GlossaryDefinitions of commonly used terms in the world of cotton and on this website.
- Bt Cotton
- Carbon sequestration
- Conservation tillage
- Life cycle assessment
- Natural fiber
- Regenerative Agriculture
- Synthetic Fiber
Maintaining biodiversity is a high priority for cotton growers around the world. Biodiversity is generally defined as a variety of plant and animal life.5 Variety in the natural environment is considered beneficial to all crops.
Bt, a bacterium formally known as Bacillus thuringiensis, kills a variety of insects that harm the cotton plant. In the 1990s, scientists encoded Bt directly into a plant. After rigorous scientific evaluation, Bt cotton was placed on the market in 1996, allowing growers to protect their plants while applying significantly less insecticide.
Carbon sequestration is also called carbon capture and storage. According to the U.S. Government, “Carbon dioxide is the most commonly produced greenhouse gas. Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide.6” Cotton is very efficient at capturing and storing carbon. Read more here.
Organic soil conditioner obtained by the biodegradation of a mixture principally consisting of various vegetable residues, occasionally with other organic material and having a limited mineral content7
Organic soil conditioner obtained by the biodegradation of a mixture principally consisting of various vegetable residues, occasionally with other organic material and having a limited mineral content8
Tillage is the act of preparing the soil through mechanical agitation, for example through plowing. Conservation tillage is defined by the OECD as “a tillage system that creates a suitable soil environment for growing a crop and that conserves soil, water and energy resources mainly through the reduction in the intensity of tillage, and retention of plant residues.”10
The cotton plant belongs to the Gossypium species and is a member of the hibiscus family.11 It is grown across the world and is most commonly known for its use in natural, durable textiles – though other parts of the cotton plant can also be used for food and a variety of innovative products. Read more here.
Ginning is the process of separating cotton fiber from the seed. Ginning takes place in a cotton gin and goes through a process of drying and cleansing before the lint is removed by revolving circular saws. Ginned cotton lint is compressed into bales.12
Gossypol is a yellow substance found in the cotton plant. It is toxic to most animals when consumed, but when extracted it can be useful for different types of medicines.13 This compound is part of the plant’s natural defense to pests.
Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) allow for the holistic examination of the environmental impacts and resource utilization of a given product, from the raw materials used to create it all the way to that product’s end of life, when it is disposed. A fundamental part of an LCA is the Life Cycle Inventory (LCI), which quantifies relevant energy and material input and environmental release data associated with manufacturing and other processes.14 Read more here.
As a subsection of micro plastics, they are a synthetic fiber finer than one denier per filament that are either engineered specifically to be a micro fibre, or produced through degradation.15
A simple definition for microplastics is that they are plastic particles smaller than 5 mm. A recent study has defined microplastics more precisely as: “any synthetic solid particle or polymeric matrix, with regular or irregular shape and with size ranging from 1 μm to 5 mm, of either primary or secondary manufacturing origin, which are insoluble in water”.16
Pesticide law defines a “pesticide” (with certain minor exceptions) as “any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest.”17 These pests can be insects, fungi or weeds that are harmful to the cotton crop.
Regenerative agriculture is not a one size fits all prescriptive practice, rather it looks at the combination of practices that support resilience as well as build and nourish our ecosystem. Over time, regenerative practices can increase production and naturally reduce the need for external inputs. When these regenerative practices are implemented successfully, the health of the agriculture ecosystem and farmer economic stability can be improved. This is regenerative agriculture.
Synthetic fibers are man-made textile fibers, including fully synthetic fibers made from crude oil and other plastics (such as polyester, acrylic and nylon), as well as those made from natural materials (eg. trees) through industrial processes, such as rayon made from cellulose.19 Cotton is a natural, not a synthetic fiber.
- Washington Grown. (n.d.). What does an ACRE look like? http://www.wagrown.com/what-does-an-acre-look-like/.
- Cotton Outlook. (n.d.). Glossary of Words. https://www.cotlook.com/information-2/glossary-of-terms/
- Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Biocompatibility. Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biocompatibility.
- The International Organization for Standardization (2002). Plastics — Determination of the degree of disintegration of plastic materials under defined composting conditions in a pilot-scale test. ISO 16929:2002.
- Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Biodiversity. Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/biodiversity.
- USGS. (n.d.). What is carbon sequestration? https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-carbon-sequestration?qt-news_science_products=0#qt-news_science_products
- The International Organization for Standardization (2019). Textiles —Test method for accelerated hydrolysis of textile materials and biodegradation under controlled composting conditions of the resulting hydrolysate. ISO 21701:2019(en).
- The International Organization for Standardization (2019). Plastics — Organic recycling — Specifications for compostable plastics. ISO 17088:2021(en).
- The International Organization for Standardization (2013). Plastics — Vocabulary. ISO 472:2013(en).
- Directorate, O. E. C. D. S. (n.d.). Oecd glossary of statistical terms – conservation tillage definition. https://stats.oecd.org/glossary/detail.asp?ID=413.
- Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Cotton. Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/cotton-fibre-and-plant.
- From field to fabric- ginning. Cotton. (n.d.). https://www.cotton.org/pubs/cottoncounts/fieldtofabric/gin.cfm.
- WebMD. (n.d.). GOSSYPOL: Overview, Uses, side Effects, precautions, Interactions, dosing and reviews. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-106/gossypol.
- Cotton Incorporated. (2017). LCA update of cotton fiber and fabric life cycle inventory, (1). https://cottontoday.cottoninc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/2016-LCA-Full-Report-Update.pdf
- Frias, J.P.G.L., Nash, R. (2019). Microplastics: ﬁnding a consensus on the deﬁnition. Mar.Pollut. Bull. 138, 145–147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2018.11.022
- EPA. (n.d.). What is a pesticide? https://www.epa.gov/minimum-risk-pesticides/what-pesticide
- Zambrano, Marielis & Pawlak, Joel & Daystar, Jesse & Ankeny, Mary & Cheng, Jay & Venditti, Richard. (2019). Microfibers generated from the laundering of cotton, rayon and polyester based fabrics and their aquatic biodegradation. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 142. 394-407. 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2019.02.062.
- Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Synthetic fiber. Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/synthetic%20fiber.