What are the limitations of organic cotton?
With organic cotton being in demand around the world lately, not many countries are seen growing it. There are many reasons which constitute to limit organic cotton production. As insecticides and pesticides need to be completely eliminated from the production system, it pushes many countries out of the job as they have been relying highly on insecticides and pesticides since ages for cotton production. Also, as the synthetic fertilizers are used to meet the nutrient need of a crop. Mainly, N, P and K nutrients are used in the development stage. Nitrogen being one such nutrient mixes with water easily and can be lost through evaporation. It must be used at the right time to promote optimum plant growth and fruit-bearing. While P and K are absorbed by the soil and be used by the plant when needed. Thus, yields are mainly affected due to nitrogen. Green manure and organic fertilization lack the availability of nitrogen as compared to inorganic fertilization. This creates a need to find better alternatives to synthetic fertilizers for organic farming so that the plant is not affected due to insufficient nutrient supply, mainly nitrogen which eventually lowers yield level.
Also, as per the survey undertaken by the Organic fiber Council in 2002, one of the main problems for organic cotton producers is weed management and insect control in the absence of herbicides and insecticides. Manual and mechanical ways of weed control are there but they are not feasible solutions when farming is done on a large scale and the action of natural alternatives to insecticides and fertilizers is comparatively slow.
In developed countries like the USA, organic cotton is picked by machines which causes a serious problem of defoliation, which hand-picked organic cotton does not have, but this method is not preferred as it is labour intensive and increases the cost of production.
In developing countries, organic cotton is usually hand-picked, without the use of machinery or defoliants. This method is labour intensive and time-consuming but reduces waste.
Another problem that persists is that the cotton varieties which perform well under optimum conditions may not be able to maintain their yield level without synthetic fertilizers and insecticides. This issue occurs as the varieties, which uses a high amount of fertilizer are grown under organic conditions which leads to lower yield levels than expected and at the same time requires more land to create a similar amount of organic cotton as conventional cotton, increases production cost, requires altogether more work to be done and eventually discourages farmers from continuing organic production. There is a need to develop varieties suitable for organic production conditions to at least produce normal yield under organic conditions.
Unfortunately, there is an absence of information pertaining to the cost of production of organic cotton because of which the producers are reluctant towards adopting organic production methods.
It is foreseen that certified organic cotton will deliver a premium price to the producer. However, it is not the actual scenario for the producers. Without a price premium, organic cotton won’t be a profitable business. Thereby, the price premium could act as a stimulus and would encourage the production of organic cotton among producers.