The Cotton Development Trust (CDT), a cotton industry association representing different players in the cotton value chain, says cotton farmers in Malawi should follow best cultural cotton practices that can enhance productivity.
Cotton is one of the country’s strategic crops alongside tobacco, tea and maize.
According to some experts, the crop has business linkages right from the field to ginning, spinning, weaving and to textiles manufacturing plants.
CDT chairperson, Patrick Khembo, said on Tuesday the present cotton yields, which are in the ranges of 600-800 kilogrammes per hectare, are unacceptable and that farmers must aim at 1 500 kilogrammes and above per hectare.
He said increased efficiency in production and employment of prudent agricultural practices such as thinning, weeding and pest control, among others, are necessary if farmers are to get sufficient returns from the crop.
He said farmers in the Southern and Central regions needed to have completed planting by January 7 whereas those in Karonga had up to January 31 to plant.
“Late planting of up to 14 days after the recommended deadlines will result in up to 30 percent yield loss. Thinning must be undertaken within seven to 10 days of emergence and must be completed within 15 days. Late thinning will result into yield loss of up to two percent per day, which could amount to 20 kilogrammes per hectare per day,” he said.
Khembo, who stated that weeds also reduce crop by two percent, noted that chemicals are much cheaper and more effective for weed control than hand weeding.
He expressed concern that most cotton fields CDT has visited recently are full of weeds.
“We appeal to farmers to do their utmost, including hand pulling and physically remove weeds out of the fields,” said Khembo, who urged farmers to be vigilant against pest attacks after six weeks of germination.
He said over 443 000 farmers have planted cotton on over 277 000 hectares of land this year.