Historic, archived document
Do not assume content reflects current —
scientific knowledge, policies, or practices.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Contribution from the Bureau of Plant Industry
WM. A. TAYLOR, Chief
Washington, D. C. Vv Ifarch 3, 1917
EXTENSION OF COTTON PRODUCTION IN
By O. F. Cook, Bionomist, Bureau of Plant Industry.
iMate GOS 5 so sos eocaccodbonacadsoneasss 1 | Labor requirements of cotton...............- 9
Increasing demands for long-staple cotton... 2 | Cotton culture a community undertaking.. 11
New types of cotton available............... 3 | Community control of gins and oil mills.... 12
Cotton formerly grown in California. ......- : 4 Agricultural advantages of community or-
Extent of possible cotton territory in Cali- Danie atone faese see aay eee as SS 13
Utes eons aetna aan whee ced, : WONCIUSIONS aove oe eas ae eee ass Sase 14
ural conditions favorable.............--.
] (WIRD S Gacceacodeas 6
Returns that may be expected from cotton... 8 TRS IEROOTS OF COON GEES E
Every season of scarcity and high prices brings renewed inquiries
regarding the possibility of extending the production of cotton into
new regions. ‘The industrial uses of cotton are being increased more
rapidly than facilities of production. As Europe produces scarcely
any cotton, the industries of many countries are dependent upon im-
ported raw materials. Manufacturers continually urge the need of
developing more adequate and regular supplies, especially of the
better classes of cotton fiber.
Experience of the frequent fluctuations of crops and prices in the
American cotton belt have led to numerous attempts, subsidized by
associations of manufacturers or with the direct support of govern-
ments, to increase the production of cotton in other parts of the
world. Statistics show a decline in the proportion of the world’s
cotton crop furnished by the United States. This means that the
world’s demand for cotton has grown faster than the ability of this
country to supply it, and that the production of cotton in other coun-
tries is Increasing more rapidly than here.
Some parts of the American cotton belt have been too acutely de-
pendent on this single crop. Many farmers who relied entirely upon
2 BULLETIN 533, U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.
cotton were brought to disaster through the destruction of cotton by
the boll weevil or by the loss of a market at the beginning of the
European war. These crises were the more acute because cotton had
been considered so long a safe crop and afforded new demonstrations
of the danger of complete reliance of any community on a single
crop. In California it is beginning to be understood that many com-
munities are devoted too exclusively to special industries and that
there is need of some such crop as cotton for opening the way toward
a safer policy of more diversified farming.
In many of the tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, Africa,
and America, efforts are being made to establish cotton culture as
colonial enterprises on a basis of permanent competition with the
United States. There can hardly be a question of the desirability
of utilizing our resources of production as far as feasible. One of
these undeveloped resources is the production of Egyptian cotton,
which experiments have shown to be possible in Arizona and Cali-
fornia. The need of supplementing our importations of Egyptian
cotton by domestic production has recently been very acute, and the
high prices that are now being paid are attracting public attention
to the possibilities of cotton growing in California.
INCREASING DEMANDS FOR LONG-STAPLE COTTON.
No danger of direct competition with the older centers of cotton
production in the Southeastern States is involved in the development
of cotton culture in California, for the reason that it will be so ob-
viously to the advantage of California to produce cotton that will
not need to enter into competition with the South, such as the
Egyptian cottoa, which our manufacturers are importing on a scale
of many millions of dollars every year. All previous records were
exceeded in 1916, with importations amounting to about 350,000
bales, valued at more than $35,000,000.
The rapidly increasing demand for Egyptian and other superior
types of cotton is due to a variety of causes, the most important
being, undoubtedly, the enormous proportions attained by the auto-
mobile tire-fabric industry and the greater attention being given by
manufacturers, dealers, and the public generally to the fact that
strength and durability of fabrics depend very largely on the quality
of the cotton fiber. Recognition of this fundamental fact in rela-
tion to automobile tires in time may be reflected in other branches
of the textile industry and in turn lead eventually to a general elimi-
nation of the enormous waste of industrial effort involved in the
production, manufacture, and use of weak, inferior fiber.
New communities can secure a great advantage in the production
of long-staple cotton by limiting themselves to the planting of a
single superior variety. In the older parts of the cotton belt, where
EXTENSION OF COTTON PRODUCTION IN CALIFORNIA, 3
each farmer is likely to plant a different kind of cotton, the varieties
can not be kept pure. The fiber deteriorates in quality and declines
in market value. New varieties are introduced frequently, but these
soon deteriorate through admixture and the neglect of selection.
No general or permanent improvement can be expected as long as
the condition of unorganized communities and miscellaneous plant-
NEW TYPES OF COTTON AVAILABLE.
As a result of experiments conducted by the Department of Agri-
culture for several years past. in the Southwestern States, the
Egyptian type of cotton has been acclimatized and superior varieties
have been bred, which are now being raised on a commercial scale in
the Salt River Valley of Arizona. During the same period numerous
experiments have shown that the Egyptian cotton is not well adapted
to replace the Upland type of cotton, either in Texas or farther east.
Susceptibility to injury by drought and disease both appear much
greater under conditions in the cotton belt. The need of a longer
growing season is another serious handicap for the Egyptian type
of cotton in the eastern United States and would exclude it from
competition with Upland cotton in all of the regions that are infested
by the boll weevil.’ |
Even with the same long-staple variety grown: in California as in
the eastern districts, there may be no direct or injurious competition.
The conditions of soil, climate, and water supply in California are so
different as to give the lint distinctive qualities, and there is less
danger of the annual fluctuations in yield. and quality of fiber that
have made it unsafe for manufacturers to rely upon eastern long
staples exclusively. The production of Durango cotton in the Im-
perial Valley, by giving it a recognized place in the market, has
served to stimulate the planting of this variety in eastern districts.
This relation would doubtless continue even if the production of
Durango cotton in California were greatly increased, for there seems
likely to be a very large demand for this type of cotton if only it
can be produced with such regularity that manufacturers can rely
upon adequate supplies being available. The possibility that produc-
tion might be increased more rapidly than’ the demand must: be
recognized, but it does not appear to be a present danger in view of
the special scarcity and high prices of the Egyptian cotton.
As eastern varieties of cotton have not proved to be well adapted
to conditions in the irrigated districts of the Southwestern States,
1 Thus, there are natural limitations to competition in either direction. The Hgyp-
tian type is sure to be preferred in the Southwestern States as long as higher prices
make its cultivation more profitable. If other types are grown they are likely to be
of the same general commercial character as the Egyptian, with fiber of special qualities
that can not be produced to the same advantage in the Southeastern States.
4 BULLETIN 533, U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
there is as little occasion for farmers to undertake to bring in Upland
seed from the cotton belt as to get Egyptian seed from Egypt. To
make importations of Egyptian or other foreign seed is contrary to
regulations under the Federal plant-quarantine law and the State —
quarantine law of California and is extremely dangerous on account
of the possibility of introducing the boll weevil or other parasites.
The ravages of the pink bollworm in Egypt, India, and other regions
show that it is a very serious pest, like the boll weevil. It is of
the utmost importance to keep these insects out if cotton growing is
to develop in California. While regular importations of seed are
prevented, the public needs to be warned of the danger from seed
that may be brought in casually by travelers or immigrants from
foreign countries or by settlers from Texas or other weevil-infested
COTTON FORMERLY GROWN IN CALIFORNIA.
In the San Joaquin Valley, cotton growing can hardly be consid-
ered as a new industry but rather as a return to a beginning that was
made in the early years of the agricultural history of the State, in the
middle of the last century, and maintained through the period of the
Civil War and beyond. The Ninth Census, that for 1870, notes the
production of 34 bales of cotton in San Diego County, but it is
known that larger acreages of cotton were being planted in the San
Joaquin Valley during this period.
In the report of the Tenth Census, that for 1880, published in
1884, California was included with the other cotton-growing States
ona basis of production of 295 bales, grown on 375 acres in Merced
County, the lack of more complete statistics being explained by a
note saying that “the enumeration schedules sent to this State did
not include cotton.”
In the general discussion of the conditions and prospects of cotton
culture in California, also published in the Tenth Census report,
plantings estimated at 1,500 to 2,000 acres are said to have been made
in Merced County in 1873, and in that year a firm of Merced County
growers made an export shipment of 22,886 pounds of cotton to
Liverpool. ‘This seems to have marked the climax of the early ef-
forts, but areas of 350 to 500 acres continued to be planted in the
next decade, or possibly later, though no cotton was returned from
California in the Eleventh Census, that for 1890.
Hilgard shows that cotton had begun to attract attention in Cali-
fornia as far back as 1856, when a premium of $75 was offered by
the State Agricultural Society for the best acre of cotton. In 1862
the State Legislature offered an aggregate of $6,500 in premiums for
cotton in lots of 100 bales, the best lot to be rewarded with $3,000, but
the prizes remained unclaimed until 1865, when the $3,000 was paid
to a farmer in Los Angeles County who raised 108 acres, the yield
EXTENSION OF COTTON PRODUCTION IN CALIFORNIA. 5
not being stated. The counties from which successful plantings were
reported in the early period are Butte, Colusa, Fresno; Kern, Lake,
Los Angeles, Merced, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Barbara,
Shasta, Sutter, Tulare, and Yolo. Other counties supposed to afford
conditions favorable for cotton were Napa, Sonoma, and Tehama.
