Light and simplified cultivation of cotton, an approach of global relevance?

A paper recently published about China

In a recent visit to Shadong Cotton Research Institute, I was introduced to the approach of carrying out new cultivation techniques destined to adapt to the current context of labor scarcity and high production costs for cotton production in China. This approach is being elaborated in a recent paper by the research team led by Prof. Dong HeZhong who is also a member of the Executive Committee of our Association.

The paper titled ‘Technologies and theoretical basis of light and simplified cotton cultivation in China’ is available here. The paper is not in open access, if needed, the corresponding author can be contacted (donghezhong@163.com ).

To me, the paper is interesting at least for two reasons. One, it gives a good view on how cotton is being cultivated in China, through an intensive way, in terms of production chemicals and knowledge.

Machine to sow single seed of cotton after garlic
Machine to sow single seed of cotton after garlic

Second, it provides scientific basis to sustain why some techniques, already finalized along the approach followed, work.

Plantlet obtained from single seed sowing are shorter, stronger and have a more rooting system
Plantlet obtained from single seed sowing are shorter, stronger and have a more developed rooting system
Industrial nursery can prevent farmers from producing plantlets by themselves
Industrial nursery can prevent farmers from producing plantlets by themselves

Semi-mechanized transplanting

Semi-mechanized transplanting

Potential relevance to other contexts?

The issue of producing cotton in a competitive way, notably against alternative crops in a same country, is common to many producing countries. The concern to decrease costs is global however cotton cultivation is intensive in capital and/or in chemical use. The concern to reduce labor cost is particularly felt in countries with production which is little mechanized, if not manual.

China is probably producing cotton by farms of the smallest size in the world, with average farm size of less than one hectare in traditional production regions of Yellow River and Yangtze River valleys. The way China has succeeded to conceive adapted mechanization, although there are still many challenges ahead, is worth consideration in many developing countries where farmers grow cotton on a few hectares each.

Where cotton is grown under irrigation in large areas, the various techniques China has been developing if not adopting in its North-western region is worth of consideration as well. The combination of sowing, fertilizing and posing mulching film is an example.

Machine for several operations in one time
Machine for several operations in one time

Environmental considerations worth being more explicitly highlighted as well?

Nowadays, there is a worldwide consensus on reducing at most the potential negative impacts in agricultural production in general, not only in cotton cultivation. To capture furthermore the attention on the Light and Simplified Cultivation approach, probably the potential environmental impacts that could result, either positive or negative, should be addressed too.