Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Cotton Closeup

We don't get many dewy mornings here in the Texas Panhandle so when I woke up to a foggy morning, I knew what I had to do: take my camera, my new macro lens and get to a cotton field ASAP.

Let me tell you. I was not disappointed! It was a photographer's dream morning with soft light and a nice amount of dew (at least for the Panhandle). It was also a plant nerd's dream with the cotton blooming and setting bolls. In case you aren't familiar with cotton lingo, the cotton lint (think of a cotton ball you might use for removing nail polish) come from the bolls. Bolls are super important on cotton plants because that's what we harvest so the more bolls, the better.

Without further ado, here are the closeups I managed to shoot on that glorious morning, sprinkled with some cotton reproduction information.

This funny looking growth is called a square. It actually has three little "leaves," which has always made me question why it is called a square when there are three. I digress. Squares hold the buds of cotton flowers.

When cotton flowers first bloom, they are a beautiful creamy white color, which they will remain until they are pollinated. Cotton can either self-pollinate or be cross-pollinated by pollinator insects like bees. As you can see in the above and below photo, the flower will start to change colors once pollination and fertilization occur.

The flower above is advancing well into pollination as you can see by the pink hue of the flower.

Once fertilization is complete, the cotton flower becomes a vibrant pink to purple color and closes up. Now it is working to produce a boll, where the seed and cotton lint will be housed.

Above and below are cotton bolls. Above you can see the flower still attached to the top of the boll. This eventually falls off to reveal a pretty round boll, like below. When we are closer to harvest, these bolls will pop open to reveal pretty white cotton lint, which will be made into lots of blue jeans!

I'm often fascinated by the intricacies of life, but few things are as amazing to me as the leaf. This cotton leaf edge shows the detail of one simple leaf. This leaf will turn sunlight into food and produce flowers that eventually produce lint that I wear around daily. How awesome is that?!

Cotton is a pretty drought-tolerant crop. It definitely knows how to hold on to the water it gets. Just look at the pools in its leaves!

Above is unhealthy cotton leaf with a grasshopper on it. It is hard to say exactly what happened to this leaf, but some kind of stress occurred. As farmers, we try to keep our plants from getting stressed, but sometimes, nature has other ideas.

Does anyone have any questions concerning cotton reproduction or production in general? I'd be happy to answer!

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