How And What Time Of Year Is Cotton Harvested?

These days homesteaders and hobby gardeners have begun trying to grow crops that are typically grown commercially. One popular crop for home gardeners and homesteaders is cotton; although, it is important to point out that there are restrictions on non-commercial growing of this plant in many states. In this article, we provide sound advice on how and when to harvest cotton. We also discuss some of the challenges facing commercial growers in planning a harvest schedule. Read on to learn more on what time of year is cotton harvested.

Is It Hard To Harvest Cotton?

is it hard to harvest cotton

Commercial cotton is machine harvested, and even that is pretty arduous work. Hand harvesting cotton on a small homestead can also be quite difficult.

If you’re going to produce enough cotton to card, spin and dye your own fibers and/or to sell, you’ll need a pretty big stand of the plant. Cotton-picking is well-known as back-breaking labor.

The harvest is typically taken at the hottest time of year. Picking cotton is hard on your fingers, to say the least. Be sure to wear a sturdy pair of gloves!

Traditionally, a picker carries a big bag that ends up weighing as much as 70 pounds by the end of a long day of picking.

What Time Of Year Do You Harvest Cotton?

What Time Of Year Do You Harvest Cotton?

The time of year for cotton harvest varies depending on your location. You can tell when your cotton is ready to harvest because the bolls will split open, and you’ll be able to see the cotton inside.

Cotton is planted and harvested all around the world. It goes without saying, the harvest dates will differ greatly between India, Australia, New Zealand and the US, to name a few.

In the southern United States, harvest typically begins in July and is completed during the hot summer months. In the northern states, where it may take longer for cotton to mature, harvest may be extended into the autumn months.

How Do You Pick Cotton?

To pick cotton, you’ll don your gloves and bag and a good sun hat. Be sure to use sunscreen as well. You’ll be out in the sun for quite a while.

Work your way down the row of cotton plants picking the cotton from the bolls by grasping the cotton at its base and giving it a twist. Not all of the cotton bolls will be ready at once.

Be careful only to pick the ones that are completely open. You’ll need to make a second, and even a third pass, on subsequent days to fully harvest your crop.

When you’ve finished harvesting for the day, empty your bag in a well ventilated, cool, dark location. Spread the cotton out on a clean surface to dry.

When it has dried, you can separate the seeds by hand and save them to plant next year.

You can use your homegrown cotton to spin fiber for weaving or simply to stuff pillows, toys and the like.

Cotton Plantation And Seed Harvesting

What Is Commercial Cotton Harvesting Like?

Knowing when to harvest can be tricky for commercial farmers because they are often subject to rush or delay due to catastrophic weather events and problems with infections and infestations.

Additionally, many commercial cotton farmers also grow peanuts, and they have to juggle the timing to make the right harvest at the right time.

Usually, cotton is planted before peanuts, and it is harvested before peanuts; however, impending flooding can turn that schedule around.

Sometimes, cotton farmers who also plant peanuts are forced to delay cotton harvesting in favor of peanut harvesting. This can cause financial loss.

Cotton plants hold open bolls for approximately six weeks. The longer the boll is open, the lower the harvest and the greater the decline in cotton quality.

Ideally, the cotton plants should be defoliated (leaves removed) and the cotton manually harvested when about sixty percent of the bolls have opened; however, it can be impractical for commercial farmers to drop everything and harvest cotton when they see that the bolls have cracked.

They often create their harvest schedule by counting the number of nodes on the stems above cracked bolls in several different locations throughout the field.

It’s Hard To Say Exactly When You Should Harvest Cotton

The bottom line is, harvest time varies from place to place and situation to situation. The other crops you plant and harvest, the presence of pests and diseases, the weather and more can affect your harvest time.

Your best bet is to work closely with your local extension agent to create a solid plan for planting, growing, monitoring and harvesting your cotton.

Life Cycle Of Cotton

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is there still cotton in the field after the harvest?

Cotton is typically harvested using mechanical pickers or strippers. These remove most of the cotton fiber from the plant. This method actually removes large puffs of cotton but leaves some of the cotton lint behind. If you inspect closely, you’ll see that there’s really not much cotton there.

2. Is cotton always harvested in October?

Cotton is harvested when the bolls are mature, and the fibers inside have reached their maximum length and thickness. In most areas where cotton is grown, this happens in mid-October, but in some areas the weather is such that harvesting may happen as late as December or as early as January in the US. Around the world, cotton harvesting time varies from one climate to another. The type of cotton planted also impacts the timing of the harvest.

3. Can cotton harvesting be done manually?

Manual harvesting using slave labor was the only way that cotton was harvested in the US before the Civil War. It is painful, backbreaking labor, and growing cotton would not be a profitable business if you had to pay people to do it by hand. As equipment was developed for harvesting cotton, the cotton stripper, boll buggy and module builder performed these tasks. Today, these three machines have been combined into one, the cotton harvester.

4. How does cotton get from the harvester to the gin for processing?

Specialized trucks move the modules of cotton from the fields to the cotton gin. If you have round modules, flatbed trailers may be used. Once at the gin, the harvested cotton fibers are separated from the seeds, cleaned, and prepared for further processing. The owner of the gin may retain the cotton seed and sell it to offset your ginning fees.

5. How can I get my harvested cotton to market?

You can get together with other cotton farmers to form a “pool market” and sell your crops as a group. You’ll choose a manager or a marketing organization to conduct the sale and negotiate prices. This approach results in better and more unified prices. The cotton gin service you hire may also offer a way of marketing your crop online. In some instances, you may be able to secure a buyer before your harvest through the use of a forward contract.

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