​Tips for successful cotton farming

Cotton is one of the most important plants for the production of fibers, in addition to being a source of animal food and raw material for the production of oil, from its seeds.

01.08.2016 | 20:59 (UTC -3)

Cotton is one of the most important plants for the production of fibers, in addition to being a source of animal food and raw material for the production of oil, from its seeds. In the market, demand for cotton has increased steadily since the 1950s, at an average annual rate of 2%. This growth is satisfactory and has been met and supported by the increase in productivity and quality of production over these years. To ensure the evolution of the sector, it is essential to use efficient technologies, focusing on improving the productivity and quality of cotton, favoring the sustainable development of the crop.

Proper crop establishment is key to growers’ success. To ensure satisfactory and quality production, FMC provides tips to Brazilian cotton farmers who, like the company, aim to produce more and better.

• Soil preparation

Soil acidity can become a limiting factor for production. If the soil has a pH that is less than very low, correction is necessary through the application of limestone. In addition to pH correction, it is necessary to balance soil minerals according to the crop's requirements. The deficit of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and Sulfur also compromises the productivity of the plantation. Soil densification and compaction problems must also be corrected before installing the crop.


The Cotton crop is demanding in terms of nutrition and requires fertilizer input for maximum performance. Balanced nutrition can provide productivity returns of over 30%. To achieve this, it is important to monitor the crop and identify possible nutritional deficiencies and provide fertilizers with the appropriate composition to correct the deficiency. In addition to macroelements, it is necessary to pay attention to microelements such as B, Zn, Mn, Co and Mo.

• Crop rotation

Rotation in this type of cultivation aims to maintain soil fertility and reduce pest and disease attacks, which provides farmers with better production conditions. Cotton farming can be rotated with the planting of soybeans, corn, sunflower, castor beans and peanuts, for example. Another positive point that crop rotation brings is avoiding the concentration of toxic elements in the soil, such as aluminum, common in monoculture areas. Crop rotation is also an important tool for maintaining and/or increasing soil organic matter, in addition to being a very viable strategy for managing nematodes, which can be a limiting factor for cotton production in areas of high infestation.

• Planting time

Planting is directly determined by climatic factors, therefore the location of the area and climatic zoning define the best planting time. It is necessary to indicate when planting will be done, aiming for more appropriate pest and disease management and, mainly, for harvesting during the dry period, avoiding compromising the quality of the fiber collected. There are two recommendations for upland cotton in Brazil: harvest cotton, sown from November onwards, and off-season cotton, sown after the harvest of the soybean crop, preferably in the months of January and February.

• Pest control and diseases

Pest infestations can considerably compromise crop yields. Examples of them are: Spodoptera frugiperda, aphids, whiteflies and Boll weevil (anthonomus grandis), which is the main pest of cotton. Over the last 15 years, the cotton boll weevil has generated losses of R$1,5 billion throughout Brazil, causing an increase in the number of pesticide applications. Crop rotation, cultural management, monitoring, use of transgenic varieties and insecticide applications are some efficient precautionary measures and reducing losses from these pests in the crop.

Another important precaution for high-efficiency and quality cotton farming is weed control. Weed plants, in addition to competing with cotton for water, light and nutrients, reducing productivity, can cause severe damage to quality and make the harvesting operation difficult. Plants such as viola string, milkweed, black pickerel and various grasses must be controlled from the establishment of the crop until harvest, avoiding their interference with production.

The control of diseases such as ramularia and ramulosis are also essential factors for high-standard cotton farming, as these diseases directly affect the productivity and quality of the plume. Fungicide applications, crop rotation and the use of “ramularia-resistant” varieties are the main measures to avoid significant damage to the crop.

Mosaic Biosciences March 2024