Measures for clean and high standard cotton
By Dr. SHAMSUDDIN TUNIO
Oct 15 - 21, 2001
The cotton is cash earner important crop of Pakistan and its produce is obtained in shape of seed cotton or cotton lint. The cotton picking has been started in early sown crop. The more market rates would seek only those growers who would maintain its quality and high standards.
In fact, growers have achieved yield targets but have forgotten the steps towards quality control. Pakistan cotton, is genetically vigorous and healthy. But due to unknown reasons, it comes under unclassified grading, which include picking, processing and ginning by improper and unimproved methods, and there is always problem of price fixing according to quality of seed cotton. That's why cheap quality and low standard cotton comes in the market.
In Pakistan, cotton picking is done by manual methods, which must be done when more than 50% bolls are opened. The variety wise picking should be done and picked seed cotton must be labelled and kept variety wise separate and/or may be sent to the factory to maintain seed and lint of each variety.
The job of cotton picking is assigned to female sect of the population, which have fun of completing work in easy way and in lesser time as compared to male counter parts. The females have better picking skills, which is the main reason of time saving. But, such rural female folk doing the job of picking have little sequence or look unable to maintain cleanness and quality of cotton, therefore, lint quality is severely affected and low rate is in the fate and fortune. For this sort of job, training of rural picking folk is essential so that impurities free picking of cotton is to be made. The cotton picking by female folk for training purpose, should be done under supervision of experts or well trained growers while standing in crop rows, to obtain clean cotton and to maintain its standard . For safe and sounds, picking female folk is required to collect seed cotton by using muslin cloth and any synthetic fibre made materials must be avoided. However, to avoid impurities such as dust and trash mixing in the seed cotton, the picking should be done from lower side towards top. This step leads to clean cotton picking.
The picking of cotton should be done after drying of humidity and dew from the crop. This is on the record that during days of picking, dew may occur on the cotton crop, which is due to climatic conditions persist. Therefore, early picking may increase the chances of adding drops of humidity and dew with seed cotton. The dew mixed cotton or when lint remains wet or moist such dew mixed cotton is kept in the storages, that may be spoiled up resulting in lint and cotton seed damage in which lint quality and germinablity of the seed may get deteriorated. The ginning factories do not have facilities such as drying of cotton seed.
In case of rainfall, the picking of seed cotton should not immediately be done but the crop and seed cotton must left to dry. When seed cotton or lint become dry after receiving air and sun shine, the picking of cotton should be done. Because, there is risk of rain during picking and in case of rain cotton fibre turning into black and low prices would be obtained.
This is fact that, the spoilage and impurities in the seed cotton may occur due to severe damage caused by insect pests and diseases. This damage is absented largely on the productive parts of cotton plant such as bolls, squares and flowers etc. which may be rotten immediately. At the time of boll opening, the darkish and decayed seed cotton appear. Therefore, at the time of picking, seed cotton should well be picked. Otherwise opened and empty bolls would be plucked and mixed with lint, due to fast picking. In several times, because of unskilled picking in cotton crop leaves, empty bolls, pieces of leaves and stems, flowers, immature bolls, sticks and weeds are muted with lint. Those materials must not left over and mixed with cotton, but care should be taken to clean out such impurities. The picking, storage and sale of such cotton or lint is under risk.
Weeds create difficulties in picking of cotton from the bolls and easily mixed impair the quality of the lint . The most trouble some weeds of cotton are, Cockle bur, Prickly chaff flower, Niruri, puncture vine, Bind weed etc. which may affect lint quality.
Timely picking of cotton must be followed, and after first picked interval of 15-20 is to be maintained for second picking. In case of picking before time, raw or immature fibre may be picked up which would be sold on low rate in the market. The agricultural experts recommend seed of first picking for planting purposes. This type of seed, may have high germinability and such seeds are free of many pests (including insects and diseases). Whereas, early or late picking of cotton must not be done. In case of early picking, small staple length with shrinking quality would be obtained, which will result in sub-standard fabrics and immature fibre obtained from bolls would immediately be darkened. The seed obtained from early picking possesses no any good quality in terms of low seed germinability and also low edible oil content. The irrigation water should be restricted during picking for proper using of bolls, which may help in easy picking of cotton and improve the strength of cotton fibre.
For late picking, there is possibility of losses in lint quality. The lint or seed cotton left on the cotton plant for longer time, may come under losses, the continuous dew fall and air blowing carry dust over the cotton that changes the colour of the lint. The speedy winds may shed seed cotton or lint from opened bolls and may be one of source to decrease in per acre yield. The late picked cotton fibre give dirty look, which reduces quality of fineness and shineness of clothes. There is dearth of fibre strength in late picked cotton as poor quality fibre with low stretch of fibre may frequently snap in textile mills and garment factories.
There is increasing trend of impurities or pollution during picking, storing and deporting of cotton to the factory. The female rural folk, engaged in cotton picking start job of picking early in the morning before drying of dew and humidity both. The reason behind it to increase weight and volume of picked cotton while it is wet with dew or humidity, to achieve more wages. This practice is not free of any risk, which directly affect quality of lint. Such effects of dew or humidity may be traced at the time of filling bales and storing lint.
The second growing trend of impurities and pollution in the lint may be due to rural female folk, who use plastic bags and silky scarfs for picking seed cotton. This type of impurity of pollution may come up at the time of spinning and dyeing of fibre, thread and clothes.
The mixing of human hair at the time of picking cotton create problem during ginning, spinning and weaving, which may give loss to textile industry. There has been malpractice adopted by picking women, to put water in the picked cotton at different intervals to increase weight for gaining more rates and wages. This practice may spoil the cotton and its quality, which gains poor rates in the market .
Thus it is pre-requisite to save cotton from impurities and pollution while picking it after drying of dew. Such picked cotton should not be stored on wet soil, but, cloth bags and dry pucca floor at high place should be selected before sending to the market or factory. If there is no immediate provision of disposing of cotton to the factory, and it is lying on the open place, in a such condition cotton must be covered with cloth or plastic sheet at night time to avoid spoilage from dew and humidity but during day time such large cloth or plastic sheet must taken off for proper sun drying .
The pressing and packing of cotton during filling in the bales or storing must be avoided, to reduce the possibility of spoilage of cotton. On other sides pickers, Brokers or traders put water at different intervals during weighing or storing of cotton, which is very risky for quality maintenance. This practice may cause impurities or increase pollution of cotton lint, which may also deteriorate cotton quality and rates in the market. The grading of cotton depends upon its fibre quality, colour and cleanness of cotton from impurities, and also flbre strength such elements may help in deciding cotton prices in the market.
Now, the era of 'organic cotton ' has been started first time in Pakistan. This kind of cotton is grown without any chemical materials like chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This needs steps towards organic farming in which Farm yard manure, Green manure and crop residues are practised to add organic matter and more nutrient elements in the soil. It all depends upon crop pest level in the area and soil nutrient availability, which may improve quality of cotton i.e. its cleanness and high standards of fibre.
The province of Balochistan has started producing organic cotton in its areas, where crop pest level is low and phytosanitary measures can easily be taken for pure and clean cotton. It is time to produce clean and high standard cotton with improved fibre along with colour and strength for obtaining more rates in the markets.
The writer is Associate Professor, Department of Agronomy, Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam