Over years, cotton cultivation has received a cold shoulder among farmers due to the limited land, notwithstanding the soil exhaustion which is being witnessed across many parts of the country.
However, National Semi Arid Research Resources Institute (NaSARRI) through its cotton department has moved out to sensitize farmers on application of fertilizer, and also have the cash crop intercropped with other high value crops that have ability to repel cotton pests.
Gladys Amoding, research officer and also acting programme leader at the cotton department says despite the little enthusiasm for cotton cultivation among a section of farmers, the cash crop remains one of the high value cash crops both for the farmers and the third forex exchange earner for Uganda after coffee and tea, bringing in substantial amounts of foreign exchange depending on the seasonal output.
The crop was first introduced in the country in 1903 with its cultivation concentration heavily felt in the central parts, before it was introduced to the south , east and northern parts of the country, since then research on cotton cultivation continues to take place, with one of the known research station being NaSARRI.
According to Amoding, the crop researcher at NaSARRI, says intercropping the crop with high value cash crops like Onions, Ginger which have been proved to have the ability to repel pests which attack cotton has by far helped farmers increase the output for cotton in every acre of land.
The expert confirms for maximum yields, farmers can apply both organic and inorganic fertilizers to help boost the yields, but because of the need to maximize profits, farmers are better off applying organic fertilizers to the cotton plants which must be planted in rows of 75cm by 30cm.
The NaSARRI expert confirms that India which is one of the lead producer for cotton as cash crop has had tremendous breakthrough in increasing its cotton production through the intercropping concept with high value crops like onions, chili and ginger because these high value crops have been proved to be the best repellants for pests which attack cotton. Besides pests, Cotton is mostly attacked by Bacterial Blight.
In other areas, Amoding says cotton can be planted in rows of 90cm by 30 or 90cm by 45cm, adding that when this agronomical practices are observed, and with the fertilizers applied, a farmer will be able under normal weather pattern to harvest from each acre of cotton between 600Kgs – 800Kgs.
“Currently the variety that is widely being cultivated is the Bukalasa Pedigree Alaba (BPA) because its high spin ability when it comes to turning it to lint,” The cotton expert states. When planting the cash crop, Amoding says the soils must be well fallowed, and probably fresh piece of land will enable the farmer reduce on the cost of repeated weeding as fresh piece of land has less weed growth.