The Multi-Use Moneymaker
For those of you who are new to farming and are not familiar to the cotton plant, it has actually been given the nickname “white gold”. This is because the product is very valuable and it can be worth a lot of money when it is grown in bulk. What makes cotton so special is that it has multiple uses. Most people only know cotton can be used for its fibers, which make our clothes and other common products in our society. You may not even think about it, but the money sitting in your pocket was also created with cotton. The seed of cotton that is hidden by all of the beautiful white fibers is actually just as valuable as the soft exterior. This seed is naturally covered with fuzz and can be used as a nutritious feed for animals or it could have oil extracted to create cotton oil. Cotton seed can also be stripped of its “fuzz” and have multiple uses including being planted for the following year’s rotation. Cotton has many purposes within our society that does not cross our minds on a daily basis.
Cotton from the Field
Cotton naturally grows as a perennial, which means it grows year round and lasts for a long time. In the farming community however, we grow it within a single season, so we grow it as what we call an annual. Since it is a flowering plant, the long fibers we can see are known as the fruit of the plant. Cotton starts out in a protective covering called a boll and as it grows, it pops open like popcorn. Cotton is a crop that is viewed as unique row crop because it does not require much water. This is because its roots grow down deep into the ground and they grow wide so that the plant is able to reach more water sources. Cotton uses rainfall for around 64% of total irrigation and it only uses 3% of the world’s irrigation water for growth. Cotton is usually planted in the spring so that it is able to establish its root system before dryer weather and it is later harvested in the fall.
Why the Fiber Fuss?
When many people go to buy their cotton based products, they may notice that there are different types of cotton and they are priced differently. The three most common within the United States are Upland, Pima, and Egyptian cotton. Upland cotton makes up about 90% of cotton production and could be defined as your most generally known cotton. This is one of the less expensive varieties of cotton because the fibers are not nearly as long as the Pima or the Egyptian cotton. The other two varieties have extremely long fibers and are very dense. This is very helpful fact to know when you are searching for sheets and you enjoy having sheets that make you feel like you are sleeping on a cloud!
Cotton has had an extremely large impact on our society and our revenue.
- The United States accounts for around 37% of the world export in cotton.
- We create an average of 7.6 million bales annually of cotton.
- The business revenue that is stimulated by cotton for the United States is well over $120 billion dollars.
Cotton is an amazing crop that has been grown successfully within our borders. It has had a positive impact on our wallets and it continues to help expand the job market around the world. It has truly earned its nickname as “white gold”.
Written By: Maddie Werths