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How is cotton harvested and grown?

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Quick Answer

Cotton is grown by planting seeds using mechanical planters that plant anywhere from 10 to 24 rows at a time. The planting runs from early February to late May. Machines with turning rods harvest the cotton, which is then dropped onto conveyor belts after the seeds are removed. Rolling machines process the cotton further, and it's then packed into bales.

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The cotton is harvested beginning in July in southern Texas, and is harvested through late November in northern areas of the United States. A cotton bale contains enough cotton to produce more than 1,200 men's T-shirts.

Cotton grows in 17 southern states, stretching from Virginia to Louisiana and Texas. Worldwide, China and India are the largest producers as of 2012. As of 2012 the United States ranked third in the production of cotton worldwide. For years 2010 through 2012, the average cotton harvested area produced an average of 17.0 million bales over 9.8 million acres.

A big threat to the production of cotton is the boll weevil. This has been a problem for cotton production since 1892. It completes its entire life cycle in three weeks, and each female lays 200 eggs, each in a separate cotton boll. This infestation spreads rapidly, covering up to 160 miles per year.

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