The general conclusions reached by Hilgard from his detailed investi-
gations of the California cotton industry in 1879 were stated as
From the record above given it appears that cotton has been successfully
grown at many points, practically covering the whole of the great valley, a
part of the foothill lands of Shasta and a part of Napa County, and to the
southward all the agricultural portion of the southern region.. By inference
drawn from similarity of climate and products, without direct test, we may
include within the possible cotton-growing portions of the State the valleys of
Napa and Sonoma, the agricultural portion of Lake County, the foothill region
of Tehama, and the entire lower foothills of the Sierra. On the other hand,
all the bay region, as well as the seaward valleys of the entire Coast Range,
are excluded from the cotton-growing area by reason of the cool summers, trade
winds, and fogs to which they are subject.
In addition it may be broadly stated that in the Sacramento Valley cotton
may on deep soils be grown without irrigation, while in the San Joaquin
Valley it, like all other crops, must be irrigated to insure profitable returns.
The best experience seems, moreover, to indicate that, as in the case of the
vine, the minimum irrigation that will enable the plant to develop is that which
on the whole gives the best results, inasmuch as late irrigation especially tends
to retard the opening of the bolls and in the low portions of the fields to
start new growth, leaving the older bolls stationary.
The Sea Island variety is a failure thus far wherever tried. That cotton
culture has not assumed larger proportions in California as yet is adequately
explained hy the fact that the home market is, in the absence of cotton factories,
extremely limited, and the long distance from the world’s markets renders
competition with the Atlantic Cotton States on the one hand and with India on
the other a doubtful matter, which could be turned in favor of California only
by exceptional circumstances, such as peculiar excellence of the staple. At the
same time, cotton production has been found profitable so far as the home
demand has gone, and good prices have been obtained ; and when exported the
California staple has rated high in comparison with the average product of the
What, then, are the inducements toward an expansion of cotton culture in
California and the possible establishment of cotton factories on the coast to
create a home demand?
With the equalization of the prices of labor, in consequence of increased
facilities of communication, there certainly is no reason why the home demand
for cotton goods on the Pacific coast should not be supplied from home growth
and manufacture, and there is reason why it might secure a large share of
the Asiatic market, with which it is in the most direct connection.*
Hilgard referred to plantings of Sea Island cotton in several locali-
ties, but in no case was success reported from this type of cotton. In
1 Hilgard, E. W. Report on the physical and agricultural features of the State of
California, with a discussion of the present and future of cotton production in the
State. .. p. 76-77. In U.S. Dept. Int., Census Off., 10th Census, v. 6, pt. 2. 1884.
6 BULLETIN 533, U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.
a published newspaper article an ill-advised planting of over 500
acres of Sea Island cotton in Colusa County was mentioned. The cot-
ton had only begun to bloom in October when the crop should have
been ripe: yet a few Upland plants that grew in the same field had
fruited abundantly. The best results were claimed for Upland short
staples from Tennessee and Georgia, but an Upland long-staple va-
riety called “ Petit Gulf,” from Louisiana, is said to have done well
in several places.
Cotton was urged by Hilgard as a better crop than wheat for many
of the lands of the central valleys, on the ground of being less likely
to lead to exhaustion of the soil, as less likely to lead to harmful con-
centration of alkali in the surface layers of the soil on account of
being a tillage crop, and as needing less water for irrigation purposes
than other crops that had been proposed as substitutes for wheat.
The point was made that cotton could be exported while alfalfa could
not, and that the California grower would have a great advantage
over his southern competitor in not having to “fight the grass.”
It is evident throughout Hilgard’s report that he looked upon cot-
ton as one of the California industries that were sure to develop, and
this idea finds very definite expression in the statement that closes his
Keeping all these points in view, the writer can not but think that the wider
introduction of cotton culture into California is but a question of time, and that
in many respects it will serve to improve the agricultural prosperity of the
EXTENT OF POSSIBLE COTTON TERRITORY IN CALIFORNIA.
Of new territory readily available for cotton in the United States,
California probably has the largest areas. Recent demonstrations of
cotton possibilities have been afforded by the beginnings that have
been made in the Imperial Valley and the Colorado Valley in extreme
southern California, but the San Joaquin and other more northern
valleys contain much larger areas of irrigated or readily irrigable
land that might be used for cotton. Hilgard estimated that one-third
of the agricultural land of the State lay in the central valleys, with
an area of more than 17,000 square miles. While only a part of this
territory is suited to cotton, it seems not unreasonable to suppose that
the central valleys might produce about 10 times as much cotton as
the Imperial Valley.
