Cotton is a major summer crop

By Dr. S.M. ALAM and Dr. M.H. NAQVI NIA, 

Apr 07 - 13, 2003

Cotton is the second important crop of our country after wheat, in terms of area and value added. Cotton crop in Pakistan occupies a pivotal position in the national economy and plays an important role in the economic progress of the country. Cotton is grown in more than 85 countries of the world. Its production has been on the increase in the last four decades and has reached the figure of about 126.4 million bales or 21.48 million tons (170 kg/bale) in the year 2000-2001. The increase in cotton production has been achieved by increasing the cotton cultivation area and by enhancing the yield of cotton by applying scientific methods and these include: improved mechanized farming methods; development of high yielding cotton varieties and the introduction of better ginning methods. The major cotton producing countries of the world are China, USA, Central Asian States (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakistan, Kirghizia, Azerbaijan), India, Pakistan, Brazil, Turkey, Australia and Egypt. These countries produce more than 90 percent of world cotton production. China's cotton production in the year 2000-2001 (in million tons) stood at 4.42, whereas Uzbekistan 0.96; India 3.35; Pakistan 1.82, Brazil 0.85, Turkey 0.88 and Australia 0.70 and USA 0.37.

Cotton is known as the silver fibre of Pakistan. In Pakistan, cotton crop is mainly cultivated in the areas of southern Punjab and middle Sindh. Important varieties are grown in the country, Chandi-95, Sohni, Krishma, CRIS-134, CIM-473, FH-900, RH-500, etc. It brings cash returns to the farmers, supplies raw materials to the textile industry and provides employment in both the rural and the urban areas. Cotton is the major textile fibre used by man. Cotton is also providing livelihood to over 5 million people at the farm and industry and trade, furnishes raw material for 1060 ginneries and 450 textile mills and 5000 oil expelling units and 8.1 million spindles in the country besides providing about 40,000 tons of edible oil to the industry. This phenomenon has resulted in higher yarn and fabric production in the textile industry.

Over the last several years, raw cotton and its textile products have contributed on an average about 65 per cent of the total annual national exports besides providing employment to a sizeable manpower of the country. It also yields 3.5 to 3.6 million tons of cottonseeds, which contributes over 64 per cent of the total domestic edible oil production. Seed cotton (phutti) as produced by the farmers is ginned to give lint and cottonseed. The latter is used as a feed to the livestock or crushed to obtain oil and oil cakes. Cottonseed oil is mixed with soybean or sunflower oils by the mills to manufacture edible oils. Cottonseed is also used extensively in milk production. In addition over two million tons of cotton oil cake is also obtained which is used as livestock feed. A significant part of cottonseed is also fed to the lactating animals for milk production. Lint obtained from cottonseed is either exported as such or converted into yarn for export or for domestic use to manufacture cloth and garments to meet domestic demand and for export. Some cotton waste is also exported. Seed cotton brings cash return to the farmers, gives livelihood to the ginneries, provides raw material to the textile industry and in all these operations, is a source of employment both in rural and urban areas. It is a matter of great interest that raw cotton and its products (cotton waste, cotton yarn, thread, ready-made garments) annually contributed, on an average over 51 percent of the total exports of the country during the last five years. The value of exports of raw cotton has varied from year to year depending on the exportable surplus after meeting the domestic demand particularly of the textile industry. Thus, cotton plays a vital role in the economic development of the country in both the majors sectors i.e. agriculture and industry. Punjab and Sindh are the major cotton growing provinces. The respective shares of the two provinces in cotton production are estimated at 81 and 19 percent, respectively.

Cotton is a major summer crop and planted in March/April in Sindh and May and June in the Punjab. The time of sowing is so adjusted that the young seedlings escape the early summer heat as much as possible. The climate of middle and lower Sindh is milder than that of upper Sindh and the Punjab. It sown on nearly 3 million hectares, contributing 30 percent to the value added by major crops, Thus, it is grown on about 12 percent of the cropped area which is higher than any other cash crop. It is grown mostly on the alluvial plains of the Indus basin. Soil texture is silty loam, not high in sand or clay content. These soils are deep and have high water holding capacity most of which are available to the plants during the growing period. It competes directly with rice in those areas where both crops can be cultivated. Cotton in combination with winter crops also competes indirectly with sugarcane as the latter occupies land resources round the year. The recommended plant population in cotton varies from 18,000 to 22,000 plants per acre depending upon the variety. The average yield at the country level has ranged from 500 to 625 kg/hectare during 1992-93 to 1997-98. The yield of cotton in the Punjab, which contributes nearly 82 percent in the total production ranged from 470 to 602 kg/hectare. The insecticidal spray on cotton is normally 6-7 and it depends upon the intensity of the attack and population.

Cotton lint production is one-fourth of Egypt, Turkey and Mexico and about one-half of USA. Although, Pakistan ranked fifth on the basis of acreage and sixth in respect of cotton production in the world, but it was thirty sixth on the basis of yield per acre. Similarly, the acreage yield per acre of cotton is lowest as compared to other cotton growing countries of the world. The cotton growing countries are stepping up their production whereas Pakistan has not yet registered satisfactory progress in per hectare yields. In Pakistan for industry, over 9 million bales of 170 kg each are required for domestic consumption in the textile industry while over one million bales are exported. The production of cotton in the recent past has suffered due to leaf curl virus attacked by some infestations of white fly, wide spread attack of helioths and boll worms, floods and untimely rains/hillstorms etc. The depressed cotton would in turn affect the manufacturing and exports of cotton yarn and other made ups Thus, there is dire need for stabilizing the cotton production.

Seed is one of the most important inputs in cotton production. It plays a key role in enhancing the productivity of the crop. Being open pollinated crop, experts recommended to plant entire area with certified seed every year. The grower also invariably complains about ineffectiveness of pesticides either because of their adulteration/mixing or under dosing recommended by the distributors to encourage the sale of their products. The alteration practices in the pesticide trade are increasing because of inadequate testing facilities and poor implementation of agricultural pesticides ordinance. As a result, the economy of both the farmers and the country has suffered. Effective measure should be taken by the government to control such obnoxious work. The important diseases of cotton are root rot, fusarium wilt, verticillium wilt, boll weevil, pink boll worm, cotton leaf worm cotton fleahopper, cotton aphid, red spider, cotton stainer, cutworms, jassid, cluster caterpiller spiky boll worm.