Cotton 101 Video: How to Cross Pollinate Two Cotton Plants

Cotton 101 Video: How to Cross Pollinate Two Cotton Plants

This weekend, I drove to Memphis to visit family and eat awesome barbecue. And on both my drive down and drive back home to St. Louis, I got distracted by the cotton fields along the highway…. and yes, I had to stop! I mean really. Stopping in random cotton fields to see what’s happening that I may be able to share with others…. it’s a #cottongeek’s dream. and I even shot some video which is perfect since YouTube is hosting geek week! And it’s great to have a new post in my cotton 101 series!

So, in this video, I show you how cotton breeders make the cross-pollination that ultimately lead to new cotton varieties. Now let me put a disclaimer here… this is just a glimpse at some of the tactics. The real know-how is deciding what parents to use, what traits to screen for, how to test to determine the varieties viability, etc… but this is something that helps you understand how cotton flowers work.

This is what we call a candlestick on a cotton plant. The bud that will produce a beautiful white bloom the following day.

candlestick - what a cotton bloom looks like before it opens

If someone like me doesn’t mess with the bud, the next day it will open up and be a beautiful cream color. The flower has both male and female parts so it can pollinate itself. On this flower, you can see it actually has begun to get a little pink. That means it has been pollinated!

a new cotton bloom

By the next day, the cotton bloom will turn a beautifully rich pink!

pink cotton flower

BUT cotton breeders find candlesticks the morning before they open and emasculate them. That means they pull off all the male parts — lots of little pollen sacks that will burst open in the afternoon (you can see some on my fingernails LOL). By pulling those off, they leave the female parts which will be ready to be pollinated in the afternoon. That’s when they come back with an open bloom from the other parent plant and put the pollen on!

emasculated cotton bloom

Hope you liked the video & photos! What do you think about cotton blooms? I think they are gorgeous! They do make me happy!

types of cotton blooms  JP loves COTTON :)          

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7 thoughts on “Cotton 101 Video: How to Cross Pollinate Two Cotton Plants

  1. That was fun to watch! I always think of cotton plants with fluffy cotton stuck on the end of the plant. Had never really given any thought that there had to be a flower first! So now I know that cotton blossoms are really pretty!

    1. So glad to hear it! I have had people say they never knew it was a green plant… I hadn’t thought about the fact we all focus on the end of the year so much til I heard that.

  2. Hi Janice. Bo Downer here. I ran across your video while looking for training materials for a greenhouse pollinating crew. Hope all’s well.

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