India is the largest cotton-growing country (8.9 million hectares) in the world and most of the area is rain-dependent. Large amount of pesticides are used for the control of sucking pests and lepidopterans. Increasing demand for clean organic fibre has led to an interest in organic cotton. However, information on the effects of organic cultivation on fibre quality is limited. Seed cotton yield and fibre quality (length, strength, micronaire and uniformity) were determined for an organic and modern method of cultivation during 3 years (2002â€“2003 to 2004â€“2005) of a 11-year (1994â€“1995 to 2004â€“2005) study. Vertical and horizontal distribution of bolls on a cotton plant was also determined in 2003â€“2004 and 2004â€“2005. At the end of year 11, soil samples were collected and analysed for soil organic carbon content, water-stable aggregates (%), and mean weight diameter. Averaged over 3 years, an additional 94 kg seed cotton haâˆ’1 was produced in the organic over the modern method of cultivation and the difference was significant. The year Ã— treatment interaction was significant. Seed cotton yield in the organic plots was significantly greater than the modern method of cultivation plots in 2003â€“2004 because of a well-distributed normal rainfall and low pest incidence. The main stem nodes 13â€“22 accounted for the largest numbers of bolls present on the plant. Plants of the organic plots had significantly (37â€“71 %) more bolls on nodes 13â€“27 than those for the plants of the modern method of cultivation. Lateral distribution of bolls on a sympodial (fruiting) branch, was noticed up to fruiting point 11. However, treatment differences were not significant. With regard to fibre quality (length, strength, fineness and uniformity), differences between years were significant. Inferior quality fibre was produced in 2004â€“2005 because of delayed planting and early cessation of rain. On average, cotton grown under organic conditions compared with the modern method of cultivation had significantly better fibre length (25.1 vs. 24.0 mm) and strength (18.8 vs. 17.9 g texâˆ’1). Soil samples of the organic plots had significantly greater C content, water-stable aggregates and mean weight diameter than the modern method of cultivation plots. Differences were restricted to the top layers (0â€“0.1 and 0.1â€“0.2 m). Yield benefits of growing cotton in an organic system over the modern method of cultivation are expected to be greater in years receiving normal rainfall and having low pest incidence.
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