The Beltwide Cotton Conference Hosts First Cotton Sustainability Conference
February 5, 2021
Researchers, retailers and growers discussed cotton’s role in fighting climate change over three days of presentations
For the first time in its 86-year history, the annual Beltwide Cotton Conference dedicated an entire subconference specifically to cotton sustainability. While sustainability, continuous improvement and responsible production have been research and discussion topics for decades, this year cotton processors, scientists, extension personnel, agribusiness representatives, NGOs, sustainability experts and growers discussed how sustainability practices can help the industry make an impact on global climate change initiatives.
The Cotton Sustainability Conference featured leading cotton sustainability experts and cotton growers presenting on sustainability topics ranging from soil health to cotton’s role in a future circular economy, including recent updates on the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.
- Day One: Soil Health for Sustainability
The first day of the Cotton Sustainability Conference focused mainly on soil health because of its dual potential to mitigate climate change while benefiting cotton production. Healthy soil contains up to three times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. So by improving soil health, growers can produce higher quality cotton while helping the U.S. cotton industry meet their 10-year sustainability goals.
Dr. Christine Morgan, chief scientific officer at the Soil Health Institute, discussed how soil health helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cotton production while increasing grower profitability by keeping soil and nutrients in the field and increasing soil water retention. Researchers from Arkansas State, University of Arkansas, University of Tennessee and Texas Tech discussed various conservation management practices’ impact on soil health, including building microbial diversity, reducing sediment losses and using smart technology for precision fertilization.
The conference also included a panel discussion of leading cotton growers from Texas, Louisiana and Georgia who discussed their experiences employing soil health practices like no-till and cover cropping.
- Day Two: The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol and Consumer Demand for Sustainable Fibers
During second day of the conference, Dr. Gary Adams, president of the National Cotton Council, outlined recent updates to the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, including progress to date. According to his presentation, the protocol currently includes:
- 550 producers
- 20 merchandizers
- 80 mills (with 70 in process)
- 9 brands/retails (10 more in process)
Adams noted that their efforts will not only improve cotton sustainability efforts, but also bring much needed transparency to the cotton supply chain. A panel discussion on sustainable fibers highlighted the consumer demand for increased cotton farming sustainability and sustainable product lifecycles. Most of the day’s presenters represented the industry and NGO side of cotton production, including the National Cotton Council, Textile Exchange, Control Union, and the Better Cotton Initiative.
To learn more about the apparel industry’s role in reducing GHG emissions,watch our webinar on cotton and reaching net zero emissions in the apparel industry.
- Day Three: Cotton and the Circular Economy
The third day of the Cotton Sustainability Conference focused on the potential of a cotton circular economy. Dr. Jim Jones from the University of Florida discussed immediate steps to create circular systems (including precision agriculture and soil health building practices), and detailed research on potential new processes, sources of fertilizer and fully autonomous robotic harvesting.
Sophie Chalumeau, sustainability consultant at Quantis, presented research on synthetic apparel’s contributions to plastic leakage, and researchers from the University of Georgia, Texas A&M and University of Arkansas presented methods for cotton growers to quantify their GHG output using the Fieldprint Calculator and reduce GHG emissions through cover cropping, no-till and innovative irrigation techniques.
Cotton Incorporated helped organize the Cotton Sustainability Conference—along with the National Cotton Council, the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, and the University of Tennessee—to share research and best practices on cotton sustainability at all levels of the industry.
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.
The Latest Developments in Sustainable Cotton Pest Management
Targeted pesticide use and integrated pest management have a widespread effect on cotton sustainability.Get the full story
Cotton farmers restore riparian zones with amazing results
Farmers on the Darling Downs have been restoring 150 hectares of riparian grasslands along the local creek, initially to control feral pigs, but to their surprise, the project has had greater positive impacts on the natural environment.Get the full story
New environmentally friendly spray developed to combat notorious cotton pest
Researchers have developed an environmentally friendly method for controlling one of agriculture's most vicious pests that’s known for degrading cotton lint quality.Get the full story
Marathon runner praises Australian cotton industry’s water use efficiency
Marathon runner Mina Guli will compete 200 marathons in one year, raising awareness about the global water crisis. Her outback Australian leg has taken her through the cotton fields in NSW. Watch the video here:Get the full story
Australian Cotton Conference returns to the Gold Coast after a four-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The conference isn’t just a place for farmers and industry experts - brands, retailers and anyone working with Australian cotton will have the opportunity to learn and ask questions about this thriving agricultural industry.Get the full story
Brands, retailers and industry join forces to tackle national clothing circularity plan
Cotton Australia has joined fashion stewards from across the nation to help develop a pathway to Australia’s clothing circularity by 2030.Get the full story
FREE WEBINAR: Join Australian Cotton experts as they unpack the latest industry sustainability findings
Australian cotton industry experts will detail the latest findings from the 2020/2021 sustainability report during a free webinar open to all.Get the full story
Brands and retailers get boots muddy at Camp Cotton
Fashion brands have gained a first-hand experience seeing cotton in the field for the first time.Get the full story
New cotton sustainability report highlights improvements in soil health, greenhouse gas emissions
Each year the Australian cotton industry undertakes an analysis on key indicators and targets that make up the PLANET. PEOPLE. PADDOCK. Sustainability Framework. Here’s the latest report:Get the full story
May Cotton Pricing Update: Volatility Seems the Only Certainty in the Cotton Market
A slowing global economy, soaring commodities prices and potential supply shortages create an unpredictable cotton market.Get the full story
Partner Profile: Australian fabric manufacturer ensures ethical, safe work standards for employees
Knowing what happens in Australia's cotton fields and industry is important for Melbourne fabric manufacturing company Topknit.Get the full story
From The Field: Australian cotton farmers share raw, honest conversations about industry
For the first time, Australian podcast fans will share the sometimes-visceral journey of cotton farmers, and the challenges and opportunities they face out on the land.Get the full story