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How to Spread Cotton

The versatile cotton plant produces a variety of products. Approximately 60 percent of cotton consumption is used in the textile and apparel industries. New transgenic cotton plants developed in China now produce cotton in yellow, green or red colors. The major uses of cotton fiber include fabrics, home furnishings, clothes, medical supplies, paper and sanitary items. Compressed cottonseed produces an oil which is used as a vegetable oil or is formed into margarine. This oil is also used in the production of soaps and cosmetics. The cotton seed hull is often used as feed for cattle, fertilizer mulch and bran products.


  1. Spreading Cotton

    • 1

      Take a sample of the soil in which you will be planting your cotton seeds. Clay soils impede cotton planting as wet clay is drawn to the surface where it dries into hard clods that resist cotton germination. If your soil is of this silty-clay variety, it is best to plant seeds into old cotton stubble or into a chemically-burned small grain cover crop. If your soil is a sandy variety that develops hardpans, subsoiling must be used to shatter the soil to sustain cotton growth. Check for hardpans by pushing a rod through moist soil to the depth of normal plowing. Subsoiling to break hardpans can be accomplished using a strip tillage implement.

    • 2

      Walk your property and choose your planting method. Traditionally cotton has been planted in 36- to 40-inch wide rows. Another method is to skip-row plant. Skip-row planting is used to increase yield per acre and reduce boll rot from the additional air movement through a field. This requires using more land to plant and modification of equipment to handle the different planting system. Planting two rows and skipping one generally increases yield by 25 percent. Planting two rows and skipping two rows increases yield by 40 percent. Cotton can also be double-cropped behind crops like wheat. Most farmers produce in 36-inch rows so equipment does not need to be changed for other crops being grown.

    • 3

      Prepare the soil for planting cotton by strip-tilling rows four to six weeks before planting on non-irrigated soil. If planting into a cover crop or old crop residue, bedding in the fall and tilling to plant into moist soil in the spring is popular. If irrigation is available, neither bedding nor subsoiling is crucial but creating rows ahead of strip tillage or bedding usually results in the warmer soils necessary to grow cotton. Many soils have a compaction layer 6 to 14 inches deep and must be subsoiled or follow grass crops that leave root channels to allow cotton roots to grow through.

    • 4

      Plant the seed. Cotton planting begins when the soil is warm and it is past the last possible date of frost. This is usually between April 15 and the end of May. Cotton is planted 0.5 to 1.5 inches deep into moist soil. To get the ideal 2-3 plants per foot of row, plant 4-5 seeds per foot of row.