Did you know what a cotton bloom looks like? I didn't.
Photo from Mizzou Magazine
It's kind of a pretty thing. Just don't look at the fields after a harvest, because they look pretty barren. I got my quarterly alumni magazine from my alma mater yesterday, the University of Missouri, and found a really interesting article on cotton farming. Seriously. It's interesting.
This issue focuses on sustainability and in case you didn't know, Missouri has a large agricultural school and research facility. (There is a lot of farm land there in the mid-West.) This article features a fourth-generation cotton farmer from southeast Missouri (the "bootheel"), which unknown to me, is the 9th largest producer of cotton in the nation, yet cotton is being produced in only seven counties.
Some facts that caught my attention:
- From 1987 to 2007, the energy used to produce a pound of cotton lint decreased 66 percent. (Per the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture)
- This particular farmer has seen yields nearly double since 1980. He credits this to better engineered seeds which has greatly raised the cost of seeds, but is more than offset by the reduction in the use of pesticides.
Cotton crops have historically been criticized because they have been a huge consumer of pesticides versus other crops. The interest in organic cotton, certainly in the quilt fabric industry, has really increased in the last five years. But a big problem with organic cottons at the moment is price. And the reality is, most consumers still pick products based on price versus sustainability.
I found it interesting that a traditional cotton farmer is working toward the same goal as the organic farmers- reduced (or no) use of chemicals, high yields per acres, and reduced energy and labor to bring the fiber to market. Once the economic and methodological disparities between the two are minimized, it makes it very easy for organic cotton to become the norm instead of the expensive exception. You're welcome, Mother Earth.
I told you it was interesting and now you have a topic for your upcoming holiday parties.