In cotton this is done when at least 3-4 bottom bolls have split and when the moisture content of the bolls have dropped to about 12% and relative humidity is below 50%.
Timing of harvesting
Picking cotton at 3-4 bottom boll split when the seed cotton moisture content is less than 12 % and relative humidity is below 50% is critical in many aspects which include intrinsic value maintenance , fewer incidences of trash contamination and staining by soil and pest agents
N.B Seed cotton will not be accepted by the marketing companies’ depots with moisture content above 12%.
The crop should be harvested when the seed cotton is properly mature, when it is dry and has fluffed out, feels dry against the face and when the locule is dry.
Mature boll ready for harvesting
When seed cotton is over exposed to sun it gets a harsh appearance resulting in downgrading by buyers and less revenue to the grower.
Delayed harvesting may lead to lose of yield and quality as seed cotton may fall off the loculi to the ground
• Hand Picking
Zimbabwe cotton has been well renowned for its high quality because of the method of picking that is mainly used. In all of the communal and commercial setup, cotton is picked by hand although there is another method of using machine pickers.
Hand picking is the most efficient method in reducing contamination.It involves picking cotton bolls that are near each other in the adjacent rows. Hand picking is known for retaining the intrinsic value of the cotton fibre and less trash is found on the picked cotton fibre as there is no mechanical defoliation.
When at most 3 bolls are picked in each hand, they should be they should be checked and cleaned of trash. The seed cotton is then dropped into polythene picking bags.
A farmer picking cotton
Two picking bags are tied around the waist in such a way that its mouth remains open. Stained seed cotton should be put in another bag tied behind.
A farmer with 2 picking bags tied around his waist
Polypropylene bags MUST NEVER be used at any stage of picking and packing seed cotton. Marketing companies reject seed cotton bales contaminated with polypropylene fibres.
Polypropylene bagPolypropylene fibres,
a) do not take up dye during the dying process,
b) inter-twine with lint forming weak thread after weaving,
c) is difficult to remove from seed cotton during ginning, and,
d) can cause fire during ginning as a result of heat from friction.
Woolpack on baling stand, thread and needle
After filling the woolpack it should be closed by sewing the flap or tongue onto the top of the pack using a wool twine and needle.
Storage of Bales
Cotton bales are best stored in a shed to protect them from rain and sun. They should be placed on dry wooden poles to prevent them absorbing moisture from the ground. The bales should also be protected against fire, termites and rodents.
Cotton bales on rail slippers
Cotton bales should be sent to the merchants as soon as possible before they lose much weight. Animal driven carts can be used to transport few bales for short distances. Lorries are convenient to transport large numbers of bales for long distances.