Soil Health

As global focus on climate change increases, so has attention to carbon capture and sequestration, or the process of preventing carbon from entering the atmosphere and storing it safely. Carbon capture or sequestration occurs naturally, when plants take carbon dioxide from the air during photosynthesis and store it in the soil or plant.

The cotton plant is in fact very efficient at removing CO2 from the atmosphere, and its capacity to store it in the soil and fiber is only increasing. Agricultural innovations like precision fertilization, cover cropping, and no-till management, which is becoming increasingly popular around the world, significantly improve the soil’s carbon and water storage capacity.

Cotton Removes Carbon from the Atmosphere

Taking into account the carbon stored in cotton fiber, an acre of no-till cotton actually stores 350 pounds more of atmospheric carbon than it emits during cotton production, meaning that cotton’s contribution to the carbon equation is net negative.1 This carbon sequestration can be further enhanced by the use of cover crops, which is also becoming an increasingly frequent practice.2 So, not only is responsible cotton production carbon-conscious, it also has the potential to be a vital part of the global effort to curb climate change.

If all the cotton farms in the world3 employed conservation tillage techniques, the global cotton acreage would remove emissions equivalent to taking 3.5 million passenger cars off the highways every year!4

For more information, watch this webinar on the Life Cycle Assessment of Cotton:

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  1. Cotton carbon FOOTPRINT U.S.: Cotton LEADS: COTTON & climate change. Cotton LEADS – Sustainable Cotton Production. (2019, April 26). https://cottonleads.org/sustainable-production/carbon-footprint-united-states/.
  2. Cover Crop Strategies. (2019, April 26). Census of Ag: Cover Crop acres in U.S. growing 8% per year. Cover Crop Strategies. https://www.covercropstrategies.com/articles/178-census-of-ag-cover-crop-acres-in-us-growing-8-per-year.
  3. https://apps.fas.usda.gov/psdonline/circulars/cotton.pdf
  4. Cotton Incorporated (2021). Franzluebbers, Alan J. “Achieving Soil Organic Carbon Sequestration with Conservation Agricultural Systems in the Southeastern United States.” Soil Science Society of America Journal 74, no. 2 (2010): 347–57. https://doi.org/10.2136/sssaj2009.0079.