The Process of Organic Cotton Farming
Before planting season arrives, stalk cutting is done to speed up the decaying process of the previous season's crop residue so microorganisms in the soil can recycle the nutrients.
Plowing is done to prepare the ground for the upcoming growing season. This will kill the cover crop so that it will not continue to grow and deplete the underground water supply that is reserved for the cotton.
Planting season is one of the most critical times of the year. Farmers must precisely set the planter according to how much moisture is in the ground while also taking into consideration what the future weather forecast will be.
Sandfighting is a crucial tool used by farmers to protect young cotton crops. The High Plains experiences wind that can easily damage small cotton plants. After a rain, the surface of the ground becomes slicked off. This creates the opportunity for the wind to blow fine sand particles that cause abrasion on the cotton plant. The sandfighter has spoked wheels that make divots in the soil which help prevent blowing and damage.
Cultivation is the first line of defense used by organic cotton farmers against weeds. With the use of GPS technology, farmers are able to utilize precision farming to kill weeds in close proximity to the cotton plant. The coulter wheels trim weeds away from the plant while sweeps undercut the weeds between the rows of cotton. The shields are in place to protect the young plant from dirt and debris.
This video shows how cover crops are overseeded in the cotton, which is done to help rebuild the soil. This is accomplished with a cyclone spreader that distributes the seed. The spreader is followed by cultivators to weed the crop and incorporate the seed into the soil. The soil will have vegetation throughout the winter months that will help prevent wind and water erosion. The cover crop shown in the video, which is composed of rye, vetch, and radish, was treated with an organic certified microbial product to help improve the biological diversity of the soil.
Harvest with a Cotton Stripper
This video shows cotton harvest process with a cotton stripper, boll buggy, and module builder. Cotton stripping pulls opened and unopened bolls from the cotton stalks. Each module can hold between 10-14 bales of cotton depending on the size.
Harvest with a Cotton Picker
This video shows a cotton picker/round module baler to harvest organic cotton. Revolutionizing cotton harvesting, the round module bailer works like a round hay baler with a series of belts rolling the cotton into shape. The bale, which has a diameter of 8' os then covered in a purpose-made plastic wrap which contains an electronic chip for record keeping. Each individual round module weights 4,500-5,000 pounds.
The Ginning Process
This video shows the journey of the fiber from when it first arrives at the gin as seeded cotton to the finished product of clean lint packed into a bale. Tight, well-packed modules are important for transportation to the gin. Conventional and organic modules are stored in separate gin yards. After conventional cotton in ginned, the ginning equipment is thoroughly cleaned and the first bale of organic cotton ginned is sold on the conventional market to ensure no contamination has taken place.