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Soil Health

Agricultural practices that enhance habitats and biodiversity have positive impacts on agricultural production through nutrient cycling, erosion control, pollinator services and water infiltration. In recent years, the industry has made significant improvements by implementing more of these positive agricultural practices. For example, minimum tillage and cover crops promote a diverse soil microbiome, which improves nutrient cycling and efficiency. What’s more, conservation buffers help protect wetlands, forests, and grasslands and create a robust habitat for wildlife.1

Protecting Pollinators

Pollinators and some flowering plants have a natural symbiotic relationship. Flowers and plant nectar attract bees and other insects, which pollinate the plants as they move from one to the other. Interestingly, some plants such as cotton do not require insects for pollination and bees do not generally prefer the cotton plant as a pollen source.2 While cotton can and does produce a crop without pollinators minimizing impacts on pollinators and other beneficial insects is a key tenant of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Concerns have been raised around the world about potential risks to bees from insecticides used to manage pests that can threaten agricultural crops.3 To protect crops and pollinators together, growers and beekeepers in the U.S. have embraced efforts to develop and implement state specific pollinator protection plans, known as Managed Pollinator Protection Plans (MP3s). These MP3’s are designed to minimize potential pesticide exposure to bees at and beyond the site of the application.4

Additionally, insecticide use has been drastically reduced in the U.S.,5 thanks to biotechnology6, the success of a dedicated program targeting boll weevils – a beetle that feeds on cotton bolls – and the extensive use of integrated pest management (IPM) practices in cotton production. When growers have identified a need to use insecticides, they use them strategically in order to protect species that are not harmful to the cotton crop.

Building Better Environments for Wildlife

Cotton and the environment in general benefit from a diverse range of wildlife habitats. Precision agriculture allows growers to identify low production regions in their fields to address insect management needs. These tools can help growers determine which areas of their farms are underperforming to reevaluate whether these regions of their farms could better serve as a means to improve the local wildlife.7

Cotton growers value the benefits of biodiversity, which is why land that is no longer efficient for cotton production is often turned into habitats for birds such as pheasant and quail, pollinators and other species. Not only do these practices preserve wildlife, they help make other cotton fields more efficient in the process.



How Cotton Can Fit Into a Sustainable Future

How Cotton Can Fit Into a Sustainable Future

Consumers are increasingly interested in sustainability and how the choices they make affect the environment. Responses to Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor™ survey show that consumer interest in sustainability and apparel has increased from 46% in 2011 to 49.7%...

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Celebrating the Innovations of Cotton Growers

Have you ever picked up your go-to cotton t-shirt and considered how this garment came from a farm to your closet? While many of us appreciate the qualities this natural fiber brings to our favorite clothes, it’s easy to forget that what we are wearing started with a...

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Power Plant: Fiber and Food from Cotton

When you think of cotton, you think of the fiber for clothing and personal care items. Did you know the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulates cotton as a food crop? The food service and restaurant industries have been using Cottonseed oil, a coproduct of cotton...

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  1. Cotton LEADS – Sustainable Cotton Production. (2019). U.S. cotton Biodiversity: Cotton LEADS SUSTAINABLE COTTON. https://cottonleads.org/sustainable-production/biodiversity-united-states/.
  2. Loper, G. M. (1986). Cotton pollen: Honey bee avoidance and absence of gossypol1. OUP Academic. https://academic.oup.com/jee/article-abstract/79/1/103/2214503.
  3. Cotton Research and Development Corporation. (2021). Australian Cotton Production Manual 2021. https://www.crdc.com.au/publications/australian-cotton-production-manual.
  4. EPA (n.d.). Policy Mitigating Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products. https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/policy-mitigating-acute-risk-bees-pesticide-products
  5. Barfoot, P., and Graham, B.. (2005). GM Crops: The Global Economic and Environmental Impact—The First Nine Years 1996-2004. AgBioForum 8, no. 2 & 3: 187–96. https://doi.org/https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242620867_GM_Crops_The_Global_Economic_and_Environmental_Impact-The_First_Nine_Years_1996-2004.
  6. 1. Fleming, D., Musser, F., Reisig, D., Greene, J., Taylor, S., Parajulee, M., & Little, N. (2018). Effects of transgenic Bacillus thuringiensis cotton on insecticide use, heliothine counts, plant damage, and cotton yield: A meta-analysis, 1996-2015. PloS one, 13(7), e0200131.
  7. Pheasants Forever. (2021). More quail Per bale – Precision conservation for a more sustainable future. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eF9sAggL4gc.