Cotton Department Knowledge
Cotton Harvest and Processing
The Cotton planting season in Barbados starts on the 16th August and the actual planting should ideally be completed by the end of September. The fields would have been properly prepared long before this and the fertilizer Triple super phosphate incorporated during the final stages of the seed bed preparation. The actual planting can be done by machine or by hand. Whatever method is used, care should be taken to ensure that the seeds are never placed more than 2 inches deep in the soil and firmly pressed to ensure good contact between seed and soil. Immediately after sowing is complete a pre-emergent herbicide should be applied, and definitely not later than 36 hours after planting. Planting should always follow a good shower of rain rather than in expectation of one. Germination and emergence should occur within 5-10 days depending on the amount of soil moisture. The first leaves seen are the two cotyledonary leaves which are kidney shaped. These will be followed by the first true leaves which will have the characteristic shape of G. barbadense seen on the young cotton
A Cotton Experience 4
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A Cotton Experience 5
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seedlings. The cotyledonary leaves will eventually be shed. The plants grow rather slowly initially, and after the first six weeks or so there will be the development of the first squares. Usually by this time, they would be around 55-70cm tall, depending on the soil and environmental conditions. This production of squares signals the beginning of the reproductive stage, but the plant will continue to grow in height and size. The production of the first flowers occurs about two weeks later. Cotton is a self-pollinating plant, and the first small bolls appear once the mature flower is shed, usually a few days after opening. The boll then takes about 60 days to reach maturity and open. Since this type of cotton is still mainly an indeterminate plant, square, flower, and boll production can continue right up until the plant goes into senescence. Thus cotton planted in mid August will have started to have mature open bolls by the end of December, and thus harvesting can start in early January and continue well into March and should be completed before the end of April, as May 1st is the start of the "Cotton close season."
The harvesting is done is manually, this is so for two main reasons. Firstly it ensures that the cotton is relatively clean from leaves, bracts, bits of stem, or other contaminants that would impair the good quality of the cotton. Secondly attempts at machine harvesting have been disappointing. More needs to be done to find the right type of harvester to deal with this much branched determinate crop.
Bell, Peter. July 2004. A guide to cotton growing. Revised. Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Barbados.
Berger, Josef. 1969. The World's Major Fibre Crops: their cultivation and manuring. Part I. Cotton. Centre d'Etude de l'Azote. Zurich. 17-24
Jonathan D. Sauer. 1993. Historical Geography of Crop Plants: A Select Roster First edition. CRC-Press. 97-106.
Munro, John, M. 1987. Cotton. Second Edition. Longman. 436 pp.
Purseglove, J. W. 1974. Tropical Crops: Dicotyledons. Malvaceae. Longman. 333 364.
Smith C. Wayne & J. Tom Cothren (Eds.) 1999. Cotton: Origin, History, Technology, and Production (Wiley Series in Crop Science). 864 pp.
Spence, J. R. 1984. Barbados Cotton crop 1983-84. 24 pp.