Organic Cotton is grown using methods and materials that have low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, eliminate the use of toxic and persistent chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and build a biologically diverse agriculture. Because of its purity, organic cotton fabric is softer, hypoallergenic, comfortable, breathable, and warming or cooling to the human body.
 
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Importance Of Cotton & Crop Mangement
Soil Management
Crop Rotation
Crop Nutrition Management
Pest Management In Organic Way
Waste Re-Management
Harvesting
Economics Of Organic Farming
Overview Of Organic Market
 
 Crop Rotation
 12. Crop rotation - rotation crops
 
It is important that organic cotton is grown in rotation with other crops. This helps to improve and maintain soil fertility and ensures balanced nutrient contents in the soil. If cotton is grown continually on the same field, yields are likely to decrease. Crop rotation and mixed cropping also help prevent build-up of pest populations diseases and weeds. Pests find it more difficult to move from one host plant to another, and they are controlled by a number of beneficial insects hosted by the rotation crops or intercrops. Crop diversity also reduces a farmer's risk, making farmers less vulnerable to crop failure and to fluctuating prices. Further, it helps prevent a shortage of labour in peak seasons, as labour requirements are more evenly distributed throughout the year
Depending on the climatic conditions, the market situation and the availability of land, there are a number of suitable rotation patterns, with cotton grown every alternate or every third year. Which rotation pattern is the most suitable one for a particular farm depends on a number of factors: soil properties, irrigation facilities, crop prices, market access, and - last but not least the skills and preferences of the farmer. Figure9 lists some suitable rotation patterns from organic cotton projects in India and Africa.
Pulses and cereals in an Indian market
 
On organic farms, cotton should not be grown in fields where the previous year's crop also was cotton (no 'cotton after cotton'). The reason is that if cotton is grown year after year in the same field, the soil nutrients get depleted, pest populations increase and there is a risk for soilborne diseases. At least for one year, but preferably for two years, another crop should be grown between two cotton crops. If very small land holdings force farmers to grow cotton after cotton, they should, in any case, use an intercrop (e.g. moong bean, cow pea, or chick pea, for harvesting) or a green manure crop (e.g. sunhemp or cow pea, to be cut and ploughed back into the soil before flowering).
Particularly good yields are achieved when cotton is grown after pulses (soy bean, chickpea, pigeon pea, groundnut etc.), horticulturalcrops like chillies or vegetables, and after sugar cane and wheat. Organic farmers in particular should take care to include pulses in the rotation, as they increase the nitrogen content in the soil by fixing nitrogen from the air. In some places a crop of wheat, pulses or fodder can be grown after cotton in the winter season. In India, where sufficient irrigation is available, farmers usually uproot the cotton crop before the second flush, in order to grow a wheat or chickpea crop in the 'Rabi' season. Growing wheat instead of continuing to harvest the cotton is usually more remunerative, as the gains from the wheat crop more than compensate for the loss in cotton yields and the additional production costs. However, sufficient availability of irrigation water and of labour are important pre-conditions for this.
 

Crop rotation – rotation crops

Rotation Type

1st year

2nd year

3rd year

Pulses + cereals

Cotton   (winter crop; wheat or pulses  )

Pulses ( soya, moong , beans, cow pea, black gram, pigeon pea,) maize or sorghum

Cotton   (winter crop; wheat or pulses  )

Vegetable

Cotton   (winter crop; wheat or pulses  )

Chill, onion or other intensive vegetable Crop

Cotton   (winter crop; wheat or pulses  )

Sugarcane

Cotton

Sugarcane

Sugarcane

Diverse rotation (from Tanzania)

Cotton

Sesame , safflower, sorghum or maize

Pulses ( moong, chik pea, cow pea, pigeon pea, groundnut )

Rotation with herbal plants (from Egypt )

Cotton   (winter crop; wheat or pulses  )

Herbs ( anise, basil, fennel etc.)

Maize with clover intercrop

Figure 9: Some crop rotation patterns from organic cotton projects in India and Africa
  13. Green manures and intercrops
 
Green manure crops for cotton (mainly pulses like sun hemp or cow pea, or mixtures containing pulses and cereals) are usually sown between the cotton rows after the cotton seedlings have emerged. They are cut before or at the time of flowering, and are either used as mulch or incorporated into the soil. Intercrops like maize or pigeon pea can be grown in rows every few meters, replacing a row of cotton. Sunflower can also be used as an intercrop (an effective trap crop, see Chapter 5.3.2), with 10-15 m distance between the rows in order to reduce competition through shade. Smaller pulses like moong bean, black gram and cow pea, or small millet varieties, can be grown in-between the cotton rows, or between the individual cotton plants. Intercrops are usually allowed to mature and are cut and used as organic mulch after the seeds are harvested (Figure 10).
 
  Figure 10: Green manures (cutting at the time of flowering) and intercrops (cutting after harvesting the seeds) for cotton
  Both green manures and intercrops have the following benefits:
› Distract pests from the cotton crop (especially sucking pests);
› Attract and host beneficial insects;
› Take up nutrients from the soil which would be lost to the crop;
› Fix nitrogen from the air (pulses and other legumes);
› Make nutrients available to the cotton crop when decomposing;
› Build up organic matter (better soil structure, water retention, overall fertility);
› Suppress weeds;
› Produce mulch that keeps the moisture in the soil;
› Reduce soil erosion through rain or wind;
› Provide additional yield;
› Can serve as fodder for cattle.
 
On the other hand, green manure and inter crops do compete with the cotton crop for water, light and nutrients. Thus, appropriate timing of the sowing and cutting is very important in order to get maximum benefit with minimum competition. Farmers in Nagpur and Yavatmal, India, have had good experiences with using the 'Nagpur mixture'as a green manure, consisting of the seeds listed in Table 2 (approximate quantity for 1 ha):
 

English name

Scientific name

Hindi name

Quantity of seeds (for 1 ha)

Sunhemp (jute)

Crotalaria juncea

Sun beeja

5 kg

Pearl millet

Pennisetum typhoideum

Bajra

5 kg

Moong bean

Vigna radiata

Moong daal

5 kg

Black gram

Phaseolus mungo

Urid daal

5 kg

Chickpea

Cicer spp.

Channa

5 kg

Table 2: Composition of the green manure "Nagpur mixture" used for cotton in central India
   
 
The Nagpur seed mixture is sown between the cotton crop about 2-4 weeks after the germination of the cotton seedlings, just before the first intercultural operation. The green manure is cut (by hand or with a weeder) after approximately four weeks, when the pulses start flowering. In India, the most popular intercrops for cotton are moong bean, chick pea (black gram), cow pea and pigeon pea. Sorghum and maize are grown as trap crops. To reduce competition for light, water and nutrients with the cotton crop, the intercrop should only be grown in every alternate row. The rows are preferably oriented in an east-west direction. Pulses are particularly suitable green manures and intercrops, as they fix nitrogen from the air with the help of beneficial bacteria hosted in root nodules.
   
 
Possible layout of a trial plot and control plot in a cotton field.
Trials on green manures and intercrops
To try out alternative options for green manures and intercrops, farmers can set up simple plot trials on their farms. For this, the farmer organizes the necessary seed material and selects a suitable field for the trial. In the field, the farmer chooses an area in which the soil is more or less the same. He marks a number of cotton rows for the intercrop or green manure, and an equal number of cotton rows of the same length without intercrop or green manure as a control plot. The trial plot and the control plot are harvested separately so that the yields can be compared. The yields and the value of the intercrop should also be taken into consideration when comparing the new method with the previous system.
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