Monday, November 5, 2007

Things I Didn't Know About Cotton

It’s cotton harvest time right now in West Texas and the High Plains of New Mexico. We see fields of cotton still growing, fields that have been recently harvested, and lots and lots of cotton that has escaped the machinery and has landed along the roadside. I’ve been gathering a bit (I like to think of it as gleaning) and will be doing a cotton handspinning experiment that I’ll write about in a future post.

Cotton is a food, fiber, and feed crop. Being a handspinner, I have always thought of cotton as just a fiber. I didn’t know that two thirds of the crop consists of cotton seeds, which are crushed to provide oil (used in cooking oil, shortening, snack foods), and meal and hulls (used in animal feed and as fertilizers).

Back when cotton picking was done by hand, an experienced worker could pick 450 pounds of seed cotton a day. Today’s modern cotton harvesters can cover up to 6 to 8 rows at a time and can harvest up to 190,000 pounds of seed cotton a day.

500 pounds of cleaned cotton—seeds and trash removed--will make 325 pairs of denim jeans, or 300 diapers, or 1200 pillowcases.

Just in case you want to learn more about cotton, here are some great web sites.

Cotton Counts; Educational Resources:
Includes information about the cotton content of U.S. currency, an online presentation called "Cotton: From Field to Fabric in Forty Frames," and a list of links to additional resources.

The Story of Cotton:
Using non-technical language, this web site tells the history of cotton cultivation and gives a clear description of the production of cotton today. It includes photographs showing how cotton plants and fields look as the crop grows.

National Cotton Council of America’s education pages give lots of technical information:

No comments: