[Crops 101] How to Sow & Harvest Cotton

November 18, 2021

Welcome to your next "Crops 101" lesson of the Farming Simulator Academy! Today, we’re focusing on cotton. We’ll show you how to plant and harvest this fluffy crop. Let’s go!

(Video coming soon!)

What you need for cotton

Let’s take a look at everything you need to plant and harvest cotton. Please note, you need special equipment. It’s quite expensive, and therefore cotton is not the best choice of crops to start with at the beginning.

Tip! Try other crops if you're just starting out! Like grains, for example. 

If you still want to play around with it, look for contracts by your neighbors offering cotton contracts - or rent the machines for your own harvest. Especially the cotton harvester will save you a lot of money if you rent it.

  • You need a big enough field. A full bale of cotton is produced by around two hectares of harvest. The smaller the fields, the less efficient your work. 
  • You need a cultivator to prepare the field. Does the field info box in the bottom right corner say, you need to plow? Then, you should use a plow or subsoiler instead.
  • You need a planter and seeds. In the "Planter" category in the tool tab of the shop, you find specialized planters. You also need to buy a bigbag of crop seeds containing all the different crop types. 
    • Tip! Look for the cotton icon to identify suitable planters.
  • You need a fertilizer spreader, fertilizer (and lime). Without, the income from your harvested crops will be lower. For beginners, artificial fertilizers are the best choice. You find both lime and fertilizer in the Bigbag section of the shop. A fertilizer spreader is found in the fertilizing technology category.
    • Tip! If your field requires lime, it will be shown in the right corner box if you’re standing on the field and on the map in the menu.
  • You need a weeder to get rid of the weeds that will soon pop up. Otherwise, the income from your crops will be reduced when you sell it. If they grow too high, you’ll need an expensive field sprayer instead!
  • You need a cotton harvester. A cotton harvester is special: You don’t need special headers or equipment to prepare the harvest itself. The cotton harvester will process the cotton directly into bales.
    • Tip! A cotton harvester is expensive. Leasing is always an option.
  • You also need a cotton trailer to pick up, transport and sell the harvested cotton. In the shop, you find it in the “cotton technology” category of the tool tab.

Equipment Selection (recommendation) 

We chose the following equipment for the job. But, you can make your own decisions, e.g. use a different tractor. 

  • Tractor: John Deere 7810
  • Cultivator: RABE MR 250
  • Planter: Agromasz Falcon
  • Harvester: Case IH Module Express 635
  • Weeder: Einböck Aerostar-Exact 600
  • Fertilizer: BREDAL K105 
  • Trailer: Lizard Module 4

Let’s go to work!

Got everything you need? Then let’s start on your assignment and plant some cotton!. Note, that you can only plant cotton between the beginning of February and the end of March if seasonal growth is enabled. 

Step 1: Cultivating the field

Unless the game tells you to plow the field, we’ll use a cultivator. Get to the field, lower the machine into the ground and start cultivating - or plowing. Mind the fact that you need to plow when changing crops as well as after every third harvest to get rid of the deep roots. Otherwise, you get a yield penalty.

Step 2: Apply fertilizer and lime 

Fertilizer will improve the yield. Click on the bigbag pallets category and buy the Solid Fertilizer Bigbag. Then, hook up your spreader to your tractor, position it right next to the BigBag and click the button to refill.

Back on the field, you turn it on and cover the whole field in fertilizer. It should now be fertilized to 50%, look at the right corner box while standing on the field. It’s okay if there are some tiny spots still not covered.

Tip! Repeat the process after planting to increase the fertilization to 100%. The yield will be even higher.

Does the field tell you it also needs lime? Then head back to the shop, buy lime and repeat the same procedure. If you have fertilizer left, you can unload it first at your farm. 

Step 3: Planting cotton

Get your planter attached to your tractor and head over to the field. Position yourself at one corner of the field, lower the planter and turn it on. Now you plant one row at a time. As we said before, it doesn’t have to be perfect right from the beginning.

Tip! If you play with crop destruction enabled, you should use a tractor with narrow tires for the following steps (as soon as the crop starts to grow), otherwise a lot of plants will get destroyed. 

Optional: After you're done with planting, you can also use a soil roller to condense the soil and increase the yield by additional 2,5%. You don't have to, though. If small stones are left on the field, they get pushed back into the soil, so they don't damage your harvester, later.

Step 4: Getting rid of weeds

Soon, the first weeds spawn on the field. Take your weeder to get rid of it before the crops grow past the first stage. In the first stage, you can still use the weeder to remove weeds. After that, you’d need a field sprayer, but let’s try to avoid that in favor of our finances. Got rid of it? Good, now we wait again, until the crops are fully grown.

Step 5: Harvest the cotton

With seasonal growth enabled, cotton has to be harvested between October and November. First, unfold the cotton harvester. Lower the harvesting implement and turn it on. Now, you or your helper can start the harvest.

You need at least 2,000 liters of cotton to unload a cotton bale. You can harvest up to 20,000 liters and of course, the full module will bring in a higher yield. Are you done? Turn the harvester off, lift the implement and fold it back up. 

Tip! You can disable plant withering in the game settings.

Tip! Manually, you can harvest 7 rows of cotton at a time. The helper harvests six. 

Step 6: Selling the cotton

Let’s load up the cotton bale now. Attach the trailer to your tractor and lower it by putting it into operation position. Slowly back up the trailer to pick up the bale. Put it back in the transporting position, and you’re ready to go. Cotton can only be sold at the spinnery.

Tip! Cotton can’t be stored in a silo. If you want to sell it later, you have to unload the bales somewhere, e.g. in a barn.

Well done!

Congratulations, you harvested and sold your first bale of cotton. Take your time and start on the next lesson, when you’re ready. And don’t forget to clean up your machines once in a while. Stay with the Farming Simulator Academy and you become a virtual farmer in no time!

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