Today, so many products are created from cotton. Since the fiber is pervasive in what we wear, eat, and use on a daily basis, it’s easy to forget that it comes from a crop, and must be harvested each and every year to meet worldwide demand. Cotton has been cultivated for over 5,000 years, and only halfway through the 20th century did modern farming methods move away from handpicking and horse plowing.
Today’s cutting-edge machinery, along with other technological advancements, allows farmers to grow cotton more efficiently. While cotton may take on many forms, including a shirt or a cleansing wipe, it’s important to understand where it comes from. In today’s post we’ll discuss how cotton is grown, processed, and used.
- From Seed to Healthy Plant
- From the Field to the Cotton Gin
- From the Cotton Gin to the Textile Mills
- The Beauty of Cotton
- From Boll To Ball: The Lifecycle Of Cotton
- Crop Harvest Calendars for Each State in the United States (and Many Other Countries)
- How precise are the calendars?
- Crop Availability / Harvest Calendars by Country and State or Province
- To find out when a specific fruit or vegetable is normally ready for harvesting / picking in your area, click on your country or state below!, then scroll down that page!
- Harvest Calendars for Other Countries.
- Picking Tips
- Illustrated Canning, Freezing, Jam Instructions and Recipes
- Easy Preserving Directions – How to…
- Harvest tips for home garden vegetable crops:
- Harvest Time: What You Should Know About Harvesting Your High-Value Crops For Maximum Potency and Yield
- Why It’s So Important To Time Your Harvest Correctly
- WARNING: Don’t Harvest Too Early!
- Our No. 1 Tip To Get The Timing Of Your Harvest Correct
- Three Reliable Ways To Know When It’s Time To Harvest
- Some Tips To Get More Potency And Yields Right Before Harvest
- Gather These Must-Have Tools For Harvest
- Differences In Harvesting Indoor And Outdoor Crops
- Step-By-Step How To Harvest Your Crops
- Reaping The Results
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- Economic Impact:
- Where Cotton is Grown:
- The Growth Process:
- COTTON CULTURE
- Key Parts of the Cotton Plant
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From Seed to Healthy Plant
Most farmers plant cottonseed in April. The best time depends on when the soil is warm enough for the seed to germinate, so the perfect time will vary somewhat from region to region. Luckily for farmers, new seed varieties, ones that mature earlier, are constantly being developed.
Until harvest, it’s important for farmers to keep their fields as free as possible from weeds, insects, and disease. Unattended weeds can choke out plants, and insects and diseases, if undetected, can devastate a crop. A healthy plant will flower, first turning yellow-white before becoming red. It then dies, leaving a boll (which explains the cotton farmer’s adage, “White, red, and dead”). Once this boll bursts open, the cotton dries when exposed to the sun. Now it’s ready to be harvested.
From the Field to the Cotton Gin
In the old days of handpicking, a farmer could harvest 200 pounds of cotton a day. Now, with modern farming equipment, 200 pounds can be harvested in 90 seconds. Mechanical picker spindles pick and twist the raw cotton fiber from the bur, and the raw fiber is captured in a basket on the back of the picker. Today’s pickers are armed with yield monitors and GPS to maximize efficiency. For example, this updated technology allows them to track crop areas with better yields, which can help improve results when they plant again.
Next, the harvested cotton is converted into modules (envision a long, tall rectangle of compressed cotton that would fit perfectly into the back of a tractor trailer). This happens one of two ways: 1) harvested cotton is first dumped into a boll buggy, and then into a module-builder where it is compacted into a tight block or 2) an onboard module-building cotton picker is used, which creates the module as the cotton is harvested. Obviously option 2 is more efficient since it saves a step, and allows more time to be spent harvesting the cotton. A single module of cotton typically weighs 20,000 pounds.
From the Cotton Gin to the Textile Mills
Once the module is tagged and taken to the gin, the true transformation takes place. Ultimately the goal is to separate the lint from the seed. First, any trash—such as grass or leaves—is removed from the bottom of the module. Next, fine-toothed saws pull out sticks and burs. The last step involves a crusher, which extracts the oil. Any leftover meal from the crushing process becomes feed for animals.
The cotton lint now must be cleaned since it comes from the field and can contain field dirt, plant parts, mold, and bacteria. Also, fibers must be removed from the seeds. Once it undergoes the cleaning process it enters a condenser, which converts the lint into 500-pound bales of cotton. These bales are then shipped to textile mills or manufacturers, the last stop before cotton becomes a product used by consumers.
The Beauty of Cotton
Now that you have a better understanding of how cotton is grown and processed, it’s much easier to see how it is used. From textile mills comes apparel, ranging from t-shirts to socks to dresses, all made with natural cotton. Other manufacturers make a variety of consumer goods, such as wipes, diapers, or filters. Cotton touches a variety of industries, such as feminine care, beauty, and quilting (just to name a few).
But the beauty of cotton is that most of what is harvested is used in some capacity. The oil finds its way into food products, such as crackers, cereal, or potato chips. As we noted above, the leftover meal becomes animal feed. Once cotton is harvested, very little of it goes to waste. This fact, along with how it goes from seed to product in less than a year, makes it as compelling a crop as it does a story.
From Boll To Ball: The Lifecycle Of Cotton
As soon as the sun starts to break through the gray of winter, the Southern half of the United States starts one of the most important growing seasons of the year—cotton. From February to June, farmers from the tip of Virginia to the lower half of California start sowing their cotton seed and prepare for one of America’s most crucial crops. The climate in places like Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Southern California makes for the perfect growing weather—hot and dry—and by the middle of October fluffy, white cotton will be exploding from their bolls and ready to move on to the next phase of life.
Cotton starts as just a tiny sprout—you probably don’t even see it from the road as you drive by. Over the next month, the plants will grow to between two and five feet tall, making their presence known and painting fields in stunning bright green as Spring gives way to the Summer heat. A few weeks later, buttery yellow blossoms develop and eventually they fade to pink and then deep red before falling away. The plant’s ovary is all that’s left, which forms into a pod and begins to look more like the cotton we recognize.
Most of what makes cotton identifiable happens out of sight, inside of a protective shell called a boll. The boll houses seeds that elongate and form fibers, which continue to strengthen and thicken over time. Eventually, cellulose starts to form alongside the fibers and puts pressure on the boll from the inside out. After enough cellulose forms, the boll cracks and reveals puffy, perfectly-sprouted cotton plants, ready for harvest.
Massive harvesters crawl through the fields in late October to reap what they’ve sown. Many cotton farmers use stripper harvesters, which have rollers to grab the entire boll from the plant as they weave in and out of the fields. Others use spindle pickers that only remove the cotton itself. Supima Cotton’sharvesters are state-of-the-art GPS-controlled machines that carve paths through their sprawling cotton fields across the American Southwest. After harvesting, the cotton is piled into large square loaves called modules, which can weigh more than 25,000 pounds.
These loaves are transported to local gins and heated to remove excess moisture, and run through a few cycles of cleaning to get rid of anything that got caught in the fibers along the way. The cotton pulls through a gin, which catches seeds in narrow ribs and allows the fiber to pass through. Cotton seeds head to storage and the fibers are compressed into massive bales, ready to head to textile mills. Next, cotton is sorted for sale. A number of factors will go into what level of quality cotton is considered, including color, strength, cleanliness, and the fineness of the crop. An expert will oversee this process, called a Classer, and make sure that bales are uniform and in the best shape possible.
By the time cotton gets from the field to a manufacturer, it could be sold and resold several times on the market.
While the cotton fiber itself is being cleaned and prepped for market, there’s still another aspect of the crop that needs some attention. Cottonseed is also a valuable product and has a few different uses. For every 100 pounds of cotton fiber, about 160 pounds of cottonseed can be harvested and reused for cottonseed oil, or ground up into cottonseed meal which makes excellent fertilizer or feed for livestock. Around 5% of the harvested seeds will be stored for next year’s planting season.
Back in the textile mills, the bales of cotton are ready to take a new form, and yarn production is starting. Several bales blend together to make sure that they are as uniform as possible, and machines spread the lint out to make what looks like a thin web. The webs travel through a trumpet that spins them into a fine, soft rope called a sliver. Multiple slivers draw together, around 8 at a time, to create the foundation for cotton yarns. These slivers twist and spin several times until the desired thickness, depending on the end-use for the yarn. This yarn can be wound around a spindle for use on its own, or twisted with others to form a ply yarn. Twisting multiple ply yarns together will form a cord, closer to rope in structure than thread.
These yarns will either be woven or knitted into fabric. Weaving the yarn on a loom creates a tight, more structured fabric, where using needles to knit yarns together usually results in a stretchier feel. To get an idea of the differences, look around your own home–your jeans and shirts are woven, your jersey sheets and favorite sweater are knitted. These fabrics will then be dyed, cut, and crafted into other things—clothing, bedding, home decor items, cotton is pretty much everywhere in your home.
Of course, cotton goes on to become other things, too. Beauty and medical products, like cotton balls and q-tips, are cotton fibers that have been bleached and sterilized. Cotton can also be found in bandages, book bindings, and even American money.