It is to be expected that much of the cotton will be grown on the
level lands in the open valley where fruits and other tender crops are
excluded by low winter temperatures, but places may also be found
for cotton as an additional crop in communities that are now devoted
to fruit growing or other industries. Indeed, the best results are
likely to be secured, at least at first, in communities that are already
EXTENSION OF COTTON PRODUCTION IN CALIFORNIA. |
established and well organized on the basis of other crops. Farmers
who are familiar with the local conditions and have only to learn
the requirements of the new crop are hkely to make better progress
than those who have everything to learn, as in communities formed
of new settlers, some of them with no agricultural experience and
others persisting in the use of methods to which they have been ac-
customed in other regions, but which are not adapted to the special
conditions and requirements of the irrigated districts.
NATURAL CONDITIONS FAVORABLE.
That natural conditions of soil and climate very favorable for
cotton culture are to be found in the interior valleys of California
has been shown again in recent years by the behavior of series of
different kinds of cotton that have been grown and studied at several
points representing the general range of climatic conditions—Red
Bluff, Chico, Marysville, Davis, Stockton, Dos Palos, Visalia, Exeter,
Semitropic, and Bakersfield.
The general result of these experimental plantings has been to
leave no doubt that cotton is able to make normal growth and mature
good crops in the warmer districts of the interior valleys; that is, in
the northern part of the Sacramento Valley and the southern part of
the San Joaquin Valley. The most successful plantings have been
those at Bakersfield and Semitropic in Kern County, and at Dos
Palos in Merced County, where the plants were extremely well
grown and productive, with bolls of very large size and lint of ex-
cellent quality, results that are obtained only under conditions
thoroughly favorable for the development of the plants.
Much more extensive experiments would be necessary to determine
how far cotton culture might be carried toward the cooler climate of
the Bay districts in the central part of the State by using early short-
season varieties or selecting for adaptation to the local conditions,
but no special difficulties seem likely to be encountered in the warmer
parts of the valleys. The cotton plant is able to thrive on a great
variety of soils, a moderate but regular supply of moisture being the
chief requirement. While the plants are able to survive drought, the
‘crop is likely to be injured by any extreme condition that checks or
forces the growth of the plants.
It has to be expected that any undertakings with a new crop,
wherever the beginnings may be made, must pass through an experi-
mental period, in order to test fully the possibilities of the soil and
local climatic conditions and determine the methods that can be ap-
plied to the greatest advantage. The most that can be said at present
is that practical experiments with cotton are likely to be justified in
any of the warmer districts where soils of reasonable fertility and
adequate supphes of water are available.
8 BULLETIN 533, U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.
It is very desirable that experimental efforts in cotton growing be
limited to communities in which the general agricultural conditions,
as well as the present interests and activities of the community, are
such as to give ground for a reasonable expectation that an annual
irrigated crop like cotton, if found to thrive, would be likely to be-
come a permanent resource. For a few scattered individual farmers
to plant cotton in communities that are not likely to engage regularly
in its production is not advisable. It is expensive to ship cotton
seed and not worth while to install gins and oil mills unless the pro-
duction of cotton reaches commercial proportions.
RETURNS THAT MAY BE EXPECTED FROM COTTON.
The first step toward the commercial planting of cotton, or con-
sidering it as a practical alternative of any other crop, is to determine
whether cotton is likely to be more profitable or at least sufficiently
remunerative to be added to the existing series of crops. Undoubt-
edly the chief obstacle to the production of cotton on a large scale in
the San Joaquin Valley and other districts of California lies in the
fact that attention has been directed to other industries that have
been considered more profitable than cotton growing. While cotton
can probably be grown on many lands that are now used only for
grain or pasture, it seems reasonable to expect that at least the first
beginnings with cotton in new localities will be made by farmers who
are already settled on the land and engaged in the production of
fruit or other intensive crops.
