Mar 10, 2017

Agronomy & physiology WCRC Agro-physio-West-Central-Africa WCRC1
Abstract                                                                         Back to Table of contents

Cotton has an indeterminant growth habit and an extreme sensitivity to adverse environmental conditions which can result in excess fruit abscission. Because of these characteristics, during most of the time this plant has to assume simultaneously flowering, canopy and boll development, until any limiting factors (water, temperature, light or nutrient stress) occurs, producing shedding and limiting lint and seed yields. The effects of N, P and K nutrients on vegetative growth, flowering, fruiting and lint or seed production have often been described. Nevertheless the synchronism of these process implies that it is necessary to supply every nutrient throughout the growth cycle of cotton. Then the mineral nutrition of cotton depends both on the cotton roots ability to explore the soil and on the soil ability to supply N, P and K nutrients.

The exploration of a large volume of soils favours high nutrition in all elements. The failure in root growth can be put down to physical conditions, excess of water, plant diseases and also because of chemical factors: toxicity (aluminium in acid soils) or shortage of plant vigour like water stress, low temperature and solar radiation, bad sanitary conditions etc.

The soils N, P and K supplies are in dynamic equilibrium between available forms (dissolved and easily dissolved substances) and reserves which cannot be absorbed directly. These balances are linked to physical, biological and chemical conditions in soil.

The N, P and K in fertilizers are added to the soil mineral "pool". Many documents present responses of cotton and/or soil to N, P and K fertilizers. However, there is a large response variability to fertilizers: variability between regions, years, sowing dates, etc.

The cotton price fluctuations and environment problems should encourage better management of fertilizer, using the physiological and agronomical knowledge of N, P and K dynamics. We must search for an economic optimum and take the long term future of the farm into account.  This management must be done firstly by cropping techniques to improve the root's ability to explore the soil.

Fertilization must also be managed at the historical level. The cotton field benefits or suffers from the previous crop or fallow and from technical practices on the field. Fertilization of cotton also influences the following crops, the sustainability of the fields and pollution.

The fertilization must be managed at a geographical level. Nutrients transfer may occurs from some place in the landscape to another by wind, livestock, stream, harvest removals, etc. on the vertical axis, trees and some cover crops may absorb drained elements from deeper levels of soil and deliver them to the surface.

Then fertilization is now a systems problem and research has to quantify the relationships between all the factors of the fertilization and create models in order to help the farmers to manage their crop.


Agricultural science is currently changing rapidly.  For several years, it has been developing into an ecophysiology.  ECO because it takes into account what is happening within the natural environment and PHYSIOLOGICAL because attempts are being made to understand yield determination through increasingly fine-tuned analyses.  This change has been made possible through the extraordinary advances made in computerisation, which have enabled the modelling of relations and the development of yield determination models that take into account the crop system as a whole.  In fact, the plant and the field are immersed in a set of relations that have to be taken into account to provide farmers with fertilizer recommendations.  Consideration of economics in the advice given is also destined to develop.

Of course, this change is still new and not all the systems have been described, validated or quantified, but it is highly likely that as it proceeds it will completely transform how recommendations for farmers are established.

In many cases, the search for optimum yields has been superseded by that for a response to farmers' economic and social requirements.

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