The uses for cotton are endless, and as the harvesting season winds to a close, the seeds will be stored in a clean environment that allows for plenty of aeration to make sure mold and insects don’t claim them. Come Spring, they’ll be planted to begin another year’s crop.
Crop Harvest Calendars for Each State in the United States (and Many Other Countries)
Looking for Crop Harvest Calendars for Each State in the United States (and Many Other Countries) in 2020? Scroll down this page and follow the links. And if you bring home some fruit or vegetables and want to can, freeze, make jam, salsa or pickles, see this page for simple, reliable, illustrated canning, freezing or preserving directions. There are plenty of other related resources, click on the resources dropdown above.
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Do you have a favorite fruit or vegetable, and you’d love to get it fresh and local, but you don’t know when it is normally harvested in your area? Then you are in luck: these pages link to the United States first national crop harvest calendars. Just click on your state below and the link will take you to the crop calendar for your state or area!
How precise are the calendars?
They’re as precise as the weather! Which means, they can normally vary by 1 to 2 weeks. So, to be safe, call the farms 2 weeks before the start of a season for a given crop, according to the calendar for your area!
Crop Availability / Harvest Calendars by Country and State or Province
To find out when a specific fruit or vegetable is normally ready for harvesting / picking in your area, click on your country or state below!, then scroll down that page!
Harvest Calendars for Other Countries.
Looking for pick your own farms in other countries? Living in another country, such as France, Italy (Italia), Germany (Deutschland), Nederlands, or Sweden? Help me compile a list for your country – just write me!
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Vegetable Harvest Time: color, sheen, and size or harvest indicators.
Timing is everything when it comes to the home vegetable garden harvest. Once vegetables are picked they immediately begin to lose flavor, tenderness, and nutritional value. Harvest your crops as close to the time you plan to serve them, within an hour or less of serving time is best.
How do you know when it is time to harvest your crops? Here are a few indicators:
• Color. Many vegetables turn colors as they ripen–tomatoes and peppers are examples. Check the seed packet or look at the description for each crop listed here so that you know when to pick.
• Sheen. Vegetables ready for picking commonly have a shiny, healthy look. If the skin of the crop is dull, the peak time for harvest may have passed. (Watermelon is one exception.)
• Size. Most vegetables are ready for harvest when they reach a useable size. To check the tenderness and flavor of a vegetable bite into it. Don’t delay the harvest simply to grow bigger crops–flavor will likely be lost.
Most vegetables can be harvested when they are just half-grown; this is when most vegetables are at their height of tenderness and flavor. Crops that mature in late summer and fall have a relatively lengthy harvest period–sometimes as long as two weeks or more. These crops can usually be stored for early winter use if you can’t get them to the table right away. Early season usually require serving very close to harvest time.
Experience and taste will teach you when a crop is ready for the kitchen–when it has reached peak flavor and tenderness. The best time for harvest–the horticultural and culinary harvest–can be different from when a crop reaches botanical maturity. Botanically mature cucumbers are yellow and seedy–past time for the cook’s harvest. The culinary and botanical harvest for tomatoes, however, is the same.
Harvest tips for home garden vegetable crops:
Asparagus. Pick asparagus when stems reach 6 to 10 inches tall, less than 1 inch around, and bud tips are still very tight. To harvest bend the stems until they snap; the portion that is too tough to snap is too tough to eat. Pick all stems at this stage; stems that grow larger will compromise the plant’s ability to send up new shoots. Harvest time is over when stems no longer grow larger than ½ inch in diameter. Asparagus started from crowns or seedlings should be allowed to become established and gain strength for two years before the first harvest.
Beans, Snap. Pick snap beans when they are still able to snap when bent. Pick snap beans before the seeds have begun to fill out the pods. These pods will be tender, moist, and succulent. Time from sowing until harvest will vary with variety. Bush snap beans are usually ready for harvest in 8 weeks, pole snap beans in 9 weeks.
Beans, Green Shell. Pick shell beans when the beans inside the pods are fully formed (open one to see) but before the pods begin to deteriorate. Bush shell beans are usually ready for harvest 9 to 10 weeks after sowing.
Beans, Dry. Dry beans should be left on the vine to dry before harvest. Wait until the foliage has yellowed and withered and pods have become papery before picking.
Beans, Lima. Pick lima beans when pods are fully formed in the pods. Bush Lima beans are usually ready in 9 to 10 weeks after sowing, pole Lima beans about 13 weeks after sowing.
Beets. Pull beets for their roots when they are less than 2 inches and not more than 3 inches across, usually eight to nine weeks after seeds have been sown. These beets will be most tender. Beets that stay in the ground too long will be tough and woody. To check beet size for harvest, push soil away from the top of the beet.
Beet Greens. Beet seedlings or greens can be harvested when 4 to 5 inches tall. Greens taste better when they are young and tender but can be harvested at any time throughout the season.
Broccoli. Broccoli is ready for harvest just before flower buds begin to open, about 14 to 60 weeks after sowing depending upon variety, Harvest broccoli with a knife, cut the stem just beneath the top cluster of buds; this will stimulate the growth of more–though smaller–broccoli heads. Side branches will develop clusters of smaller buds over the next 8 to 10 weeks. Broccoli is past harvest time when yellow florets are visible.
Brussels sprouts. Pick the first sprouts when they become firm, about 16 weeks after sowing; continue the harvest over the next 6 weeks or so. Start the harvest when the first sprouts are 1- to 1½ inches across; start with the bottom sprouts and work up as the sprouts develop. If the harvest is not complete when night temperatures drop below 20°F, dig up the plant and place it in a protected place where it will continue to grow until all sprouts mature.
Cabbage. Cut cabbage heads at the base of the stalk when heads are formed and firm to the touch. Early varieties will be ready in about 105 to 115 days after sowing; midseason varieties will be ready in 125 to 135 days and late varieties will be ready in 145 to 165 days. Cut the heads from the roots with a sharp knife. If you leave the stalks and roots in place, you may get a second harvest from early varieties.
Carrots. Harvest carrots as soon as the roots are large enough to use. Pull up roots as needed until the ground has begun to freeze
Cauliflower. Harvest heads while they are compact and tight. Cut the stalk just below the head. White-budded varieties are ready for harvest 100 to 110 days after sowing; purple-budded varieties are ready 130 to 145 days after sowing. Varieties that require blanching may be ready a few days after blanching in warm weather; in cooler weather, heads may take two weeks to reach harvest after blanching. Harvest early rather than late; heads that stay too long on the plant can become “ricey”–the curds begin to break apart into individual flowers.
Celeriac. Harvest celeriac root crowns when they have reached 2 to 4 inches in diameter.
Celery. Celery is edible at all stages of growth. Celery reaches maturity about 110 days after plants are set in the garden, about 180 days after sowing. To harvest, cut individual stalks or pull up the plant and cut off the roots just below the base of the stalk. Individual stalks should be harvested from the outside working to the middle.
Celtuce. Pick celtuce leaves from the base of the plant when young–in the first four weeks. Stalks can be harvested when they are about 1 inch in diameter at the base but before the seed heads appear. Slice off the stalk at ground level and pull off the leaves.
Chard, Swiss. Cut chard leaves when they are 6 to 10 inches tall, about 40 to 60 days after sowing seeds. Cut outer leaves near the base of the plant with a sharp knife; the inner leaves will continue to grow and can be cut a few days later. Get rid of old or tough leaves to keep the plant producing new leaves.
Chicory. Leaf chicory heads can be cut from the roots as needed. Witloof chicory chicons can be harvested when about 6 inches long; twist and break off the head.
Chinese cabbage. All varieties of Chinese cabbage or Chinese leaves are ready for harvest when leaves are about 15 inches long, about 80 to 90 days after sowing seeds. Pull up the plant and cut off the roots and get rid of tough outer leaves. Non-heading Chinese cabbage can be harvested cut-and-come-again. Leave at least five leaves on the plant to promote a second harvest.
Collard. Harvest collard leaves when they are young, tender, and mild flavored. Collard leaves will reach maturity about 40 days after seeds are sown; leaves can be picked earlier. Cut away outer leaves and leave the central bud intact so that the plant will continue to send out more leaves as the stem grows taller. To harvest the entire plant, cut it off at the stalk; the leaves at the top will be most succulent.
Corn, Sweet. Pick corn when the silks at the end of the ears turn brown and damp and the ears are full and firm. Kernels should be full, plump, and juicy. The top of the husk will be round and blunt, not pointed. Early varieties mature in about 75 days; late varieties mature in 85 to 95 days. Midsummer planted corn will require about 14 days extra to mature. To harvest corn, give the cob a sharp twist downward from the stalk.
Cowpeas. Cowpeas can be picked when they are young and succulent for use as green beans. To use cowpeas as green shell beans, pick them when they are nearly mature in size.
Cress. Land cress is ready for harvest as soon as 10 days after growth has started. Garden cress is ready for harvest as soon as the third leaf appears. Watercress is ready for harvest about 14 days after seed is sown. Use cress from the tips which is sweeter flavored.