Even at the highest prices for cotton it should not be expected to
compete with the bonanza figures that are sometimes realized from
fruit crops. Though acre returns of $150 or even $200 are not alto-
gether impossible, they can be obtained only in exceptional conjunc-
tions of very large yields and very high prices, like those that ruled
in the season of 1916, when 40 cents and upward per pound was ob-
The most that can be considered as a reasonable expectation from
cotton at moderate, normal prices is a gross return of $75 to $100
per acre. This is on the basis of Durango or some other Upland
long-staple variety selling between 15 and 20 cents a pound and yield-
ing at the rate of a bale per acre, which requires favorable conditions
and good farming. The cost of production per pound increases with
every reduction in yield, because the cultural operations and the ir-
rigation water have to be applied to poor-yielding cotton as well as
With a yield of a bale of 500 pounds of lint cotton the cost of pick-
ing an acre of the Durango variety is between $15 and $20, an
amount about equal to the total cost of the previous care of the crop,
EXTENSION OF COTTON PRODUCTION IN CALIFORNIA. 9
so that half of the return, or $35 to $50 an acre, may be reckoned as
a net gain from the farm operations. With Egyptian cotton, the
cost of picking must be reckoned as about double that of Durango, ~
and the ginning of Egyptian cotton is also more expensive, roller
gins being required instead of saw gins, which are used for Upland
staples. To make good these differences, a premium of 4 or 5 cents
a pound for the lint is necessary to render the Egyptian more profit-
able, but the new and rapidly increasing demand for Egyptian cot-
ton for automobile tires and other industrial uses, and the stationary
or declining production in Egypt favor a substantial premium for
Egyptian. It may be that yields will average higher with Durango,
in view of the fact that Egyptian cotton requires a longer season to
mature a full crop, though with favorable conditions Egyptian may
yield as much as Durango. Profits of $150 to $250 per acre are
claimed for growers of Egyptian cotton in the Salt River Valley in
1916, but these must be considered as altogether exceptional and cer-
tainly not to be used as a basis of calculation.
It is possible that difficulties may be encountered in providing
roller gins in case a greatly increased acreage of Egyptian cotton
should be planted in Arizona and southern California in the season
of 1917. Roller gins are not made in the United States, but have to
be imported from England. The demand for them has been limited
in the past to the Sea Island districts of the South Atlantic States.
LABOR REQUIREMENTS OF COTTON.
That the labor requirements of the cotton crop have not been well
understood in California may be one of the chief reasons why more
efforts have not been made to extend this industry before. The popu-
lar idea that large supplies of very cheap labor must be available, as
in Egypt, India, China, and formerly in the American cotton belt,
has been shown to be erroneous. The last and most striking demon-
stration of this fact is the establishment of Egyptian cotton produc-
tion in the Salt River Valley of Arizona. Although labor appeared
to cost about 10 times as much in Arizona as in Egypt—$2 a day, as
compared with 20 cents—it has been possible by the use of farm
machinery, improved cultural methods, and especially the breeding
of better and more uniform varieties of cotton to make good the
differences in cost of hand labor.
Egyptian cotton has been grown to advantage in Arizona for
several years past, during a-period of unusually low prices. The
chief difficulty in the newly settled southwestern communities is not
that the cost of labor is prohibitive, but that not enough labor is
available when needed. This seems to have been the difficulty that
was encountered in the early attempts at cotton culture in the San
10 BULLETIN 533, U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.
Joaquin Valley, as it has been in recent years in the Imperial Valley
and the Salt River Valley of Arizona. The supply of farm labor
now available in the San Joaquin Valley certainly is very much
greater than it was half a century ago, when irrigation agriculture
was new. How much of the available labor can be apphed with
advantage to the care and harvesting of a cottan crop is a question
that must be decided independently in each community.
Experience gained in Arizona and elsewhere in the United States
in recent years does not indicate that the cotton industry requires or
is limited to the use of cheap and irresponsible labor. Dependence
on such labor tends rather to injure and restrict the development of
cotton culture by keeping it on a low plane, limited to inferior
varieties and mixed seed, so that poor and uneven lint is produced,
the value of which is still further depreciated by careless harvesting
When the several unnecessary wastes and losses are taken into
account and the possibilities of avoiding these are recognized, one is
brought inevitably to see that the very best quality of agricultural
skill and of careful, intelligent labor can be utilized in the production
of cotton and that the industry is much more likely to prosper if it
ean leave behind the traditions of cheap labor. Hence, it is not neces-
sary to suppose that the establishment of cotton culture in California
would increase the present dependence on transient labor. It seems
quite as likely to add to the permanent population by making it easier
for new settlers to establish themselves.
Farm work with cotton is not of a nature to be considered as
heavier or more laborious than with crops that are already grown in
California. Methods of plowing, preparation, and seeding are not
unlike those for corn or other tillage crops. Thinning and cultivat-
ing make less demands than for sugar beets. The gathering of the
crop, though representing by far the largest item of labor cost in
the production, is neither a heavy nor an unpleasant kind of work
in comparison with the harvesting of many other crops. In com-
munities of new settlers or where women and children share in the
outdoor work of the farm, the planting by each family of small acre-
ages that could be handled without extra labor would be worthy of
consideration. ‘The lint as it hangs exposed in the open bolls is
perfectly clean and must be kept in that condition if it is to have the
highest market value.
