide a home and food for this serious pest.
Concessions and Incentives
In an effort to support and sustain increased cotton production a number of concessions and incentives have been made available to registered cotton farmers.
These are as follows Duty-Free Concessions for Agricultural Inputs
Machinery and Equipment
Any other hand tool approved by the Ministry of Agriculture& Rural Development
The Following Items Will Be Allowed Entry Free of Duties But Only On The Certification of The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development That The Importer Is A Bona Fide Registered Farmer/Farming Organization Meeting The Requirements For Such Imports.
N.B. Registered farmers can access the Duty – Free Concession by completion of the appropriate form and the necessary documents such as the invoice and bill of lading
Spraying and Weed Control Equipment
Disaster Relief Revolving Fund
The revolving loan facility is to assist the agricultural community after the occurrence of a disaster. The Disaster Relief Revolving Fund will be administered under the Agricultural Development Fund and will be capitalized, in the first instance, at $2,000,000.00. (December 2004).
Rebate on Land Tax
Please contact your extension officer or MAR Services Unit at 4284150 Ext.2263/ 2264
or our website: http://www.agriculture.gov.bb for further information.