Cucumber. Cut slicing cucumbers from the vine when they are 6 to 8 inches long and dark green; pickling cucumbers can be cut from the vine when they are 1½ to 3 inches long. Do not leave cucumber on the vine to turn yellow or orange. Cucumbers are usually ready for harvest about 60 days after sowing. Pick cucumbers regularly or the plant will stop producing.
Eggplant. Eggplant is ready to pick when the fruit is 3 to 6 inches long and very shiny, not dull. Dull fruit is overripe. Eggplant is usually harvested about 145 days after seeds have been sown, about 70 days after setting seedlings into the garden. Immature fruits are tender and can be eaten. Cut fruit from the plant with shears, the stems are tough. Sliced eggplant with brown seeds is passed its peak.
Endive, Escarole. Pick endive and escarole leaves or plants at any size. Leafy heads can be cut off at the base of the leaves or leaves can be harvested cut-and-come-again. Endive and escarole reach maturity about 90 days after seeds are sown. To blanch the leaves before harvest, gather the long outer leaves together over the crown the plant and hold them together with a rubber band.
Florence Fennel. The bulbous stem of Florence fennel is ready for harvest when it measures 2½ to 3 inches in diameter. Larger stems may be tough and stringy. Dig up the whole plant and cut off the roots and upper branches. The leaves of Florence fennel can be used for garnishes and flavorings when the plant is 18 inches tall.
Garlic. Garlic is ready for harvest 90 to 110 days after planting when the tops begin to yellow and droop. When leaves begin to yellow, stop watering and bend over the leaf tops to begin curing the bulb. Allow bulbs to dry in a shady place for several days until the skin becomes papery. Allow bulbs to completely dry then cut off the leaf stalks and trim the roots. Young garlic leaves can be trimmed like chives to use as a flavoring.
Globe Artichoke. Globe artichokes are ready for harvest the second year after planting. Harvest artichoke buds when they are plump but before the bracts open. Harvest the large central globe first; afterwards, side side-shoot globes can be picked. Buds are past harvest when the turn purple and the flowers become visible. Flower heads can be cut 5 to 6 inches down the stem.
Hamburg Parsley. Hamburg parsley is usually ready for harvest when roots are 6 to 8 inches long. Larger roots are better tasting than smaller roots. In cold winter regions, dig roots before the ground freezes. Leaf tops can be harvested during the growing season and used like leaf parsley; do not remove too many stems or the root will not develop.
Horseradish. Lift horseradish root after cool weather arrives in fall. Several frosts will enhance the flavor of horseradish. Lift the roots by hand after loosening the soil with a spading fork. Horseradish requires an average of 120 days to reach maturity.
Jerusalem Artichoke. Lift tubers after the foliage has died back in autumn or early winter. Loosen the soil with a garden fork then pull the tuber from the ground. Jerusalem artichokes require about 120 days to mature.
Kohlrabi. Harvest kohlrabi when the stems are about the size of a small apple, about 2 to 2½ inches across, about 8 weeks after sowing. Do not let the stems grow older they will become tough and stringy. Cut the stems at soil level about an inch below the bulb.
Leeks. Leeks are ready for harvest when stems are 1 inch in diameter about 16 to 18 weeks after sowing. Leek stems will be about 2½ inches around at full maturity. Lift leeks by hand or with a garden fork.
Lettuce. Crisphead, cos, and butterhead lettuce is ready for harvest when heads are firm 10 to 11 weeks after sowing; cut off the whole head at the root crown. Harvest loose-leaf lettuce leaf by leaf, cutting outer leaves when they are large enough to use about 6 to 7 weeks after sowing. Romaine lettuce will be ready for harvest about 11 to 12 weeks after sowing. All lettuce leaves are edible at any stage of growth.
Luffa. Pick luffa when the fruit is 4 to 5 inches long; longer fruits will be stringy. Luffa leaves can be picked for salads when young and tender. Blossoms can be picked for kitchen use at full size. Luffa fruit is ready for harvest about 120 days after sowing.
Malabar Spinach. Pick the leaves of Malabar spinach while still tender and young, after the plant has begun to branch. Older leaves will be tough. Malabar spinach requires about 70 days to reach maturity from sowing.
Melon. Cantaloupe is ready for harvest at the “slip” stage–when slight pressure at the point where the stem joins the melon causes the melon to slop off the vine. Casaba and honeydew melons are ripe when the skin turns yellow. Crenshaw and Persian melons are ready for harvest when they have a fruity scent. Watermelons are ripe when a rap on the fruit creates a dull sound.
Mustard. For best flavor, mustard leaves should be picked cut-and-come-again when leaves are 4 to 5 inches long or the entire plant can be harvested. Older leaves can be cooked. Mustard takes 30 to 50 days to reach maturity from sowing depending on variety.
New Zealand Spinach. Cut New Zealand spinach leaves for harvest when they are 3- to 4-inches long. New Zealand spinach can be harvested cut-and-come-again..
Okra. Okra is ready for harvest about 60 days after seeds are sown. Pick pods when they are 2 to 3 inches long and soft; harvest comes just about five days after the flowers fade. For a continuous harvest pick pods every three days and do not allow pods to mature on the plant.
Onion. Bulb onions depending upon variety are ready for harvest about 3 to 5 months after the seeds are sown or about three and a half months after sets or young plants have been set out. When leaves start to turn yellow, bend the stems to a nearly horizontal position to stop the growth of the bulb and allow it to ripen. Remove soil from around the top half of the bulb. When the leaves turn brown, lift the bulbs. Bunching or green onions or scallions can be harvested young as needed beginning just a few weeks after sowing. Scallions have the best flavor when harvested less than 10 inches long.
Parsnip. Spring planted parsnips are ready for harvest in early fall, about four months after seeds are sown. The flavor of parsnip roots is enhanced by a few hard frosts. Parsnips will be very flavorful if left in the ground all winter. Harvest parsnips left in the ground over the winter before new growth begins in spring.
Pea. Green pea pods should be picked when the pods are firm but still succulent, before they start to yellow or begin to shrivel. Green peas are usually ready for harvest about three weeks after flowering or 60 to 70 days after sowing. Edible-pod peas such as snow peas should be picked when they are still flat and the peas inside are barely discernible. It is best to cut pea pods from the plant with a small scissors or pruners rather than pull or jerk them away from the vine. Garden peas can be left on the vine to wither and turn brown then harvested, shelled, and dried for use as dry peas.
Peanuts. Lift peanuts when the foliage yellows and the pods have filled out and the pods’ veins begin to darken. This is usually before the first frost in fall but could come after the first light frosts. Even after the foliage has died back, pods will continue to mature for several weeks Peanuts usually mature 110 to 120 days after planting.
Pepper. Sweet peppers and hot peppers are edible at all stages of growth–whether immature or full size, whether green or red. Peppers reach maturity at 60 to 20 days from the time starts have been set out in the garden. Hot peppers should be picked fully ripe for drying or pickling. Cut fruit from the plant rather than pull. All pods should be picked before the first frost.
Potato. Young potatoes–called new potatoes–can be harvested as early as 45 to 55 days after planting, usually about the time blossoms appear or a week or two later. Lift new potatoes as soon as they reach useable size. Early varieties are best for new potatoes. Late varieties–often used for storage–should be lifted about the time of the first autumn frost. Continue the harvest for two to three weeks after the tops have died back. Remove large tubers first allowing smaller ones time to grow. Lift potatoes in dry weather being careful not to bruise the skin.
Pumpkin. Harvest pumpkins when the leaves die and the fruit becomes a rich orange, about four months after sowing; the sheen of the skin will have faded. For storing, cut pumpkins from the vine at full maturity just before the first fall frosts. Cut pumpkins from the vine with a pruning shears, leaving about 3 inches of stem on the fruit; pumpkins decay quickly if the stems are broken rather than cut. After harvesting, set pumpkins in the sun for one to two weeks to harden the outer skin, then store them in a cool dry place.
Radish. Harvest radishes when the diameters of the roots reach the size listed for each variety, usually while still less than 1 inch in diameter or as soon as they are large enough to use. Pull up early- and mid-season varieties 25 to 30 days after sowing. Take up late or winter varieties 60 days after sowing. Take up radishes before they become tough and woody.
Rhubarb. Rhubarb is a perennial; it will be ready for harvest starting about two years after planting. Harvest leafstalks that 12 to 24 inches long and 1 inch or more in diameter. Harvest stalks before they become tough. Allow smaller stalks to continue to grow and build the plant’s strength. To harvest leafstalks grasp each stalk near its base and give it a sideward twisting tug; the stalk will separate cleaning from the top of the roots. The harvest will continue for eight to ten weeks.
Rutabaga. Rutabagas are ready for harvest as soon as they are large enough to sue, about 90 days after seed sowing. Choose rutabagas about 3 to 5 inches long, but not longer than 5 to 7 inches. Rutabaga will be most flavorful after the first autumn frost but before the roots freeze. Grasp the top of the rutabaga and pull it up. Rutabaga is ready for harvest 85 to 90 days after sowing.