Careless picking diminishes the value of the fiber to the manufac- —
turer because additional labor and machinery are required to clean
the carelessly picked cotton and because some of the fiber is turned
into waste as a result of the cleaning operations. An estimate of
what it costs the manufacturers every year to overcome by machinery
and mill labor the results of carelessness and ignorance in the produc-
EXTENSION OF COTTON PRODUCTION IN CALIFORNIA. 11
tion and handling of cotton would run far into the millions, and even
into the hundreds of millions. Thus, there is reason to believe that
refinements in methods of production and handling, like those that
have been worked out in California for fruits and other special prod-
ucts, could be applied with very great advantage to cotton. Al-
though cotton is not a perishable product, its value depends very
largely upon the condition in which it is placed upon the market.
Taking into account the experience that agricultural communities
in California have had in working out and applying special methods
of production, handling, and marketing their crops, it would seem
that the possibilities of producing cotton of the highest quality and
placing it in the market in the best condition are more likely to
be attained in that State.
Another advantage of cotton as an element of diversified farm-
ing is that it is less exigent than most other crops in demanding
labor at particular times. Cotton can be planted early and thinned
early or planted late and thinned late if allowance be made by leav-
ing the plants of the later thinnings closer together. Early plant-
ings may be made in March or as soon as the danger of cold weather
is past, but the planting may continue through April and May.
Even June plantings are sometimes successful.
Unlike fruits and other perishable products that have to be gath-
ered and shipped or cured at once or within a very few days after
the proper stage of maturity is reached, cotton can be picked through
along season. The bolls open at maturity, but the cotton remains in
place and in dry weather suffers no injury by being left on the plants
for a week, or even a month. The picking season may extend over a
period of two, three, or four months.
In the interior valleys of California cotton begins to open in Sep-
tember. Picking probably would commence soon after the grape
harvest and extend through November or even till Christmas. It is
better, of course, not to wait too long after the bolls have opened,
_ for some of the cotton is likely to fall out or become soiled or stained
from rain or dust. But even these contingencies, while they reduce
- the value of the cotton, do not result in total loss, as they would with
many other crops.
COTTON CULTURE A COMMUNITY UNDERTAKING.
With general reference to the warmer parts of the San Joaquin
and Sacramento Valleys it may be said that the chief question is not
whether cotton could be grown or whether its culture could be made
as profitable as others that are being followed, but whether there are
communities of farmers who will organize for such an undertaking.
Some form of organization is a practical necessity for beginning
cotton culture in a new region. Unlike many other crops that can
12 BULLETIN 533, U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.
be grown to some advantage even on a very small scale and either
used in the household or sold for local consumption, an icolated in-
dividual farmer can hope for no advantage from the planting of a
small acreage in cotton.
The beginnings of cotton culture in the South Atlantic States can
be traced back to the time when spinning and weaving were house-
hold industries and cotton was made into cloth and used on the
same plantation where it was raised; but with the modern organiza-
tion of the industry cotton has become a strictly commercial crop,
grown only to be sent to market. The effect is to limit the produc-
tion of cotton to districts where facilities for marketing exist or to
communities that can begin cotton culture on such a scale as to enable
these facilities to be provided.
In order to send cotton to market it has to be etka to separate
the seed from the fiber, and packed into bales. For both of these
operations special machinery is required; not ‘very expensive ma-
chinery, it is true, but too expensive for the individual farmer to
install for any ordinary farm acreage of cotton. Unless a commu-
nity appears likely to plant 1,000 acres or more of cotton the in-
stallation of ginning machinery can hardly be considered advisable,
either by the community itself or by an independent ginning com-
pany. It is not absolutely necessary that large acreages be planted -
the first year, since the cotton from small experimental plantings in
a new community can usually be shipped to some established center
where gins are in operation or can be held over in case it is decided
to plant on a commercial scale during the next year.
Still larger acreages must be in prospect if a community is to be
provided with its own oil mill, which is necessary for disposing of
the seed to the best advantage. Oil-mill equipments are more expen-
sive than gins, but they are not beyond the reach of large and well-
organized communities, like those that own and operate fruit-packing
houses and many similar undertakings in California.
COMMUNITY CONTROL OF GINS AND OIL MILLS.
Control of the gin and oil-mill equipment by the community is
very desirable, not only for the financial reason of enabling the
growers to secure a larger share of the profits of the industry but
also for more directly agricultural reasons. It is out of the question
to maintain pure stocks of seed without special precautions that are
very seldom observed at privately operated commercial gins. The
mixing of different varieties or stocks of seed at the gin is the most
frequent cause of deterioration of the varieties, the result being to
destroy the uniformity of the fiber and lessen the commercial value
of the cotton produced by the community.
EXTENSION OF COTTON PRODUCTION IN CALIFORNIA. 13
The careless ginning of the cotton may seriously impair the value
of the fiber, injure the reputation of the product of the community,
and keep the farmer from getting a full price for his crop. Long |
staples are more likely to suffer in this respect than short staples,
for there is greater need of careful ginning. Ginning is often con-
sidered by oil-mill companies a merely incidental line of business.
