The small, sticky seeds must be separated from the wool to process the cotton for
spinning and weaving. De-seeded cotton is cleaned, carded (fibers aligned), spun,
and woven into a fabric that is also referred to as cotton.
Cotton fabric alone accounts for fully half of the fiber worn in the world.
Cotton is easily spun into yarn as the cotton fibers flatten, twist, and naturally
interlock for spinning. It is a comfortable choice for warm climates in that
it easily absorbs skin moisture. Cotton is planted annually by using the seeds
found within the downy wool.
Raw Materials: The materials required to take
cotton bolls to spun cotton include cotton seeds for planting; pesticides, such as
insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides, to battle disease and harmful insects;
and fertilizers to enrich the soil.
The Production Process: Mechanical cultivators
rip out weeds and grass that may compete with the cotton for soil nutrients, sunlight,
and water and may attract pests that harm cotton. Land is plowed under and soil
is broken up and formed into rows.
Cotton seed is mechanically planted by machines that plant up to 12 rows at a time.
The planter opens a small furrow in each row, drops in seed, covers them, and then
packs more dirt on top. Seed may be deposited in either small clumps or singularly.
The seed is placed 0.75 to 1.25 in deep, depending on the climate.
The seed must be Placed:
The seed must be placed more shallowly in dusty, cool areas of the Cotton Belt,
and more deeply in warmer areas. Good soil moisture and warm temperature at planting,
seedlings usually emerge five to seven days after planting, with a full stand of
cotton appearing after 11 days.
Crust must be broken by machine:
Occasionally disease sets in, delaying the seedlings appearance, a soil crust may
prevent seedlings from surfacing, the crust must be carefully broken by machines
or irrigation to permit the plants to emerge.
Six weeks after seedlings appear:
"squares," or flower buds, begin to form. The buds mature for 3 weeks and then
blossom into creamy yellow flowers, which turn pink, then red, and then fall off
just three days after blossoming.
After the flower falls away:
A tiny ovary is left on the cotton plant. This ovary ripens and enlarges into a
green pod called a cotton boll. The boll matures in a period that ranges from
60 to 80 days. During this time, the football-shaped boll grows and moist fibers
push the newly formed seeds outward. As the boll ripens, it remains green.
Fibers continue to expand under the warm sun:
With each fiber growing to its full length—about 2.5 in — during three weeks.
For six weeks, the fibers get thicker and layers of cellulose build up the cell
walls. Ten weeks after flowers first appeared, fibers split the boll apart,
and cream-colored cotton pushes forth.
The moist Fibers Dry in the sun:
And the fibers collapse and twist together, looking like ribbon. Each boll
contains three to five "cells," each having about seven seeds embedded in the fiber.
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