Salsify. Dig up salsify roots as soon as they are large enough to use, usually about 150 days after sowing. The flavor and texture of salsify roots is enhanced by freezes in autumn or winter. Lift salsify roots with a garden spade or fork.
Shallots. Harvest shallots to use as green onions at any stage of growth. For dry bulbs, harvest shallots when the tops have browned and withered, usually about 100 days after sowing.
Sorrel. Cut sorrel leaves at any time during the growing season; young and tender leaves are the most flavorful. Cut outer leaves as needed cut-and-come-again. Sorrel reaches maturity about 70 days after sowing.
Soybeans. Pick green shell soybeans to eat the shelled beans fresh when the seeds are just mature or nearly mature, from 70 to 100 days after sowing depending upon the variety. Pick green soybeans while the pods are plump and before they begin to wither. For storage as dry beans, pick the pods when they are dry but while the stems are still green.
Spinach. Harvest spinach leaves when they are 6 to 8 inches long, about six weeks after planting. For a long harvest, cut leaves cut-and-come-again starting with outer leaves and allowing inner leaves to keep developing. Continue the harvest until the seed stalk appears or until the weather turns very cold. Individual leaves or the entire plant is cut off at the soil surface.
Squash, Summer. Summer squash is ready for harvest when fruits are tender and easily punctured, usually about 50 days after sowing. Pick summer squash when the skin yields to thumb pressure. Zucchini is best when about 7 inches long and 1½ inches thick. Scalloped summer squash is ready for picking when the fruit is 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Pattypan is best when about 3 to 4 inches across. Crookneck and straightneck squash is best when about 4 inches long. For best flavor harvest summer squash at no more than 6 to 8 inches long.
Squash, Winter. Winter squash will be ready for harvest when the skin is extremely hard, about 80 to 115 days after planting depending upon variety. Delay the harvest of winter squash until just before the first hard frost. A light frost or two will change starch to sugar and enhance flavor. Cut winter squash from the vine leaving a 2- to 3-inch stem on the squash. Allow winter squash to cure in the sun for a week or more, then store in a cool, dry place over the winter.
Sweet Potato. Dig up sweet potatoes in late fall in frost-free regions about 90 to 100 days after planting. In cold regions, dig up tubers as soon as the tops of the plants are hit by the first fall frost. Don’t allow sweet potatoes to stay in the ground much past the first frost; dying vines can spread rot to the tubers. Tubers can be harvested earlier in the season, but they gain most of their size in the last 30 days of growth. Lift sweet potatoes carefully with a garden fork or spade. Do not bruise the skin at harvest; damage can cause decay in storage. Dry sweet potatoes for two or three hours after lifting then spread them out on newspaper and allow them to dry in place where the temperature will remain about 80°F for 10 days to two weeks. Gradually reduce the temperature to 50° to 55° by ventilating the curing area.
Tomato. Tomatoes are ready for harvest when they have developed their full color; tomatoes ripen from the center of the fruit to the outside. Pick tomatoes by gently lifting each tomato until the stem snaps. Tomatoes do not develop their natural red color in temperatures greater than 86°F; in hot regions, pick tomatoes when they are still pink and allow them to ripen fully indoors.
Turnip. Turnips are ready for harvest when roots are 2 inches in diameter, usually about 40 days after sowing. Do not allow turnip roots to grow larger than 3 inches or they will become woody and lose flavor. Grasp the top of the turnip and pull it up at harvest.
Specific Vegetable Crop Harvest Tips in the Harvest and Storage category or look up each crop in the Index.
Harvest Time: What You Should Know About Harvesting Your High-Value Crops For Maximum Potency and Yield
Do you know the best time to harvest your high-value crops?
Did you know that when you harvest can make a big difference to the type of experience your final product delivers to the end user?
In today’s harvest guide, we’ll cover:
- The importance of timing your harvest correctly
- The most reliable ways to know when it’s time to harvest
- How to harvest your crops, both indoors and outdoors
- Top tips to help you get the most potency and yields from your harvest
So let’s get started.
Why It’s So Important To Time Your Harvest Correctly
Knowing when it’s the right time to harvest your high-value crops can be a little nerve-wracking.
After all, you’ve spent weeks getting to this point, caring for your precious plants, and now you’re probably champing at the bit to start harvesting and enjoying the final product.
But the fact is, harvest time can be somewhat confusing for many growers, because the best time to harvest can vary from strain to strain.
In general, most high-value crops are like fruit — the longer you wait, the more potent the product.
This can be both good and bad, depending on what type of end-user outcome you’re looking for in your product. Some strains can be almost too strong if you wait too long to harvest, while other strains might not be potent enough.
WARNING: Don’t Harvest Too Early!
Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes that a lot of growers make, especially if you’re a new grower, is to harvest too early.
After waiting for weeks and watching your plants grow and flower, you can imagine how easy it is to be overly excited and jump the gun when harvesting your plants.
The problem, of course, is that this can often give you lower yields and lower overall potency.
Add to this the fact that the correct harvest time can be difficult to ascertain in advance, especially if you’re growing with an unfamiliar strain.
While you certainly don’t want to waste any time and risk harvesting too late, the biggest threat for most growers is to get overexcited and harvest too early.
Our No. 1 Tip To Get The Timing Of Your Harvest Correct
In a moment, we’ll discuss various methods of determining when it’s time to harvest. But first we want to share a tip that will especially help first-time growers.
And that is to harvest your buds in stages.
Start with a small sample.
In other words, if you’re growing a strain you’re unfamiliar with — or if this is your first grow — and you think it’s time to harvest, then you can simply flush one plant, then pick off the buds you think look the most ripe.
Cure them and then try them out.
See if you were correct.
Are they displaying the potency, aroma, mouthfeel and other characteristics that you’re looking for? If so, then you should make a note of the time period and continue to harvest the rest of your plants after flushing with a product like Flawless Finish.
If you think they need a little more time to ripen, then you’ll discover that, too.
This is a great strategy to combine with the other methods in this article to get the best timing of when to harvest your plants.
Three Reliable Ways To Know When It’s Time To Harvest
In general, because you don’t want to harvest too soon, you only want to harvest your crops when they stop growing.
Does it look like they’ve stopped putting on size? Have the buds stopped swelling? Have they stopped sprouting new hairs?
All these are signs that it’s time to harvest. But in general, over the years growers have found three reliable ways to determine the best time to harvest:
1. Flowering Time
One way to know when it’s time to harvest is to simply know what the expected flowering time is for your particular strain. Often you can find online posts and information about other growers who have grown the same strain you’re growing, and you can read their reviews about when to harvest.
As a general guideline, these are some of the most popular strains and when it’s best to harvest them, based on their flowering cycle:
- Indica: Harvest after eight weeks of flowering
- Sativa: Harvest after 10 weeks of flowering
- Autoflower: 10–12 weeks from seedling to bud
2. The Color Of Pistils
The pistils on your buds are the reproductive organs of your female plants. They look like little hairs sticking out. The good news is that as your buds mature and ripen, these pistils change color. They start white, then get darker, often looking brown.
A reliable method that growers have used for years to determine the best time to harvest is the pistil method. Quite simply, it involves looking at the color of the pistils on your plant.
If you pay close attention to the colors as they change, you’ll know when it’s time to gather your crops. Here’s what to look for:
- Mostly white: Way too young to harvest
- 50–70% brown: A young, light plant (so you might want to wait)
- 70–90% brown: The plant is ripe and heavy (probably an ideal time to harvest)
- 90–100% brown: Sharp, heavy plant — harvest now (because if you wait, it might be too late)!
Pistils can also change color prematurely due to environmental conditions such as higher humidity in the air or moisture on the plants. So keep this in mind and also check the other important indicators listed in this guide.
The most reliable way to see if your plants are ripe and ready for harvest is to look at their glandular stalked trichomes (a.k.a the resin glands) using a magnifying glass.
These trichomes are like crystals or look frosty on well-cultivated buds. Trichomes change color as they ripen. They start clear, then turn translucent (or milky white) before finally turning an amber color.
When roughly 50 percent of the trichomes on your plant have turned a milky-white, translucent color, then most strains are at peak ripeness. Here’s what to look for:
- Clear trichomes: Wait a bit longer
- Milky-white/amber trichomes: Most strains ready for harvest
- All amber trichomes: Overripe
Also remember that harvesting trichomes too early or too late can greatly impact the effects of certain high-value crops, including the high. Early harvested trichomes (mostly clear and milky) will have a clearer high, whereas trichomes that are 30–40 percent amber will have more of a couch-lock effect with indica and a more sedative-like effect with sativa, while also diminishing sativa’s main characteristic of an energetic high.
Some Tips To Get More Potency And Yields Right Before Harvest
There are a few things you can do, even in the final days before harvest, to help increase final potency and yields.
First, make sure you flush your plants. .
Another great method that is often underused by growers today is to stop watering 1–3 days before harvest. This is a unique way to stress your plant to get it to become more potent.