Another way in which ill-advised management of oi] mills has been
known to interfere with the agricultural development of commu-
nities is by bringing in and recommending to the farmers seed of
inferior varieties in complete disregard of the chief interest of the
community on the side of producing superior fiber. In some cases
attempts have even been made by the use of financial pressure to
force upon farmers the planting of varieties that were distinctly
inferior in quality of fiber, but were supposed to promise profits for
the oil business.
AGRICULTURAL ADVANTAGES OF COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION.
In addition to the need of special care to avoid mixing seed of dif-
ferent kinds of cotton, there is equal need to prevent crossing in the
field, which is likely to occur whenever two kinds of cotton are planted
close together or even in neighboring fields. The pollen of:the cotton
plant is not blown about by the wind, because the surface of the
grains is sticky and adherent, but bees and other insects carry the
pollen, sometimes for half a mile or more. The closer the fields the
greater, of course, is the liability of crossing, so that in thickly set-
tled communities it becomes practically impossible for the individual
farmer to maintain a pure stock of a superior variety of cotton.
The simplest and most effective way to avoid these dangers of
admixture and deterioration of varieties is for communities to
organize for the production of a single variety. The variety should
be determined, whenever possible, by preliminary experimental com-
parisons of the behavior of the more promising sorts grown under the
local conditions. The most effective test is to plant several small
blocks, consisting of four or five rows of each variety, alternately in
the same field, and to record the pickings of each row separately.
Such tests are being conducted by the Department of Agriculture in
cooperation with communities located in different parts of the
With only one variety grown in the community it becomes possible
to preserve its purity and uniformity by selection. It is useless to
expect that the fiber will continue to be uniform if the stock is
allowed to deteriorate through seed admixture or cross-pollination.
This not only lessens the commercial value of the fiber but diminishes
the yields, the aberrant plants being less fertile than the normal in-
14 BULLETIN 533, U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.
dividuals. Failure to maintain the purity of stocks is the basis of
the popular belief that varieties of cotton soon run out. No variety
should be expected to remain uniform unless selection is continued
and admixture with other varieties prevented.
In addition to this primary consideration of maintaining the
purity and uniformity of varieties, organized communities can deal
to better advantage with most of the problems of production and
marketing of the crop. Cultural methods are likely to be much |
better understood and more skillfully apphed in a community where
only one kind of cotton is grown and differences between varieties
are not being confused with effects of cultural methods, soils, or sea-
Marketing problems are also greatly simplified in communities
that can offer commercial quantities of one superior variety of cot-
ton. The classing of the cotton is a function of the community
organization, whether done by local talent or by an expert employed
by the community. Classing is necessary not only for selling the
cotton at its true value, but for using the bales as security for loans,
in case the farmer lacks ready money to meet the cost of picking or
wishes to hold his cotton for better prices. Communities that have
a regular system of classing and warehousing their cotton are able
to arrange for loans on better terms than the individual farmer.
Community action is also very important in relation to insect pests
or plant diseases. Measures of protection that can be expected to do
very little good if applied only by scattering individual farmers may
be rendered very effective if used by the entire community. This is
notably true of the precautions that are advised against the boll
weevil, but is likely to be equally so with any other parasite or dis-
ease that may appear in any district. If only a few of the parasitic
insects or diseased plants are destroyed, the farmer who takes the
precautions may fare no better than his more careless neighbors, but
if it were possible to get action by the entire community the effect of
any remedial measure would be definitely shown.
Cotton was grown in California half a century ago, but the early
attempts were made on a basis of direct competition with the South,
which could not be maintained when normal conditions had been
reestablished after the Civil War. The present possibilities of de-
velopment of cotton culture in California lie in the direction of pro-
ducing Egyptian or other special types of long-staple cotton. The
demand for cotton of the Egyptian type is increasing rapidly and
not likely to be met by increased production in Egypt, where the
crop is endangered by the invasion of a new insect pest.
EXTENSION OF COTTON PRODUCTION IN CALIFORNIA. 15
Experimental plantings in the region of Bakersfield indicate that
the Egyptian type of cotton can be grown in the southern part of the
San Joaquin Valley. No assurance can be given that Egyptian cot- |
ton will mature a crop outside of the Bakersfield-Fresno region. If
plantings are to be made in the northern part of the San Joaquin
Valley or in the Sacramento Valley, the Durango cotton or other
long-staple Upland varieties are more likely to succeed, since they
do not require as long a season as the Egyptian.
While cotton makes larger demands for hand labor than many
other crops its requirements for attention at particular times usually
are not so acute, which renders it well adapted for fitting in with
other crops to form practical systems of diversified agriculture.
