Cotton is a fibre crop belonging to the Malvaceae family, with a soft texture and fluffy nature. It is highly valuable to the textile industry and for livestock feeds.

Before the oil boom in Nigeria, it was one of the major cash crop exports. It is highly grown in dry areas such as Katsina, Sokoto, Kano, Plateau, Bauchi, Borno and Taraba States.

Currently, the United States is the largest exporter of cotton in the world, with countries like India, Pakistan, China and Japan also following suit.

Uses of cotton

1. Production of textile materials: The bulk of cotton produced in Nigeria is used for clothing and household goods. The textile industry extremely depends on its supply for the production of textile materials such as bags, belts, carpets, pads, hose, and twine.
2. Source of feed: A percentage of crush cotton lint contains oil. The meal has a high protein content used for livestock feeds, but it contains a toxic substance called gossypol. This tends to reduce the amount of cottonseed meal that can be safely added to poultry or livestock rations.
3. Cotton is used in coffee filters, fishing nets, tents, and explosives manufacturing.
4. It is used in bookbinding and in paper industries.
5. It can be used also for hygiene purposes like in the production of a cotton bud, cotton wool etc.

Varieties of cotton

There are many varieties of cotton grown in different regions depending on the climatic conditions, soil type, soil pH value and nutrients found in these agro-ecological zones. In Nigeria, cotton belts are divided into the northern, southern and eastern zones. Samaru 71 variety is recommended for planting in the northern and southern cotton zones. Samaru 77 is recommended for the eastern zone.

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Soil Requirement

Cotton grows well in areas with abundant sunlight and does not tolerate shading. Optimum conditions for growth are found in areas where cloudiness and sunny days during vegetation make up to 60-70%. Cotton is a short-day plant. It requires moderately fertile soil for growth. The soil ranges from sandy to heavy clay with acidity of about pH of 5.2 to pH greater than 8. The best cotton lands are mixtures of clay and sandy-loam that contain a moderate amount of organic matter and a moderate amount of available fertilizers.

Planting

Seeds for sowing must have a high germination capacity (at least 85%). The seeds are usually prepared first at gin mills where the fibre is first separated from the seeds and fuzz removed. Planting in Nigeria should be done in mid-June on 90cm ridges and on 92cm between ridges with intra row spacing of 45cm. Four to six seeds should be planted per hole and later thinned to two plants per stand. Although most of the cotton is planted after mid-July, the best yields are attainable with mid-June planting.

Manual broadcasting of cotton seeds followed by preparing beds using harrows or other implements is the most primitive and least effective technique. Drilling machines are best for sowing because it allows the desired number of seeds to be planted. With hand drilling, furrows are first prepared and seeds are sown into those prepared furrows or holes. Holes are prepared on ridges and the seeds are sown into these earlier prepared holes. Various types of sowing include cluster sowing and wide row sowing, but cluster sowing is more wide-spread.

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Harvesting

Harvesting is done from the time the bolls open. Manual harvesting is carried out by handpicking. The first-hand picking is done 30-40% of the bolls open, the second when 35-40% and the third picking in two or three weeks after the second one. The last one is done to remove the remaining bolls. Cotton is also harvested using the mechanical method. With this method, mechanical pickers are equipped with rotating steel spindles attached to revolving drums or moving bars.

Source: AgroNigeria