US cotton growers have long been stewards of the land. They continue to adapt and innovate to develop more cotton with the space they have. The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol intends to build on this progress and create a smarter cotton future.
The world's population is growing; and with that, so is the demand for staples such as fiber and food. But available arable land is remaining the same or even decreasing, making it imperative that cotton farmers increase production without using a larger area. Since 1980, US cotton growers have increased their land-use efficiency by 49 percent; and these improvements have started with growers employing conventional conservation practices.
Research shows that improved conservation practices such as reducing the use of tilling and cover crops dramatically reduced soil erosion since the late ‘90s and brought these activities into balance with soil creation. While these techniques have improved land efficiency, growers are building on this progress by introducing the latest technologies.
US growers are applying precision agriculture innovations for in-field measurements, data and automation to better increase land-use efficiency. Today, roughly 2/3 of US cotton growers employ some type of precision technology. For example, GPS mapping provides farmers with trackable insights on the performance of their fields to understand where applications of water, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and fertilizer are needed. In fact, advanced soil mapping has been proven to reduce the use of commercial fertilizer by over 20 percent in certain US cotton fields. As a result of proper and precise fertilizer use, more cotton can be produced from a smaller area while growers can more efficiently determine their field inputs.
The cotton seeds themselves have been one of the major breakthroughs for US cotton grower’s land-use efficiency with higher-yielding seed varieties developed through conventional breeding and biotechnology. Now, because of these developments, cotton growers in the United States produce 810 pounds per acre, well above the world average of 683.
With the proliferation of precision technologies and a growing population, it’s imperative that growers continue to improve their land-use efficiency. With access to the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, the standard for more sustainable cotton, growers can better employ technology to improve their farms’ sustainability and land-use efficiency with access to peer data to baseline their own operations. This is why the Trust Protocol has set ambitious sustainability goals aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to increase US cotton’s land-use efficiency by 13 percent by 2025.
The goal of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is to set a new standard by better telling US cotton’s sustainability story through data. It collects data on six sustainability metrics, including land-use efficiency, from US cotton growers. That data is then shared in aggregate with growers, brands, retailers, mills and manufacturers to help them all better tell the sustainability story about the products they sell to customers.
“Developments in science and technology allow us to grow more cotton on less land, and continuously improve in areas we had never imagined before,” said Arkansas grower and Trust Protocol member Nathan Reed. “The Trust Protocol is an initiative that will help us continually improve our sustainability while meeting the growing demand for our cotton, while proving our progress to customers.”
The Trust Protocol underpins and verifies US cotton’s sustainability progress through sophisticated data collection and independent third-party verification, enabling brands and retailers around the world to more confidently source US cotton.
By signing up for the Trust Protocol, mills, merchants, brands and retailers gain access to US-grown cotton with sustainability credentials proven via Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, measured via the Fieldprint Calculator and verified with Control Union Certifications.
The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol has now welcomed more than 300 brand, retailer, mill and manufacturer members since it opened enrollment six months ago. This includes Gap Inc. and its lifestyle brands Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta; as well as UK retailers Next Plc. and Byford.
“We know brands are committed to reducing the environmental impact of the fiber element of their supply chain, and that includes continuing to reduce the land required to meet demand,” said Gary Adams, the president of the US Cotton Trust Protocol. “The Trust Protocol provides brands and retailers the critical assurances that the cotton they purchase is from growers who are using the resources and technology available to use their land more efficiently.”
US cotton growers have long been stewards of the land. They continue to adapt and innovate with every technological breakthrough to develop more cotton with the space they have. The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol intends to build on this progress and create a smarter cotton future.