On of the things that farmers have to worry about is whether or not their crops are going to fully mature. And while I think more than a few people can be watched closely for the same reason, with crops, it is a bit different. In order to harvest a crop, farmers want to be able to take action at peak maturity. If they harvest too early, they will miss harvesting some and if farmers wait too late, they risk reductions in quality and potentially yield. And while each crop differs in how you determine maturity and estimate harvest dates, cotton shows you a few ways to
So how do they do it?
These photos from cotton farmers Kelly & John Whatley in South Texas will show at least part of it. Take a look at Kelly’s Instagram account and you’ll see more recent photos — they are harvesting some fields now!
Well first, farmers pay close attention to the plants. They know what plants look like when they have a lot of growing left to do by looking at how close to the top the white flowers are. As the flowers turn to bolls, there are other things to look for with cotton fields.
With a good load of hard bolls, the changes in coloring on the plant is a sign that the plants are beginning to dry down.
Farmers will pull hard bolls and cut them open to get a good feel for how close the plant is getting to maturity.
When a farmer looks at the cut open boll, there are a few things they are looking for…. one is how wet the lint inside the boll is but it is also important to look at the seed that is developing inside the boll. In fact, the seed is the most important factor in determining maturity! Without the seed maturing to for the embryo to firm up (otherwise it is a bit like jelly) and developing a good seed coat, you don’t want to harvest. Harvesting an immature crop reduces the quality of the product and makes it harder to use the fiber for clothes, etc.
Of course, once bolls begin popping open, there is no question! That cotton is ready to be harvested but farmers in the US will wait for most of the plant to be ready to harvest so cotton pickers can roll. In countries where people pick the crop, they sometimes pick as bolls open going through the field a few times.