Cotton is the most important fibre crop not only of India but of the entire world. It provides the basic raw material (cotton fibre) to cotton textile industry.
Its seed (binola) is used in vanaspati industry and can also be used as part of fodder for milch cattle to get better milk.
CONDITIONS OF GROWTH
Cotton is the crop of tropical and sub-tropical areas and requires uniformly high temperature varying between 21°C and 30°C. The growth of cotton is retarded when the temperature falls below 20°C. Frost is enemy number one of the cotton plant and it is grown in areas having at least 210 frost free days in a year.
The modest requirement of water can be met by an average annual rainfall of 50- 100 cm. However, it is successfully grown in areas of lesser rainfall with the help of irrigation. About one-third of the total area under cotton cultivation is irrigated. In the year 1988-89 an area of 24 77 lakh hectares out of a total of 73.43 lakh hectares i.e. 33.73 per cent of the total area under cotton was irrigated.
About 80 per cent of the total irrigated area under cotton is in Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Rajasthan. Moist weather and heavy rainfall at the time of boll-opening and picking are detrimental to cotton as the plant becomes vulnerable to pests and diseases. High amount of rainfall in beginning and sunny and dry weather at ripening time are very useful for a good crop.
Cotton is a kharif crop which requires 6 to 8 months to mature. Its time of sowing and harvesting differs in different parts of the country depending upon the climatic conditions. In Punjab and Haryana it is sown in April-May and is harvested in December-January that is before the winter frost can damage the crop.
In the peninsular part of India, it is sown upto October and harvested between January and May because there is no danger of winter frost in these areas. In Tamil Nadu, it is grown both as a kharif and as a rabi crop.
Here the rainfall occurs after September and cotton is sown in October. The irrigated crop is sown in January-February. Most of the crop is grown mixed with other kharif crops such as maize, jowar, ragi, sesamum, castor, groundnut and some vegetables.
Cotton cultivation is closely related to deep black soils (regur) of the Deccan and the Malwa Plateaus and those of Gujarat. It also grows well in alluvial soils of the Satluj-Ganga Plain and red and laterite soils of the peninsular regions. Cotton quickly exhausts the fertility of soil. Therefore, regular application of manures and fertilizers to the soils is very necessary.
Picking is a crucial period from the labour point of view. Since picking of cotton is not yet mechanized, a lot of cheap and efficient labour is required at this time. Normally the picking season is spread over a period of about three months.
TYPES OF COTTON
Three broad types of cotton are generally recognised on the basis of the length, strength and structure of its fibre.
1. Long staple cotton:
It has the longest fibre whose length varies from 24 to 27 mm. The fibre is long, fine and shining. It is used for making fine and superior quality cloth. Obviously, it fetches the best price. There has been rapid progress in the production of long staple cotton since Independence. About half of the total cotton produced in India is a long staple. It is largely grown in Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
2. Medium staple cotton:
The length of its fibre is between 20 mm and 24 mm. About 44 per cent of the total cotton production in India is of medium staple. Rajasthan, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra are its main producers.
3. Short staple cotton:
This is inferior cotton with fibre less than 20 mm long. It is used for manufacturing inferior cloth and fetches less price. About 6 per cent of the total production is of short staple cotton. U.P., Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab are its main producers.