Dr. G.H. Jamro
Cotton plays a vital role in the economy of the country, as this crop, besides providing raw material for textile, oil and allied industries, earns a major share of foreign exchange. Unfortunately, per hectare yield of seed cotton is still very low as compared to other developed cotton-growing countries.
Cotton also occupies a unique position in Pakistan because, it provides food, fuel and fine clothing. It sustains millions of people for their livelihood at farms, ginning factories, textile edible oil mills, etc. Cotton is, therefore, rightly called the life blood of Pakistan’s economy.
Cotton production is centred in the great Indus basin which is about 900 miles in length. The cotton-producing areas are considered as the northern and southern zones. The northern zones account for three- fourth of the acreage and production of upland and desi cotton. It comprises many districts but only three are of major importance:
Multan is the most important while Bahawalpur and Sargodha come next. In southern zone, there are four major districts namely, Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Sukkur and Khairpur.
The yield at present is extremely low as compared to other cotton growing countries. The reasons for this may be manifold and attributed to several factors which reflect on the growth and yield of cotton. The losses may occur due to insect pest and diseases, weeds, improper cultural and irrigational practices, lack of inputs like better cotton seed, fertilizer and pesticides.
Therefore, efforts are being made to conduct research on various aspects of the crop and find out the ways and means to increase the yield of cotton per hectare and make it more productive. But due to limited water supply and scarcity of the food, the diversion of more hectares from food crop to cotton is not admirable and therefore, the only alternative to solve the problem is to increase per hectare yield.
Despite of much technological advancement in the field of agriculture, unavailability of better cotton seed has been observed to be a serious bottleneck in cotton production, because seed of improved varieties is considered as one of the most important agriculture input for achieving better cotton production and giving economic benefit to growers. Thus, better seed not only gives an impetus to increase production but also improves the quality which fetches higher value in the market.
It is a frequently asked question by growers as to which is a better cotton seed that should be grown. It would be difficult to give a sound answer, as it depends upon the locality, variety and the climate. In addition to this, the main criteria for describing better cotton seed quality, assuming that the seed is of an appropriate variety purity and seed viability. Purity refers to genetic or cultivar purity.
It is also a measure of the degree to which seed is free from weed seeds, seeds of other crops and inert material such as rocks, dirt or twigs. Purity is expressed on a percentage basis by weight. The viability expresses what proportion of the total number of seeds is alive or capable of germination during some specific period. It is determined through actually counting the number of seeds that germinate.
Good seed decreases 50 per cent chances of crop failure; the rest of the 50 per cent will be covered by appropriate crop operations i.e., proper preparation of land, use of fertilizer and irrigation and crop protection. But if poor quality seed is used having poor germination then proper stand of the crop will not be possible and some times it may happen that the whole crop may fail. So to safeguard all the investment of land operations, cost of seed and fertilizer, pure seed is of extreme importance.
Better production of cotton depends upon proper land preparation, timely sowings, frequent interculturings and weedings, judicious irrigations, requisite applications of fertilizers, proper plant protection, whereas the first and the foremost important factor is the seed. The seed available in the market may be good, yet it may be unsuitable for sowing at a particular place or at a particular time, as such the grower should give due attention to suitability of the cotton seed variety for particular locality as well as the quality of the cotton seed. Presuming that cotton growers should know which particular variety of cotton should plant under his local conditions, growers should give full thought to the origin of the cotton seed.
Therefore, selection of the variety is of great importance to fetch higher profits. The availability of water, condition and type of soil, climate and the demand for the produce determine the choice of the seeds, but in this scientific age new cultivars are being developed which have definite advantage in quantity, quality as well as in profits. Cotton seed obtains the best financial returns and those who ignore the latest advances and continue with old varieties suffer losses.
Agriculture universities, research institutes and extension departments quite often publish their recommendations regarding cotton varieties and publicise their findings by way of press notes and bulletins to bring up-to-date information for cotton growers.
The quality of cotton seed i.e., its purity, maturity, germination and freedom from seed-borne insect pests and diseases must be fully checked. It is well known that complete purity is rare but growers should ascertain the type and amount of impurity present in the cotton seed.
Cotton growers are advised to choose cotton seed with 96 per cent purity, because sound cotton seed germinate rapidly and uniformly but the soundness of cotton seed is often adversely affected by abnormal environmental conditions and infestations of insect pests and diseases. Therefore, before sowing cotton seed, the viability of seed (germination), may be tested and seed rate may be used as suggested below: The seed of Rehmani is bigger in size, therefore, the seed rate should be 3 to 4 kg/ha more than the above recommendations.