Cotton Sustainability Basics

Sustainable Cotton Production


Responsible cotton production can improve farm productivity and leave a positive impact on the environment. In fact, new technologies in cotton production are being employed every day to be more responsible and more efficient with our natural resources. These natural resources – water, land, and energy – are the basics of cotton sustainability.


Let’s explore each of these building blocks:


Water Management


Cotton is not a water-intensive crop. It is a very drought-tolerant plant and, in many parts of the world, cotton relies solely on rainfall as a water source. Today, agriculture accounts for 70% of global water use. Global cotton production makes up 3% of total agricultural water.1 Modern cotton production strives to conserve water as well as preserve water quality by reducing fertilizer and pesticide runoff.


Cotton Incorporated further explores the facts, the myths, and the measurements around cotton and water in a two-part webinar series.


Download Demystifying Agricultural Water Management presentation slides.


Webinar originally played 5/21/20

Demystifying Agricultural Water Management

Cotton & Water Series, Part 1


Examine science-based data surrounding cotton’s water use. Dr. Ed Barnes, Cotton Incorporated’s Senior Director of Agriculture and Environmental Research, discusses on-going research that continues to improve cotton’s water productivity.

Understanding Metrics & Use in Industry Tools

Cotton & Water Series, Part 2


Building on part one, Dr. Jesse Daystar, Cotton Incorporated’s Chief Sustainability Officer, focuses on how we measure, communicate, and benchmark water impacts and improvements. Take a deeper look at the metrics used in life cycle assessment and examine industry tools like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index.

Land Use & Soil Health


The effective use of agricultural land is critical to creating a more sustainable future. These efforts include maximizing land use efficiency, also known as yield, and utilizing soil conservation methods to protect and increase soil health. Modern cotton production practices such no till, the use of cover crops, and the use of irrigation scheduling tools can lead to increased yields and better management of our natural resources.


Webinar coming soon.


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Energy Efficiency


The primary energy expenditures in cotton production include manufacturing nitrogen fertilizer, harvesting, ginning and tillage. Cotton growers can reduce their energy expenditures by employing reduced, no-till practices, reducing nitrogen applications and by employing emerging technologies such as robots to harvest cotton.


Webinar coming soon.


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[1] Hoekstra, A. Y. & Chapagain, A. K.  (2007).  Water footprints of nations: water use by people as a function of their consumption pattern. Water Resource Management, (21)1, 35–48.