Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the cooler weather after the long hot summer. Fall is also the time for many crops to be harvested. One crop that you will see being harvested soon is cotton. Cotton has always fascinated me both as a crop and for its beauty. If you have ever passed by a cotton field after it has been defoliated, you will see why it is called “south Georgia snow.”
Cotton in the United States is grown in what is called the Cotton Belt, which consists of mostly the Southern states. These states offer ideal growing conditions for cotton. Cotton in Georgia is planted from late April through May, when soil temperatures reach 65 degrees Fahrenheit. In some situations, especially in a double cropping system, cotton can be planted as late as June.
As you are driving through the country, you may notice different colored flowers on the cotton plants. When a cotton flower first opens it is white. On the second day, its color changes to pink. After the flower drops, a small immature cotton boll will be exposed. The boll is where the cotton fiber is formed.
According to the Georgia Cotton Commission, one bale of cotton, which weighs about 480 pounds, can make 215 pairs of jeans. The big squares of harvested cotton that you see sitting in the field are called modules.
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According to the National Cotton Council of America, one module can hold 13 to 15 bales. There are also round modules that hold about four bales.
We all know that cotton is used to make textiles, but what happens to all of the cottonseeds? According to the Georgia Cotton Commission, cottonseeds can be pressed into oil that is used in many snack foods. Cottonseed meal is fed to cattle and is a high source of protein. Linters are the fibers that still cling to the seeds after ginning.
According to the Georgia Cotton Commission, linters can be found in cellulose products in ice cream, maple syrup and chewing gum. They can also be found in film and paper currency.
According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the boll weevil has cost American cotton producers over $15 billion dollars since its introduction nearly a century ago.
In 1987, an eradication program was started and completed by 1990. Boll weevil traps are still placed near cotton fields to monitor for possible reinfestation. Cotton plants are beautiful, and you might be tempted to grow some as an ornamental in your garden or flower bed. Because of the boll weevil, these types of planting are not permitted in Georgia without a permit from the Department of Agriculture.
This time of year, take a drive through the county and enjoy the view of the south Georgia snow. As a side note, please be lookout of slow moving tractors and harvest equipment.
For more information on any program area, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or drop by our office in the old courthouse, downtown Perry, 801 Main St. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more news about your local Extension office, visit our website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston.