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Commercial fibre culture. In some respects commercial fibre culture resembles the plantation farming. The crop is mostly raised for sale to either domestic or external buyer. It differs from plantation farming mainly in respect of smallholdings.
Fibre culture provides the main source of income for tens of millions of farmers in different parts of the world. Vegetable fibre production related to cotton, jute abaca, sisal, henequen, ramie and kapok is found to extend from 37°N to 25°S. Fibre is obtained from two major sources- vegetable and animal. Leaf, bast and seed are the fibre producing components of the above-mentioned plants. For example, cotton lint 'or fibre is obtained from seeds, jute from its stalks and manila hemp from its leaves.
Cotton fibre is derived from the bolls or opened seeds pods of a tropical or sub-tropical perennial shrub generally grown as an annual. Cotton is sometimes cultivated for local use, but primarily it is a cash crop. There are numerous varieties and the modern agrotechnology, allows the new ones to be developed to suit the particular conditions occurring in specific producing areas. The quality of cotton is largely determined by the length of fibre, but other criteria like fineness and lustre are also taken into account.
For commercial purpose, cotton is classified into three types on the basis of the length of fibre-long, medium and short. The cotton is considered long staple when the length of fibre exceeds 2.9 cm. It is medium-staple if the length varies between 2.5 cm and 2.7 cm. Finally, the cotton is described as short staple if the length is less than 2.5 cm. The world production is dominated by medium and short-staple cotton representing about 90% of the total cotton output.
Physical and economic conditions. Although the cultivation of cotton enjoys a wide latitudinal extent in the distribution, the ideal conditions are furnished by:
(a) Equable, warm conditions in the growing period with temperatures reaching 25°C in summer.
(b) A minimum growing period of at least 200 consecutive frost-free days, since frost is injurious to cotton plant.
(c) 63.5 cm to 91.6 cm of rain during the growing period or equivalent supply of water by irrigation.
(d) Dry, sunny conditions during the maturing period since rain at this stage of growth is likely to damage the bolls.
(e) A deep, rich well drained soil but one with a high moisture retaining capacity.
The successful cultivation of cotton is also determined by certain economic conditions.
(a) In spite of considerable mechanization much of the work of tending and harvesting the crop is performed by hand, chiefly by the farmer and his family. Some form of special preparation is based on manual labour, necessitating the plentiful supply of cheap labour.
(b) Cotton cultivation in the major countries is primarily developed for export, which dictates it to be facilitated by proper transportation. The presence of transport facilities is also required for easy movement within the country since the manufacturing of cotton may develop anywhere in the country.
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