Cotton is a natural fibre grown on a plant related to the hibiscus. The seeds are planted in spring and cotton plants grow into green, bushy shrubs about a metre in height. The plants briefly grow pink and cream coloured flowers that once pollinated, drop off and are replaced with “fruit”, better known as cotton bolls.
Inside each cotton boll is the fluffy white lint that we’re all familiar with, as well as a number of cotton seeds. In Australia the cotton is picked with large mechanical harvesters and sent off to the cotton “gin” for processing.
During the ginning process, the lint is separated from the seeds and is then pressed into bales and shipped overseas to be spun, dyed, knitted and woven into fabrics like clothes and home furnishings.
Cotton Grower’s Calendar
- Plant cotton seeds in long rows called furrows
- Plant emerges from the soil after a few weeks
- Water the crop if not enough rainfall
- Remove weeds, add fertiliser if required
- Check for bugs, control pests
- Flowers appear and are pollinated by bees and other insects
- Water the crop, check for bugs, control pests
- Cotton grows into a bushy shrub about one metre tall
- Cotton bolls appear, then split open to reveal the white fluffy cotton and seeds inside
- Prepare crop for picking
- Pick/harvest the crop and pack the seed cotton into modules or round bales on the farm
- Send cotton on trucks to the gin
- Cotton ginned to separate seeds from fluffy lint
- Packed into bales
- Cotton bales sent overseas in shipping containers to spinning mills
- Grow winter crops like wheat and sorghum
- Repair machinery and maintain the farm
- Prepare the soil for next season’s cotton crop