1. Agriculture World

Telangana Govt to Launch a Single-Pick Cotton Pilot Project

Farmers currently pick cotton bolls at least three times and sometimes up to four times. The single-pick method will extend the harvest by a few weeks and allow farmers to complete the harvest all at once.

Shivam Dwivedi
Cotton bulb
Cotton bulb

Telangana government is launching a single-pick cotton pilot project on approximately 50,000 acres. This comes at a time when cotton yields have been stagnant for years and farmers are struggling to find workers to pick the bolls.

When compared to the tall varieties grown across the country now, the single-pick cotton will be suitable for machine harvest because the plants will grow to a uniform height of around knee-level. Machine harvesting of the low height variety will alleviate harvesting season problems.

Farmers currently pick cotton bolls at least three times and sometimes up to four times. The single-pick method will extend the harvest by a few weeks and allow farmers to complete the harvest all at once.

"This will give farmers the opportunity to grow another short-term crop." Furthermore, the method will help increase yields by up to 40%, according to M Prabhakara Rao, President of the National Seed Association of India (NSAI).

Despite the fact that the method, also known as high-density plantation, is being tested by various agricultural universities, it has been limited to a few trials. "This will be the first time it is attempted in a large scale." If it produces good results, it could be a game-changer for the cotton sector in the country," he said.

Single-pick Cotton varieties have a single flush of flowering and boll bursting, as opposed to traditional varieties, which have three flushes of flowering. As a result, the boll bursting occurs three or four times, resulting in three to four pickings.

Cotton plants are tall and bushy, requiring a lot of space, so only 7,000-8,000 plants can be grown per acre. According to Ram Kaundinya, Director-General of the Federation of Seed Industry of India, picking requires a lot of labour and accounts for about 20% of farmers' returns (FSII).

Despite having the world's largest cotton production area, 13.4 million hectares, or one-third of the global cotton area, productivity is low at 473 kg/ha, compared to the global average of 766 kg/ha.

"The challenges of low and medium productivity areas can be addressed by increasing yield per unit area by improving genotype genetic bases and implementing improved agronomic practices," he said.

According to Kaundinya, the FSII has begun the High-Density Planting System (HDPS) in selected districts of Maharashtra and Telangana.

Farmers, on the other hand, claim that the new method will result in higher costs. "The method necessitates some additional investment on the part of farmers." "They will have to use 4-5 packets of seed (450 gm each) per acre, as opposed to 2-3 packets in the current method," a cotton farmer from Warangal explained.

"They would also need to use growth-retardant sprays to ensure uniformity in plant height." It would also necessitate the use of mechanical planters because it would be difficult to plant more seeds per acre using the traditional method," he explained.

Pest and weed control are also important because dense plantations can lead to an increase in pest and weed populations. The FSII believes that a different approach is required in the post-harvesting phase. "Mechanically picked cotton contains more trash than regular cotton." Pre-cleaners will need to be installed in ginning mills to deliver high-quality cotton to textile mills," Ram Kaundinya explained.

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