After flushing, in the final days of harvest, you can stress your plants by depriving them of water. You want to allow the plant to start to wilt just a small amount, because then the plant thinks it’s dying and as a last-ditch effort it will increase resin development. (If you want more tips like this, check out our post, How To Get Bigger Buds During Flowering.)
Gather These Must-Have Tools For Harvest
There are a few tools that are considered must-haves for a successful harvest.
- Big pruning shears:
- Sharp trimming scissors:
These are necessary for cutting through the tough stalks and branches of the plant. Large pruning shears are what you want.
Smaller, sharper snippers like Fiskars Soft Grip Micro-Tip Pruning Snip are ideal for trimming buds and the smaller leaves around buds.
While not a must-have item, this will make things cleaner and more sanitary while you’re handling your buds. Otherwise your hands will be covered in resin. (Top tip: Rubbing alcohol can help clean off resin better than soap and water will.)
A common way to trim is to use something like several cooking trays or bowls — one for the branches you cut off, one for trimmed buds, and one for all the plant matter you cut off the buds. But the best tool for this is the Trim Bin from Harvest More.
Differences In Harvesting Indoor And Outdoor Crops
There are a few crucial differences in harvesting your indoor versus outdoor crops.
The main difference, of course, is when you harvest.
If you’re growing indoors, you determine the lighting schedule of your plants so you can pretty much determine when you want to harvest.
If you’re growing outdoors, then in most cases the changing of the seasons determines when it’s harvest time.
Either way, if you’re growing outdoors, we recommend cutting down your plants and moving them to an indoor location to finish the harvest. This will give you greater control over the environment, the weather, humidity, and other concerns that you can’t control outdoors.
Step-By-Step How To Harvest Your Crops
Step 1: Cut Off Branches. The first step in harvesting your crops is to cut from your plant the branches that have buds.
There’s not really a right way to do this per se, but many growers like to cut their plant down, one branch at a time. A good tip is to cut these branches off in sizes that are manageable for you to work with. In short, you don’t want to cut off a four-feet-long branch, because it will be difficult to handle.
Step 2: Trim While Wet. First, you’ll want to remove any large fan leaves.
Next, you’ll want to trim the so-called sugar leaves, which are the small leaves that stick out of buds. How you trim these and how much you trim is up to you. Some people like to leave them on if they’re covered in trichomes, instead of trimming them. Others like to remove them completely because they say it makes the product less harsh. You’ll develop your own preference with each successful harvest.
In the next step, we’ll be drying the buds. We want them to dry relatively slowly, so to help do that it’s recommended to keep the buds on the actual branches at this point. However, if you’re dealing with a very humid environment, you could remove the buds from your branches so they dry quicker.
Lastly, you’ll want to save all your trimmings and plant matter that you cut from the buds and branches in a separate pile, because they could have value in the future.
Step 3: Dry. This starts the moment you cut and trim your crops and continues for 3–7 days.
The idea is to slowly dry your buds for the best benefits while protecting them against mold and bacteria growth.
Now, how you go about drying your buds is up to you, but there are a few proven methods. If you’re dealing with normal humidity or even a dry environment, then you’ll want to keep the buds on branches as we discussed. This makes them easy to dry slowly by simply hanging them upside down. There are many methods to do this, including using strings, clothes hangers or wire.
If you’re harvesting in a very humid environment and you’ve decided to cut the buds off the branches, then you’ll want to use a drying rack, which is also an option if you need to dry a large volume of buds in a small area and you don’t have the space for many branches to hang all over the place.
Either way, you’ll want to dry your buds as slowly as possible in a controlled environment. This will make the drying process slow enough while reducing the chances of mold and bacteria growth.
Here’s the ideal environmental conditions and timeline for drying:
- Days 1–3: 65 degrees and 55% humidity
- Days 4–6: 70 degrees and 50% humidity
- Days 7–10-ish: 73–75 degrees and 45% humidity, until stem breaks evenly and audibly.
How do you know when your harvest is dry enough?
If you’re drying just the buds (i.e., no branches or stems), then you’re done when the outside of the buds are dry to the touch. If you’re drying with the branches and stems, when the smaller stems snap evenly and audibly instead of just bend, then they’re ready (larger stems should still bend).
Step 4: Cure. You’ll want to use airtight glass jars, similar to mason jars, for curing your buds. After your buds have dried (i.e., they pass the snap test), then put them in the jars with the lid firmly in place.
You’ll only want to fill the jars about 75 percent of the way, leaving room for a little air at the top, because it helps break down sugars and chlorophyll in the buds as part of the curing process.
The breakdown of sugars makes for a smoother product, while reducing chlorophyll takes away any bad tastes (such as grass).
For a period of about 1–2 weeks, you’ll want to check your buds at least daily for mildew and mold (or even many times per day if you think they may be still too wet). Take them out of the jars to inspect them, then put them back in after you’ve removed any that seem to have problems. Changing their position in the jar like this should help them cure more uniformly.
After two weeks or so, you only need to open the jars about once per week, not daily. And the longer you cure them this way, the better the buds, up to a period of about six months. After that you probably won’t improve the quality much more. You can always sample small amounts of your harvest as the curing process continues, to see if you think it’s ready for market.
Reaping The Results
Harvest time is probably the most exciting time in the life of a grower.
But as you’ve read here, there are many ways to go about it — and the wrong way could hurt your yields or product quality.
Above all, remember that you’ll get better at this over time. So don’t stress if your first few harvests don’t turn out perfectly. You will improve as you gain more experience.
As long as you follow the tips and guidelines in this article, you should be fine.
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Hungry for More?
Did you know that U.S. paper money is actually made of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen? Or that one bale of cotton can make 249 bed sheets? Cotton is used more than any other fiber in the world, making it the United State’s leading cash crop.
From seeds to equipment, each year cotton production stimulates business not only for the farmer, but also for factories that produce the thread to business organizations across the country. Following production, cotton needs to be transported and processed, further stimulating business and helping the U.S. economy.
Where Cotton is Grown:
Cotton is grown in 17 states, mainly in the southern portion of the United States. Texas is the leading cotton-producing state followed by California, Mississippi, Georgia, and Arkansas.
The Growth Process:
Cotton is planted in the spring, when temperatures reach around 60 degrees, and grows best in fertile, well-drained soil. It takes about six to eight weeks, depending on the weather, after planting for the bloom to appear. The plants are irrigated, fertilized and weeded throughout the growing process then the bloom falls off and a mature cotton boll develops. This is the white fluffy part that most people think of when they think cotton. Cotton is harvested, compressed and sent to gins where they separate the fibers from the seeds. The fibers are baled, purchased by mills then spun into thread.
Once cotton has been spun into thread it is either exported or sent to U.S. textile mills for production. Approximately 3.6 million bales of cotton are processed by U.S. mills each year. From here, your clothing, money, baseballs, and more are made. This is why cotton production is not only important for our country’s economy, but for consumers as well. We wouldn’t be able to get dressed in the morning or pay for our cup of coffee without it.
Sources: Cotton Council International and National Cotton Council of America
Karen Gerhardt Britton, Fred C. Elliott, and E. A. Miller
COTTON CULTURE. Cotton was first grown in Texas by Spanish missionaries. A report of the missions at San Antonio in 1745 indicates that several thousand pounds of cotton were produced annually, then spun and woven by mission craftsmen. Cotton cultivation was begun by Anglo-American colonists in 1821. In 1849 a census of the cotton production of the state reported 58,073 bales (500 pounds each). In 1852 Texas was in eighth place among the top ten cotton-producing states of the nation. The 1859 census credited Texas with a yield of 431,645 bales. This sharp rise in production in the late 1850s and early 1860s was due at least in part to the removal of Indians, which opened up new areas for cotton production. The Civil War caused a decrease in production, but by 1869 the cotton crop was reported as 350,628 bales. The introduction of barbed wire in the 1870s and the building of railroads further stimulated the industry. In 1879 some 2,178,435 acres produced 805,284 bales. The 1889 census reported 3,934,525 acres producing 1.5 million bales. The cotton crop in 1900 was more than 3.5 million bales from 7,178,915 acres.
Additional factors contributed to the increase in cotton production during the last years of the nineteenth century. A specially designed plow made it possible to break up the thick black sod, and the fertile prairie soil produced as much as one bale per acre in some areas. Beginning in 1872, thousands of immigrants from the Deep South and from Europe poured into the Blackland Prairie of Central Texas and began growing cotton. Some of the newcomers bought small farmsteads, but most worked as tenant farmers or sharecroppers for landowners who controlled spreads as large as 6,000 acres. Cotton planting began in the spring, cultivation occurred during the summer, and harvesting by hand-picking began in late August. Tenants lived in houses on the landowners’ property and supplied their own draft animals, tools, and seed; for their year of work, after the cotton was ginned, they received two-thirds of the value of the cotton. The landowner received one-third. Sharecroppers furnished only their labor, while the landowner supplied animals, houses, seed, and tools, and at the end of the cotton season the sharecroppers received half the value of the crop. In both cases tenants and sharecroppers, whether white or black, bought such goods as shoes, medicines, and staple food items from the landowners’ commissaries, and the landowners kept the accounts. After the cotton was sold and the accounts settled, the tenant or sharecropper often had little or no hard cash left over. This socially enforced debt peonage, known as the crop-lien system, began after the Civil War and continued in practice until the 1930s.
