Cotton is a very important crop that is used in a variety of different products found in nearly every Western home. These plants are very picky about their growing conditions and take 25 weeks to finally finish producing cotton. However, advances in agricultural technology have made cotton plants relatively easy to grow.
Cotton is the most profitable plant industry in the United States, with cotton farmers earning $120 billion annually. Cotton is the most commonly used fiber and is used to make clothes, towels, bed sheets and an enormous number of other products. Cotton is even used to make unexpected things like plastics and explosives. Much of the cotton plant is used for feed for livestock and the cotton oil is used in cooking.
The reason why cotton was so commonly grown in the southern states of the United States is because cotton is a crop that prefers warm weather.
For being so useful, cotton plants are very demanding. They require very fertile soil, sunlight and water. Cotton farms have very high yields due to advances in irrigation, fertilization, pest control and breeding. Wild cotton plants have low cotton yields and large numbers of seeds, that have made them difficult to use. But selective breeding lead to the creation of cotton plants with fewer seeds and more cotton.
Prior to growing cotton, the soil must be tilled 2 inches deep in order to eliminate weeds. The soil can be made more fertile by adding compost. The soil must be 60 degrees Fahrenheit before the cotton seeds will germinate.
Cotton is grown from a seed and take five to ten days to sprout. The cotton plant grows progressively in height and acquires more and more leaves, which aid in photosynthesis and more rapid growth. Seven weeks later, the cotton plant starts to develop flowers.
The flowers are where the cotton comes from. In order to produce cotton, the flowers must be pollinated by the flowers of other cotton plants. After pollination, the flowers will gradually wither and fall off. Left behind will be green bolls. Surprisingly, these green bolls will eventually become cotton. At some point, the green bolls will turn brown. Fibers will start to grow out of the bolls and expand, splitting open the brown boll until 25 weeks have passed. Then the cotton is ready to be harvested. Some cotton is harvested by hand, while larger cotton plantations usually are harvested using a mechanical cotton picker.