Cotton Cultivation: How to reap more yields


Cotton Crop plays a very significant role in economy of India as one of the most important Cash Crop. India occupies world’s highest area under cotton cultivation while second largest cotton producer in world. Cotton is tropical and sub-tropical crop. For the successful germination of its seeds, a minimum temperature of 15° C is required. The optimum temperature range for vegetative growth is 21 ° – 27 ° C. It can tolerate temperatures as high as 43 °C. Henceforth, its cultivation is restricted to certain areas only.

According to geography, soil type, agro climatic condition, cropping system, crop duration, farming method, varieties and yield, India has been divided into three major Zones i.e. North Zone (Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan), Central Zone (Maharashtra, Gujarat and MP) and South Zone (Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu). In India nearly 65% cotton crop is cultivated under rainfed condition and varied soil types (mostly grown in medium to heavy black cotton soil).

Due to this diversified condition it is a big challenge to bring about increase in the productivity of cotton.

Following factors plays major role to increase cotton yield

  • Land preparation
  • Selection of suitable hybrid
  • Proper Spacing
  • Optimum Plant Density (OPD)
  • Weed management
  • Nutrient management
  • Pest and disease management

Land preparation

The field should be prepared by deep ploughing followed by recurrent harrowing before the onset of monsoon. Organic manure application at land preparation in optimum dose helps in improving the soil texture, improves the aeration in the soil, nutrient uptake gets better, population of useful microorganisms builds up and organic carbon % gets better thus overall health of soil improves.

Selection of suitable hybrid

‘You Reap as you Sow’ so selection of Cotton Hybrid plays crucial role as an entire season and yield depends upon it. Hence, while selecting cotton hybrid for sowing following factors should be taken into consideration

  • i. Soil type – Cotton is grown in variety of soil, ranging from medium to heavy black cotton soil, well drain deep alluvial soil and red soil. Mostly preferred black cotton soil for cotton cultivation as crop requires high moisture retention and black soil is having a good retention capacity.
  • ii. Suitability in rainfed and irrigation – Water is required at various stages right from germination, square initiation, flowering and boll formation and boll development. In these critical stages irrigation has to be given to avoid any adverse effect on the yield due to moisture stress.
  • iii. Crop duration – Commercially three different kinds of cotton hybrids are available in the market: short duration (140-150 days), medium duration (160-170 days) and long duration (above 180 days). However, considering recent trend of growing increase of pink boll worm, long duration hybrid should be avoided.

Proper Spacing

Cotton is having strong capacity to adjust with varied range of spacing. It is one of the most critical and difficult steps which directly evaluates the plant populations in the field.

Rainfed condition

Soil Type Distance No of Plants per Acre
Medium 120 x 30 cm 10890
Medium to Heavy 120 x 45 cm 7260

Protective irrigated condition

Soil Type Distance No of Plants per Acre
Medium to Heavy 120 x 45 cm 7260
Heavy 120 x 60 cm 5445

Optimum Plant Density (OPD)

Optimum Plant Density is already an operational in full swing in western countries but in India it’s only in a trial stage. It is observed that cultivation of cotton under OPD was found to be viable option to increase productivity, particularly in rainfed area by increasing plant population per acre and utilizing maximum moisture available with minimum cost of cultivation. In OPD cotton, plant bears lesser bolls per plant as compared to conventional planting, but in totality the number of bolls per acre is more. OPD also helps to minimize competitiveness of weed as better light interception and early canopy closure. Besides regular crop management canopy management in OPD at proper stage is crucial. Use of Growth regulators like Lihocin or Chamatkar when crop attends the height of 4 to 4.5 ft and other at 15 days interval helps in restricting the excessive vegetative growth.

For OPD planting selection of Hybrid is of most important. Hybrid having tall, erect growth habit with optimum leaf area and with early synchronized boll bearing should be selected for OPD. Ankur Seeds recommend Ankur 3028 BGII, Ankur Jai BGII, Ankur Pushkar BGII and Ankur Kirti BGII for OPD planting.

Therefore, for adoption of OPD in cotton with proper selection of hybrid, appropriate use of fertilizers and timely canopy management practices will help to increase the productivity of cotton.

Spacing adopted for OPD under dryland cultivation is as follows

Rainfed condition

Soil Type Distance No of Plants per Acre
Light – Medium 90 x 30 cm 14520
Medium to Heavy 120 x 30 cm 10890

Weed Management

Both the grassy weeds and broad leaf weeds compete with cotton crop for water, light and nutrients. In initial 60 days, when crop canopy has not developed, control of weed is of utmost importance as weed compete vigorously with main crop. Weeds could be managed by hand weeding, harrowing and weedicides.

Integrated Nutrient Management

It has been established by now that integrated nutrient management (INM) i.e. balanced use of fertilizers with micro nutrients and organic manure is good for crop as well as soil health. Following recommendation is based on research done on Ankur field –

Nutrient management under rainfed condition (per acre dose)

Nitrogen Phosphorus Potassium
60 kg 30 kg 50 kg

Fertilizer / Micro Nutrient Dose Time
10:26:26 115 kg 15-20 days after sowing
Urea 40 kg
Ankur Vasundhara 10 kg
Ankur H-Ultimate 2 kg
Urea 65 kg 35-40 days after sowing
Ankur Calboom 10 kg
Ankur Fast 5 kg
Ankur Zymo Granules 6 kg
Potash 35 kg
Ankur Magnesium Sulphate 10 kg 70-80 days after sowing

Nutrient management under protective irrigated condition (per acre dose)

Nitrogen Phosphorus Potassium
60 kg 30 kg 50 kg

Fertilizer / Micro Nutrient Dose Time
10:26:26 150 kg 15-20 days after sowing
Urea 50 kg
Ankur Vasundhara 10 kg
Ankur H-Ultimate 4 kg
Urea 50 kg 35-40 days after sowing
Ankur Calboom 10 kg
Ankur Fast 5 kg
Ankur Zymo Granules 6 kg
Urea 40 kg 70-80 days after sowing
Ankur Vasundhara 5 kg
Ankur Calboom 5 kg
Ankur Magnesium Sulphate 10 kg

Pest and Disease Management

Prior to advent of Bt cotton boll worm was main concern for the farmers. But now sucking pest complex and in recent 2-3 years PBW has been the major cause of concern for cotton farmer. The pink boll worm could be controlled by Integrated Pest Management which includes Preventive measures (deep ploughing in summer, use of refugia seed), Physical or Mechanical measures (destroy infected square and boll, use of light & pheromone trap), Biological measures (tricograma culture, spray of neem oil) and Chemical measures (gas and contact insecticides).

The major sucking pests are aphid, jassids, thrips and white fly while the major diseases are leaf spot, anthracnose, powdery mildew and grey mildew. Pest and diseases can be controlled by following recommendation given by local Agriculture Universities/Agriculture Department.