Increased cotton production led to technological improvements in cotton ginning-the process of separating cotton fibers from their seeds, cleaning the fibers, and baling the lint for shipment to market. In 1884 Robert S. Munger of Mexia revolutionized the slow, animal-powered method of “plantation ginning” by devising the faster, automated “system ginning,” the process in use today. Cotton compresses, huge machines that reduced 500-pound bales to about half their ginned, or flat-bale, size for convenience in shipping, were constructed along railroad rights-of-way in many towns. The relocation of compresses from port cities such as Galveston to interior cotton-growing areas allowed farmers to sell their crops directly to buyers, who represented textile mills on the East Coast, and the buyers to send the cotton directly to the mills by rail rather than by ship. As telegraph lines spread westward, cotton could be bought and sold on the world market faster than ever before. Not only were the fibers sold, but also the cottonseed was crushed for cooking oil, hulls were converted to cattle feed, and portions of the plant were used to make an early type of plastic.
Technology and a world demand for cotton products, however, could not offset the devastation of the boll weevil. Farmers first saw the ravaging effect of the weevil, which had spread northward from Mexico, near Corpus Christi during the 1890s. Within a few years, boll weevil damage affected crops throughout Texas and the Cotton Belt, the cotton-growing states of the Deep South. Farmers used calcium arsenate dust and other pesticides to reduce the damage from boll weevils and such pests as the pink bollworm. Agents of the United States Department of Agriculture and the county extension service, which was begun at Texas A&M College, set up demonstration farms and experiment stations and visited individual farms to show farmers how to improve their crops through better methods of cultivation. A high demand for cotton during World War I stimulated production, but a drop in prices after the war led many tenants and sharecroppers to abandon farming altogether and move to the cities for better job opportunities.
Factors that caused the decline of cotton production in the state after the 1920s were the federal government’s control program, which cut acreage in half, the increase in foreign production (the state had been exporting approximately 85 percent of the total crop), the introduction of synthetic fibers, the tariff, the lack of a lint-processing industry in Texas, and World War II, which brought a shortage of labor and disrupted commerce. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, many former tenants and sharecroppers returned to farmwork, but after the United States entered World War II in 1941, farmworkers moved again to the cities for work in war-related industries. After the war, when steel and rubber became available to manufacturers again, farmers began to mechanize their methods of planting, cultivating, and harvesting, thus eliminating the need for tenants and sharecroppers, many of whom did not return to farmwork, and leading to new practices in cotton production that remain in use today. Cotton culture is now characterized by fewer but larger farms, fewer farmworkers and increased use of machines, widespread irrigation, better pest and weed control methods, alterations to the cotton plant that make it easier to harvest mechanically, and greater cooperation among farmers for marketing.
The most notable change in the production of cotton in the twentieth century was the geographical shift from East and Central Texas to the High Plains and the Rio Grande valley. Large production in the latter areas was obtained by extensive use of fertilizers and irrigation. Cotton requires fertile soil for profitable yields. It should be grown only on naturally fertile soils or on soils enriched by inoculated and properly fertilized legumes, barnyard manure, or commercial fertilizer. If the land has any appreciable slope, it should be terraced or contoured to prevent soil erosion and conserve water. Legumes, both summer and winter, play an important part in building up soil fertility and in making cotton production more profitable. The time for planting cotton varies greatly in the different sections of Texas. It is best not to plant until the soil has warmed up enough to ensure quick and uniform germination. Planting too early often results in stunted plants, poor stands, and lower yields. One-half to one bushel of fuzzy seed or from ten to fifteen pounds of delinted seed per acre is usually planted, the amount depending upon the section of the state. West Texas farmers usually plant a smaller quantity of seed per acre than East Texas growers. In the eastern part of the state, cotton is planted mostly on medium-high beds to allow better drainage and to enable the soil to warm up quicker in the spring, while in West Texas and other sections with low rainfall, cotton is planted below the level of the land. The seed are planted from one to two inches deep, the depth depending upon the condition of the soil and the amount of moisture present at planting time. If the plants are too close together they are thinned when they have four to six leaves. Larger yields are obtained in Texas from early thinning than from late thinning. A good spacing is about twelve inches between plants, with one or two plants per hill. This spacing helps to make the plants fruit earlier than would a wider spacing and usually results in higher yields. Cotton should be harvested as early as possible because profits are often greatly reduced by allowing the open cotton to be exposed to the wind and rain. Bad weather causes considerable shedding of the seed cotton from the bolls and lowers the grade and value of the fiber.
Because of a shortage of laborers and the destructiveness of sudden storms, cotton growers in the Lubbock area developed a means of rough-harvesting cotton during the 1920s. The first mechanical harvester consisted of fence posts attached to a draft animal and dragged between rows to dislodge the cotton. The method also broke off bolls, leaves, and sticks and mixed them in the fiber. A wagon or sled with an open groove down the center of the bed proved to be a better device. Horses or mules pulled the sled through the fields to harvest the cotton. Though these methods were faster, however, they both resulted in cotton with a high trash content that brought a much lower price than hand-picked or hand-snapped cotton. Mechanical strippers, which followed, pulled the boll off the plant by means of revolving rollers or brushes. Strippers are used to harvest cotton in the Plains region, where plants are small and grow close to the ground. Another type of harvester is the spindle picker. This machine does not strip cotton from the stalk but pulls locks of cotton from the bolls by means of revolving grooved or barbed spindles. The spindles add moisture to the locks to make them cling to the barbs, and rubber doffers loosen the cotton, which is then blown into a steel basket. Spindle pickers are used in areas of high rainfall where plants grow tall before they are defoliated.
In 1971 Lambert Wilkes of College Station, working with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service and Cotton Incorporated (a research division of the National Cotton Council), devised the concept of harvesting cotton by module. The steel module builder consists of a box large enough to hold 15,000 pounds (ten to twelve bales) of seed cotton, a cab, and a hydraulic tramper. Cotton from strippers or spindle pickers is emptied directly into the box, and an operator in the cab compresses the cotton with the tramper. When the box is full, a tractor pulls it forward, leaving on the turnrow a “loaf” of cotton that is eight feet high by eight feet wide by thirty-two feet long. The module is covered with a polyethelene tarpaulin and marked for field identification with a harmless spray. A specially designed module mover, a modified flatbed trailer, picks up the module and carries it to the gin, where it is unloaded into the cotton storage yard or directly under the suction telescope for ginning. In 1990, 74 percent of the Texas cotton crop was gathered by strippers and 26 percent by spindle pickers. Seventy percent of that crop was ginned from modules, and 30 percent from trailers.
Machines at the gin clean the trash from the fibers. The lint is baled in a universal-density press that eliminates the need for the old-fashioned compress, and the bale is packaged in synthetic bagging. During the baling process a sample is automatically removed. It may be sent to United States Department of Agriculture classing offices in various parts of the state. Increasingly often, however, high-volume instrument classing occurs at offices near the gins. Once the cotton grower or producer knows the class and value of his cotton, he sells it to buyers around the world by means of computers. A great deal of Texas cotton is exported, especially to Japan and South Korea.
Cotton has many uses besides clothing, linens, draperies, upholstery, and carpet. As early as 1813, nitrocellulose, or gun cotton, for explosives was made from raw cotton. In 1868 the combination of nitrocellulose and camphor made celluloid, an artificial plastic. Contemporary uses include fertilizer, paper, tires, cake and meal for cattle feed, and cottonseed oil for cooking, paint, and lubricants.
See also AGRICULTURE, COTTONSEED INDUSTRY, COTTON-COMPRESS INDUSTRY, TEXTILE INDUSTRY, FARM TENANCY, SLAVERY, ANTEBELLUM TEXAS, RECONSTRUCTION, LATE NINETEENTH-CENTURY TEXAS, PROGRESSIVE ERA, and TEXAS IN THE 1920S.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Karen G. Britton, Bale o’ Cotton (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992). Robert L. Haney, Milestones: Marking Ten Decades of Research (College Station: Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, 1989). M. Rebecca Sharpless and Joe C. Yelderman, Jr., eds., The Texas Blackland Prairie: Land, History, and Culture (Waco: Baylor University, 1993). What When
Key Parts of the Cotton Plant
Last weekend as I drove through the Missouri Bootheel, I saw cotton fields at various stages of development. In fact, I found one field that had a lot of bolls on it and was still blooming too, so it gave me a chance to show a lot of the different stages of growth for cotton.
I hope some of you enjoy looking at the video, it sort of brings one of my top cotton 101 posts What does a cotton plant look like? into a state of motion.
