Cotton Incorporated Teams with USDA to Standardize Cotton Research Data
September 24, 2021

A Partnership for Data Innovations project aims to create a public, searchable research data repository for the U.S. Cotton Industry.

For 25 years, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has allowed the cotton industry to provide standardized measurements grading cotton fiber quality. The AMS exemplifies how data standardization and centralization can benefit stakeholders across the industry, and Cotton Incorporated’s new project with the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Partnerships for Data Innovations (PDI) attempts to replicate AMS’s success with a more diverse collection of cotton research data.


Learn more about the Cotton/PDI project and its progress at the Cotton Research Data Standardization and Centralization website.


What Standardizing and Centralizing Cotton Research Data Can Do

Organizations across the U.S. cotton industry, from universities to federal agencies to non-profits like Cotton Incorporated, collect multitudes of data. Data on cotton growing, processing, and manufacturing that spans every aspect of the industry, from dirt to shirt, including:


  • Genetics
  • Agronomy
  • Harvest
  • Ginning
  • Fiber Quality Measurements
  • Textile Manufacturing

Every researcher has specific goals for the data they collect, but if all of this data could be shared between researchers, growers, processors, and manufacturers, the industry could unlock unprecedented understanding of our crop and our industry’s processes. The problem is, researchers each have their own methods of naming, categorizing, and collecting data, making filters and apples-to-apples comparisons extremely difficult.


The Cotton/PDI program aims to standardize and centralize U.S. cotton research data by collecting and combining research data from multiple projects in one database. The project leverages massive amounts of data, and attempts to not only organize it, but make collection and visualization easier, so stakeholders from university researchers to growers can contribute to improving the industry’s understanding and methods.


Learn more about the Cotton/PDI project and its progress at the Cotton Research Data Standardization and Centralization website.


Standardizing Cotton Data for Use in AgCROS

Currently, three groups of researchers meet with the PDI team regularly to help generate a standardized list of cotton data variables and units and develop digital tools to collect, store, query, and visualize data. The data standardization takes the form of a massive cotton data dictionary, which compiles information from spreadsheets, databases, reports, collection protocols, and more in an attempt to identify common variables and define standard units.


Researchers plan to house the data in the USDA’s Agricultural Collaborative research Outcomes System (AgCROS), a public domain for agricultural data resources. The team uses AgCROS’s structure has the foundation for organizing the data to maximize usability. Their intention is that AgCROS will become a one-stop-shop for cotton stakeholders to upload and access cotton industry information.


How the PDI Project Streamlines Cotton Data Collection and Visualization

One of the major pushes of the Cotton/PDI project is to develop electronic data collection systems for cotton researchers, to help minimize data errors and the difficulty involved in manual (i.e. pen and paper) data collection. Researchers have developed the following two cotton-specific data collection tools to assist cotton researchers and procurers. To participate, you must first download the ArcGIS Survey 123 application to a personal device (phone or tablet).


  • Cotton Experimental Setup Tool v5: A survey that helps setup a research project by defining the project name, treatments, measurement units, etc. (available in app)
  • Cotton Field Observation Tool v2: A survey that collects field data, to be used after setting up your experiment. (available in app)

For specific instructions on downloading and setting up your ArcGIS Survey 123 account, visit the Cotton Research Data Standardization and Centralization website.


The PDI project has also designed data visualization tools to ensure that cotton researchers and producers can understand and interact with the massive amounts of data collected across the industry. One of the forms this visualization takes is a dashboard from cotton variety trials between 2005-2013. This type of application allows users to filter by variable and locations and represents the data in graphs that respond to filters.

The Cotton/PDI project is still in its early stages in each of the key areas addressed, but the team is committed to creating a data repository and tools to make cotton data accessible to a larger stakeholder audience and allow researchers to conduct more rigorous analysis on U.S. cotton that propels the entire industry forward.


Stay up-to-date on the Cotton/PDI project’s progress by visiting the Cotton Research Data Standardization and Centralization website.


The work we do is possible because of collaborations with researchers like these and partnerships with people all throughout the value chain. Ready to commit to sustainably produced cotton? Become a Cotton LEADS partner today. Interested in doing even more? Contact us for ideas to get the most out of sustainable cotton and your partnership with Cotton LEADS. 

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