Monday, October 15, 2012

Farm Tour: Getting Up Close with Cotton in the Field

Cotton balls consumers are used to.

You touch it, use it and even eat it – probably every morning, afternoon and night.

Yes, cotton is something you can’t avoid, whether you’re putting on a shirt, spending a couple bucks or enjoying a dish of gourmet ice cream.  For most people, cotton is the fluffy ball of brilliant white fiber stuffed in cosmetic bags and vitamin bottles.
Cotton balls found at the source.

Every fall, about 100 people, including representatives from some of the world’s largest clothing retailers, are treated to a unique opportunity to touch, smell and pick cotton directly from the source – the cotton plant in the field. Our annual Cotton Farm Tour, scheduled this year on Friday, October 15, is one of the few programs in the entire country that offers such an event to the public.

I’m proud to say our Sustainable Cotton Project (SCP) has organized this free all-day event for more than a decade. We’ve hosted more than 1,000 people who have traveled from as far as Asia to come on our tour of the San Joaquin Valley cotton fields.

Busloads of visitors will tour cotton fields once again.
Don’t be surprised to see two large tour buses going up and down the dusty country roads and highways in the north Valley this week. The tour is packed with lots of good information. For farmers and University of California farm advisors and cotton experts, it’s a chance to educate the public about cotton production. We get a chance to tell people about the environmentally responsible practices embraced by growers in the SCP program and how we are marketing the Cleaner Cotton™ they grow.

A cotton gin visit is always popular.
I enjoy meeting participants, talking about field scouting and answering their many questions. Some of the common questions include the length of the cotton growing season, amount of chemicals used in cotton production, water usage and how the cotton is harvested. Most are surprised to find the raw cotton contains seeds. I’ll have some highlights in my next post.

As a reminder, the tour is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and begins at the Best Western Apricot Inn at Interstate 5 and West Panoche Road, about 23 miles southwest of Firebaugh. More information is available at the Sustainable Cotton Project website. There’s still time to get on the waiting list.

Modules are ready to store harvested cotton.
Meanwhile, some of the acala growers have started to harvest their crop. Harvesting should pick up this week, especially as crews finish picking processing tomatoes and cantaloupes. Many of these crews also are used to harvest cotton. Picking could start this week for pima varieties. Growers will harvest the pima crop twice. The second one is needed to collect the seed fiber from late-maturing bolls.
 For alfalfa growers, we pretty much can call it a wrap for the season.  Growers should check the UC IPM online site for seasonal tips on a year-long IPM program for alfalfa.

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