Cotton plants really are beautiful! There are pretty flowers and cotton bolls are absolutely awesome. Lots of people haven’t had the chance to take those plants in first-hand. So this video and post is a way to share that beauty with those of you who may not have plants within reach! So what should you look at on the cotton plant?
- White flower / white bloom — The first day a bloom opens it is white or a creamy yellow color. In the afternoon, the pollen is released and as it self-pollinates.
- Pink flower / pink bloom — Once pollinated, the flower begins to turn pink, becoming a bright fuschia in a few days.
- Young boll — As the pink bloom dries down, the young boll pushes its way up, forcing the pink bloom to fall off as a tag. The boll continues to grow as the fiber and seed grow.
- Cracked boll — As cotton fiber matures, cotton bolls open slowly as the bracts dry and separate.
- Open boll — This is the part of the plant that most people think of when they think of a cotton plant… it’s what we harvest. And it looks like the cotton balls in our bathroom cabinets.
Learn More about Cotton
There are lots of great sources of information on my favorite crop!
- I post things pretty often on cotton, you can see them through the overview of them on my Cotton 101 page or check out both the cotton category and cotton guest category on the blog. Some of my highest rated posts on cotton show what cotton plants look like, Things Farmers Think Through in Selecting Cotton Varieties, How Harvest has Changed in a Lifetime and A Working Cotton Dictionary (Words Cotton Folks Use that May Confuse Others)
- TheFabricOfOurLives website is a pretty great resource on the fashion side of cotton!
- A great resource for great technical information is Cotton Physiology Today, a series of newsletters by the Cotton Foundation about cotton plants and the management of them. The University of Georgia’s Cotton Growth & Development brochure is another great resource too.
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Time running out for cotton blooms in Kansas
Pratt County farmers are watching the calendar closely, knowing it takes 45 days to get from bloom to boll.
Cotton fields across Pratt County are in various stages of putting out the blossoms but time is running out for the growing season. The blooming process, called cut out, leads to the plants producing the actual cotton.
Area cotton farmers have been applying a growth regulator to the cotton to get the plant to stop producing blossoms and start producing the fruit or cotton.
“We’re trying to speed the plant up,” said cotton producer Stuart Briggeman.
Plants have to finish the process to become cotton. It takes about 45 days after the plant blooms to produce a mature cotton boll. Anything after that will probably not reach maturity in time.
“After September 1st or 5th, any new blossoms will typically not mature before it freezes,” Briggeman said.
The average freeze date for Pratt County is Oct. 12 so blossoms have to form in the first few days of September to have that 45 days before the freeze hits.
“We’re hoping we get that far before it freezes,” Briggeman said.
Running out of time was a problem for the 2019 cotton crop from the beginning. Ideally, cotton planting starts from May 5 to May 10 and everything needs to be in the ground by June 1. Anything planted after that runs the risk of running out of time to mature. Plants may not get enough heat units to mature and they run the risk of a freeze before maturity.
There was an excessive amount of rain this spring during the time cotton should have been planted. There was so much rain, many cotton fields did not get planted and there was about a 40 percent cutback in the number of acres planted, Briggeman said.
Briggeman said he got started planting May 15 and that included irrigated fields. There was so much rain that three circles of corn were lost and he couldn’t start planting until May 30. But Briggeman pushed his planting date to June 12.
Besides risking heat units and freeze damage, cotton growers risk losing the chance to get multi peril insurance for their crops that stops on May 31. After that, insurance coverage drops 10 percent every day until June 10 when multi peril insurance is no longer available. Farmers can still get hail insurance but no multi peril that covers everything, Briggeman said.
There is also preventive planting insurance available and farmers can recover some money for not being able to plant.
In spite of all the rain, the cotton that did get planted looks good.
“I’m very, very satisfied with it. The cotton in the area looks good. I think were in pretty good shape with what’s out there,” Briggeman said. “It all depends on what the next 30 days looks like. We need warm weather and not frost.”
To help speed things along, Briggeman is spraying fields with a growth regulator to help the plants mature quicker. The regulator slows growth down and helps the plant finish the bolls it already has on.
Later, a boll opener will be used to get the cotton bolls to open up. This has to be done so the bolls will open up before it freezes.
Cotton farmers like to start harvesting cotton from Oct. 25 to Nov. 1 or maybe push it to Nov. 5. If a boll opener is not applied and the plant goes through a hard freeze, it can delay harvest into January while waiting for the boll to open.
A defoliant is also applied to knock the leaves off the plant prior to harvest. It’s supposed to take from a week to 10 days to be ready to harvest after the defoliant but in this area it seems to take two to three weeks for the defoliant to work, Briggeman said.
Arkansas cotton at harvest: early cotton yields ‘all over the place’
“Our early-planted fields are all over the place. We had two large planting windows for the state this year. That’s kind of strange because we usually plant everything within a 10- to 15-day window.”
This year, “we had a window around mid-April and another mid- to late-May. I planted some of my plots around April 17.”
Down in south Arkansas, the weather actually turned off a bit on the dry side. Then, a tropical storm came through Memphis and “saved the day for a lot of the later cotton planted in the northern half of the state. For some, that rain came at just the right time. It was a tad late for our early-planted cotton.
“Then again, I don’t think we planted all the cotton acres that were planned last winter. I certainly didn’t get all the plots planted that I aimed for – the time in May just ran out.”
Robertson has talked to growers bringing in yields from 900 to 1,000 pounds. “Then, in southeast Arkansas – Desha, Ashley counties – some consultants are saying their cotton is averaging 1,400 pounds. There’s some really good cotton in Jefferson County, more around Marianna.
“That’s good news because some of the early cotton we picked around there honestly didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. It looked like it’d pick 1,500 pounds and picked 1,250 to 1,300 pounds. That 1,300 pounds sure isn’t bad but when you’re expecting 1,500, it’s a bit disappointing. You know, there were a ton of bolls but when you got down into the plants, you could see some bolls with pollination issues and the like.
“I was a little jealous of the fields I’ve seen with nice, big, fluffy bolls from the top of the plant to the bottom. For instance, I was in Clay County this morning and some farmers in some fields there were averaging one round bale per acre. That’s a little over four bales per acre.”
There’s really no one overriding storyline for this growing season, says Robertson. “Everyone pretty much got the same temperatures, the same sunshine. Some of the better cotton got more timely rains, had a little more luck. Of course, one of the things that really puts a cap on cotton is for the ground to get a little dry, you water and then a rain rolls through. That really kills the plants’ momentum.”
What about comparisons of the Xtend and non-dicamba varieties?
“The non-dicamba varieties appear to be doing just fine. I don’t think we had many, if any, issues with dicamba drift in cotton that’s going to impact yield.
“As for varieties, some of the (Stoneville) 4949 fields are extremely pretty. Phytogen 330 is also doing a very impressive job. I think 450 is a little late for Arkansas and 340 gets a little big. But the 330 is growing well and I like it very much.”
Some are asking how a mid-April dicamba spraying ban might affect Arkansas cotton. Robertson thinks “it’ll be negligible. Everyone wants to control resistant pigweeds but I’ve talked to and met growers who planted all their acres into Xtend Flex cotton and sprayed not a single ounce of dicamba. Yet, they have clean fields.
“It all goes back to staying on top of any problems that arise early, switching up chemistries, using residuals and all the other recommendations. The bottom line is: I like the new dicamba technology but if it won’t stay where I put it, then it can’t be used. Maybe there are many practices we can do to reduce or eliminate drift. Regardless, for me volatility is a deal killer.
“Look at the watermelon producers this year. Many of them lost their July 4 sales – their biggest sales week of the year – because their melons were drifted on. They made melons but they were late. If volatilization means my neighbor’s produce is harmed, I’m not spraying dicamba. I don’t want the bad feelings that might result and last for years.
“What about vegetable patches and flowerbeds and fruit trees and folks who invested in nicely landscaping their yards? Unless it can’t be avoided, it’s a bad idea to bring ordinary non-farming folks into the situation. You can’t just move and get new neighbors every time there’s a problem.”
What about the increased cotton acreage in 2017?
“Did we plant more cotton this year because the price was so much higher? The answer is no. We planted more cotton because the price of soybeans and corn was so much less than it has been.”
Still, whatever the reason, “cotton is doing well and we’ve picked up more acres for the second year in a row. That means acreage may hold steady for 2018. We can’t lose much on the price – it’s 68 cents per pound and we’re in a situation where with any less, we may pay some bills but won’t have anything to put back into the farm. The bigger yields I’m seeing will help keep us in cotton. If soybean and corn prices jump up, we’ll see cotton acres dip again.
“Right now, ginners should be pleased with the more cotton being grown. But it’s tough for everyone. Cottonseed prices aren’t great – why is it $100 per ton cheaper than it was last year? — and that’s kept a damper on enthusiasm. Seed pays the bills. Big yields need to be accompanied by other positive factors. You may run a lot of bales through a gin but you need everything else to be in place to really have a bang-up year.”
Various biblical laws and stories refer to ancient Israelite crops and harvests. It may therefore be helpful to have some general information about the harvests and their seasons. Major crops of the land are listed in Deuteronomy 8:8: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and honey.