Labor is needed chiefly at the picking season, which comes in the fall
after the grapes and most ef the other fruit crops have been
Although favorable natural conditions may be found in many
places, it 1s not advisable to attempt to grow cotton on a commercial
scale except in communities that can be organized for this purpose, so
as to have an assured prospect of production on such a scale as to
warrant the establishment, preferably under community auspices, of
the ginning establishments and oil mills that are a part of the neces-
sary equipment of a cotton-producing community.
Farmers in California are advised against undertaking the plant-
ing of cotton on a merely individual basis, not only because of the
difficulties of handling and marketing a new crop to advantage, but
also in order to avoid as far as possible the danger of attempts being
made to bring in cotton seed either from the cotton belt or from
Kgypt. Such importations of cotton seed are now forbidden by Fed-
eral and State regulations, the object being to prevent the introduc-
tion of the boll weevil from the cotton belt and the pink bollworm
Another reason for advising that efforts to establish cotton culture
be centralized in communities is that much more effective cooperation
can be extended by the different branches of the Department of Agri-
culture that have been working in recent years in cooperation with
new communities. The nature of the cotton industry is such that
many things can be done by communities which are impracticable for
the farmer who attempts to grow and market his crop individually.
Efforts to establish the cotton industry in new districts have, of
necessity, to pass through an experimental period in order to deter-
mine the best variety to be grown, the special cultural methods re-
quired by the local conditions, the form of organization adapted to
the community, and the most desirable system of handling and mar-
keting, as well as to solve other problems that are encountered in
developing new communities,
16 BULLETIN 533, U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.
PUBLICATIONS ON COTTON CULTURE.
The following publications relating to the Egyptian and Durango
cotton and to methods of cotton culture that are used in irrigated
districts of Arizona and southern California have been issued by
the Department of Agriculture:
Brand, C. J. Improved methods of handling and marketing cotton. Jn U. S.
Dept. Agr. Yearbook 1912, p. 443-462, pl. 53-56. 1918.
Cook, O. F. Cotton improvement on a community basis. U. S. Dept. Agr.
Yearbook 1911, p. 397-410. 1912. — é
Cotton farming in the Southwest. Jn U. S. Dept. Agr., Bur. Plant
Indus. Cire. 132, p. 9-18. 1918.
Factors affecting the production of long-staple cotton. In U. S. Dept.
Agr., Bur. Plant Indus. Cire. 123, p. 3-9. 1913.
A new system of cotton culture. In U. S. Dept. Agr., Bur. Plant
Indus. Cire. 115, p. 15-22. 1918.
Single-stalk cotton culture. U.S. Dept. Agr., Bur. Plant Indus. [Misce.
Pub.] 1130, 11 p., 12 fig. 1914.
Hudson, E. W. Preparation of land for Egyptian cotton in the Salt River
Valley, Arizona. Jn U. S. Dept. Agr., Bur. Plant Indus. Cire. 110, p. 17-20.
Growing Egyptian cotton in the Salt River Valley, Arizona. U. S.
Dept. Agr., Farmers’ Bul. 577, 8 p. 1914.
Kearney, T. H. Breeding new types of Egyptian cotton. U. S. Dept. Agr.,
Bur. Plant Indus. Bul. 200, 39 p., 4 pl. 1910. .
Seed selection of Egyptian cotton. U.S. Dept. Agr. Bul. 38, 8 p. 1913.
McLachlan, Argyle. The branching habits of Egyptian cotton. U. S. Dept.
Agr., Bur. Plant Indus. Bul. 249, 28 p., 1 fig., 3 pl. 1912.
Community production of Durango cotton in the Imperial Valley. U.S.
Dept. Agr. Bul. 324, 16 p. 1915.
Martin, J. G. The handling and marketing of the Arizona-Egyptian cotton of
the Salt River Valley. U.S. Dept. Agr. Bul. 311, 16 p., 3 pl. 1915.
Scofield, C. S., Kearney, T. H., Brand, C. J., Cook, O. F., and Swingle, W. T.
Community production of Egyptian cotton in the United States. U. S. Dept.
Agr. Bul. 332, p. 28-80. 1916. This bulletin contains an approximately com-
plete list of earlier publications relating to experiments with Egyptian cotton
in the Southwestern States.
Taylor, Fred, and Dean, W. S. Comparative spinning tests of the different
grades of Arizona-Egyptian with Sea Island and Sakellaridis Egyptian cot-
tons. U.S. Dept. Agr. Bul. 359, 21 p. 1916.
OF THIS PUBLICATION MAY BE PROCURED FROM
THE SUPERINTENDENT OF DOCUMENTS
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON, D. C.
5CENTS PER COPY
WASHINGTON : GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE : 1917