The life cycle of the cotton plant is a natural way of making our cotton clothing today's society. This is a naturally growing plant that has been in the wild since before recorded history. The wild varieties can be found in Australia, Africa, America, Brazil, Central America, Mexico and many tropical islands around the world.
Today these wild varieties have been developed into 5 different major types. They are Egyptian, Sea Island,, American Pima, Asiatic and Upland. Immaterial of the type being grown, they all need at least 160 growing days that is frost free to mature.
The beginning of the life cycle of a cotton plant is initiated by a farmer deciding on which variation they are to plant. This is mostly dependent on the economic situation of the varieties available and the area on which the cotton will be planted.
Once the seed is placed in the moist ground there is a 5 to 10 day germination cycle that begins and a spout is grown. The seeds should be planted at a depth of 1 to 2 ½ inches into the soil. The temperature of the ground should be 60F or higher for the seed to germinate properly.
Within 2 to 4 weeks the sprout begins to create true leaves of the cotton plant. As with all plants, these leaves will help to bring the plant life bearing feed for its survival. This period is called the stand. A farmer will know at this point just how good their crop and harvest will be at its best. Factors that will decrease the harvest will include any infestation of pests along with a drought or too wet of conditions in the growing cycle of the plant.
The cotton plant will continue to grow in time. By the 5th to 7th week small flowering buds called squares will begin to appear as the cotton plant increases in height and branches are formed. These buds are surrounded by leaves that are technically called bracts. In several more weeks, generally the 8th to 10th week of the cotton plants life, the flower of the plant breaks thru the bracts and will become visible.
With the flower now visible and has access to the air around it will begin to create pollen within 3 days. The life cycle of the flower can be determined by its color. It will emerge from its bud as a white or yellow flower. Once the pollination process begins, the flower will turn to a pink shade. After this occurs, the flower will begin to wither and eventual fall off the cotton plant. This will expose the immature cotton boll that has begun to form in the base of the bud where the flower was.
In this boll will be about 32 cotton seeds and the fiber for which will develop into what we call cotton. As it continues to grow, the fibers will get longer and thicker. The boll will open to the air exposing the cotton fibers in the 18 to 20 week of its life cycle. By the 25th week, the cotton is ready to be harvested and to be made into cotton clothes.