The spring harvest
Various herbs and legumes were harvested in spring, but the most important spring crops were cereals: barley and wheat. A spring ritual took particular note of the cereals: Newly harvested grain could not be eaten until the firstfruits of grain had been offered on the “day after the sabbath” of the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:9-14). Pentecost, near the end of the grain harvest, included grain and loaf offerings (verses 16-17). Pentecost was also called “the Feast of Harvest” (Exodus 23:16).
Barley and wheat were planted in the autumn and ripened in spring. Barley matured faster and would be harvested sooner. The firstfruits of grain offered during the Festival of Unleavened Bread would have been barley. “In the early stages of the Israelite settlement the most important cereal was barley…because of the necessity to settle fringe areas and barley’s tolerance of harsh conditions” (Oded Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel, 1987, page 7).
“The amount and distribution of rainfall together with soil conditions limit the area in Eretz-Israel where wheat is cultivated to the coastal valleys, the Valley of Jezreel, the Upper Jordan Valley, and the Beth-shan Valley. In the northern Negev, wheat does well only in rainy years, which are not frequent” (page 89).
“Wheat ripens later than barley and, according to the Gezer Manual, was harvested during the sixth agricultural season, yrh qsr wkl (end of April to end of May)” (page 88; also see the chart on page 37 of Borowski’s book, reproduced below).
“Where the climate is warmer, as in the Shephelah and the Jordan Valley, crops mature earlier than in regions where the climate is cool, as in the Judean hill-country and the Galilee” (page 57). In Galilee, for example, part of the grain harvest would be completed after Pentecost, especially in years in which Pentecost came as early as mid-May. Even though all the crop might not be harvested by Pentecost, Pentecost celebrated the entire grain harvest, including the small amount of grain to be harvested shortly after the festival.
The summer harvest
After Pentecost, most of the harvest was fruit: grapes, olives, dates, figs, pomegranates and numerous fruits, seeds and vegetables of lesser importance.
Deuteronomy 11:10-11 contrasts Egypt’s irrigated vegetable gardens with Canaan’s hilly terrain and seasonal rains, implying that vegetables were less common in Canaan. Proverbs 15:17 indicates that vegetables were among the least-esteemed foods. The Bible has few references to gardens, cultivated vegetables and wild plants. “The small number of references to vegetables and the low regard in which vegetables were held suggest very strongly that vegetables…did not constitute an important part of the Iron Age diet in Eretz-Israel” (page 139).
Now let’s look at the major crops after Pentecost. Grapes were the first major crop to ripen: “In a good year, when the yield was great, threshing and grape picking overlapped” (page 62). That would be in June, technically in spring, since summer doesn’t officially start until the solstice, June 22.
The importance of grapes and olives is illustrated by the fact that the Essenes had wine and oil firstfruits festivals similar to the biblical firstfruits offering for grain. These festivals also indicate the relative timing of these crops. The new wine festival came 50 days or seven weeks after Pentecost. Until new wine was offered, no one could drink any of the new juice (Temple Scroll, columns 19-21). Fourteen weeks after Pentecost, shortly before the Feast of Trumpets, was the new olive oil festival. No one could use new olives until some oil had been offered (columns 21-22).
The grape harvest was usually completed before Tabernacles, but most of the olive harvest came after the autumn festivals. In ancient Israel the primary harvest season extended from April to November. This harvest period might be subdivided into three seasons and three major crops: the spring grain harvest, the summer grape harvest and the autumn olive harvest. These harvests have a general correspondence with the festivals. Some grain might be harvested after Pentecost, threshing and grape-picking might overlap, and the olive harvest came both before and after the Festival of Tabernacles.
Which harvest was larger and more important? In terms of dietary calories, the spring grain harvest was most important. Borowski calls barley and wheat “the main food staple of the ancient Israelite” (page 57). E.P. Sanders offers a more detailed estimate: “Grain constituted over fifty percent of the average person’s total caloric intake, followed by legumes (e.g. lentils), olive oil, and fruit, especially dried figs” (Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BCE-66 CE, 1992, page 129).
Since fruit has a higher moisture content than grain does, the fruit harvests may have been larger in bulk and weight. Most of the dietary importance of the fruit harvest came after Tabernacles, when olive oil was produced.
The autumn festivals came after the summer harvest, a less-important harvest. But the fall festivals were associated with greater rejoicing (Deuteronomy 16:13-15). Why the theme of rejoicing? The conclusion of a wine harvest is an appropriate time for festivities. But another reason may be that Tabernacles celebrated both the spring harvest and the summer harvest. Note the mention of both grain and grapes in verse 13: “Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress.”
Author: Michael Morrison
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What is #croptober? Celebrating cannabis harvest season
Cannabis fans are rejoicing across North America this month, and it’s not just because they have the perfect Halloween costume.
But it’s more than just a social media hashtag. Every year, at this time, the annual outdoor cannabis crop comes in. Just like wine, millions of pounds of buds have ripened in the fall fields. Farmers were up at dawn today cutting, drying, curing and trimming for the market.
By Christmas, a cannabis bumper crop causes prices to collapse on store menus, and all our bowls runneth over.
Cannabis flowering facts
As legalization sweeps the nation, more adults can legally grow cannabis than ever. But most know little about how the bud makes it to their stash jar.
- Cannabis grows as an annual plant, growing from a single seed into a 15-foot-tall tree in the span of 10 months.
- The shortening days of summer’s end trigger the production of resinous flower buds.
- Unfertilized female cannabis plants are the most potent; buds can end up 30% THC, cannabis’ main active ingredient, by dry weight.
- The THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids in the flowers come with a mix of aroma molecules called terpenes that shape the strain’s perceived effects.
“It’s a month of aromatherapy. The terpenes are healing, beneficial, and restorative to one’s spirit and soul. ” Jerry Munn, First Cut Farms
“Croptober means smoking joints of fresh, sticky, resinous flowers and having resin stuck to our fingers and noses,” said grower Jerry Munn, of First Cut Farms in Mendocino County. “The smells and flavors of new hybrids are at their peak and bring on a whole new terpene experience. It’s a month of aromatherapy. The terpenes are healing, beneficial, and restorative to one’s spirit and soul.”
“Seasonal farming is how cannabis is produced in much of the Emerald Triangle,” explains Amanda Reiman, Vice President of Community Relations at Flow Kana, a leading California seller of outdoor cannabis. “Cannabis is an annual plant that is harvested once a year, usually late September through early November. The leaves on the cannabis plant change with the seasons like the leaves on the grapevine—some reds, purples and yellows. Here in Mendocino, October air smells skunky and every other truck on the highway is towing a small U-Haul.”
Americans consume about 6,000 tons of cannabis yearly.
Cannabis harvesting facts
Cannabis stands among the Earth’s most successful species. The first seeds of hemp sailed to the new world with Colombus.
Today, Americans consume an estimated 6,000 metric tons of cannabis each year. Northern California is the number one domestic source for US cannabis, while Mexico is our biggest international importer (though all that product is for the illicit market.)
Oregon, Washington and Colorado are also cannabis growing hotbeds. Thanks to advances in indoor and greenhouse growing, farmers sow cannabis from the northern tip of Maine to the balmy beaches of San Diego, California.
“The long growing season requires great mental and physical efforts, love, and dedication,” said Munn. “It’s the victory of overcoming challenges and reaping the rewards. It brings people closer together, builds friendships and community.”
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Cannabis harvesting is changing
We’re in a time of intense change and turmoil in cannabis agriculture. Industrialization and commercialization is catching up with cannabis, after 80 years of stasis under prohibition. Prices continue to fall nationwide, far off peak prices under prohibition. New harvesting methods involving mechanization or refrigeration have moved out of R&D and into the fields. Ways of life are changing before our eyes. For example, whole pounds of cannabis are set to hit $600 in Oregon, a price drop of 66% in just two years.
“Croptober can be a difficult time for regulated businesses as prices drop to all-time lows,” said Anthony Johnson, a cannabis industry leader in Oregon. “For consumers and connoisseurs, Croptober is a cannabis paradise. For patients, Croptober can be a literal lifesaver.”
Indeed, a bumper crop of early outdoor cannabis is hitting shelves, offering shoppers a price relief before even bigger cannabis market gluts and price discounts by Christmas.
All croptober, all month long
This month at Leafly, we want to empower you to get the most out of #Croptober, whether you’re a buyer hunting for deals, a grower bringing in her first crop, or just a fan looking to gawk at amazing bud photos.
We have a spectacular month lined up for you here with a mix of informal contests, photo essays, feature stories, tutorials, and lots more. So keep your browser bookmarked and happy #Croptober!
David Downs directs news and lifestyle coverage as the California Bureau Chief for Leafly.com. He’s written for WIRED, Rolling Stone and Billboard, and is the former cannabis editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as the author of several cannabis books including ‘Marijuana Harvest’ by Ed Rosenthal and David Downs. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. TW: @davidrdowns | IG @daviddowns
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