Cotton
Field Crops in South Africa

© Tanya Aucamp Cotton SA
A commercial irrigation cotton farm in Marble Hall area of the Limpopo Province.

Cotton is a versatile fibre crop and the most widely used natural fibre. It is not only used in textiles such as clothing, towels and bedding but in industries producing paper, ammunition, soap, furniture and tyres. Some of its byproducts include cottonseed oil and cottonseed meal, a protein-rich animal feed and recent tests indicated that raw cottonseed oil is suitable for the production of paraffin and diesel.

Cotton production in South Africa is supported and enhanced by the efforts of Cotton SA and the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) who were instrumental in establishing the Sustainable Cotton Cluster (SCC) to revive the local cotton industry and support new cotton farmers. It was funded by an initial grant of R200-million from the dti.  

In the five years from 2014 since the establishment of the SCC, there was a 500% increase in cotton planted - up from nearly 6 900 to 43 000 hectares - and an 800% increase in cotton lint production in South Africa - up from 5305 to 49 000 tons.

By Marinda Louw

Cotton Farming in South Africa

Cotton farming in South Africa is a summer crop. It is planted from October to the end of November and harvested in May - June. Planting time depends on the region, climate (soil temperature) and particularly the rainfall in the area....more

Cotton Production

In Cotton production genetically modified or GM cotton is grown on 25 million hectares worldwide, mostly in India, China, Pakistan and the US....more

Cotton Production Systems

The topic of cotton production systems not only refers to the growing of this fibre crop but also to he topic of cotton production systems not only refers to the growing of this fibre crop but also to the processing of cotton as well as marketing choices....more

Cotton's Growth Cycle

The growth cycle of cotton is 160 - 180 days, depending on the cultivar, planting date, farming area and how long temperatures remain high....more

How to Grow Cotton

Cotton is a summer crop and requires adequate heat units to produce commercially viable yields. Cotton’s growth cycle is 160-180 days, depending on the cultivar, temperatures and plant date....more

Processing of Cotton

Cotton produced in South Africa is quality tested and graded at the independent grading facilities at Cotton SA’s High-Volume Instrument (HVI) laboratory....more

Types of Cotton

Gossypium hirsutum cotton type has relatively short cotton fibres and is used for everyday products. It makes up 95% of the cotton planted in the US and is also the commonly planted cotton in South Africa....more

Uses of Cotton

While cotton production focuses mainly on the production of the fluffy white cotton fibres, cotton farming also produces cottonseed as a valuable byproduct....more

What is GM Cotton?

Before the use of genetically modified cotton (GM cotton) types, cotton production was associated with low yields (due to weed competition and pests like bollworm) and high usage of pesticides with the subsequent destructive impact on the environment....more