U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol
Published 2 years ago.
About a 4 minute read.
Image: Trisha Downing/Unsplash
/ This article is sponsored by
U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.
US cotton growers know that sustainability must start at the soil. Ensuring sustainable production for decades to come requires more than conscious growing practices — farmers must also have access to credible data on the soil’s health.
For US cotton growers, their land is their livelihood. They work tirelessly to
preserve their soil — not only for the survival of their crops but to safeguard
their farms for their children and grandchildren, as well. Over the past 35
years, conscientious growers have increased soil carbon levels, reduced soil
loss by 37 percent, and boosted biodiversity by adopting new and more
Cotton growers have relied on certain production practices for decades; but with
a better understanding of their potential impact, over the past 35 years they
have adopted new practices to help protect the environment. In the past, growers
often tilled or plowed their land to prepare it for planting by breaking up the
topsoil to create divots for seeds. However, this method left the soil disturbed
and uncovered, releasing carbon dioxide into the air that was trapped in the
ground and causing topsoil to be lost by being simply washed or blown away.
Growers have adopted conservation-tillage practices, such as no-till and
that leave the ground intact. Research has shown the uptake of
conservation-tillage practices reduces erosion and increases carbon
sequestration from the atmosphere by as much as 400 pounds of carbon per acre
Today, nearly one-third of US cotton farms practice no-till.
To double their fields’ carbon-sequestration ability, growers combine
conservation-tillage practices with the use of cover crops such as rye, legumes
and root vegetables. Cover crops help growers protect their fields all year
round. By providing shade, cover crops decrease evaporation from the soil, which
means both less irrigation and less erosion. These plants further protect the
land by boosting biodiversity. The roots of cover crops such as radishes break
through compacted dirt and provide earthworms with shade and food, which loosens
and naturally aerates the soil, and allows for better water absorption and much
less run-off. Cover crop usage is growing in the US roughly 8 percent per
Like cover crops, growers are also increasingly adopting precision agriculture
to improve their sustainability by expanding the use of GPS receivers,
multi-spectral images and ground-based sensors to map out soil property
variations. This in-depth mapping technology is being used as a tool to provide
a snapshot of what the specific needs are for a specific field. For example,
soil moisture probes provide water level measurements at a series of distances
below the ground, which enables cotton farmers to understand if their crops need
additional water. Today, almost two-thirds of US cotton
employ some type of precision technology.
One can easily see that growers have made significant changes to protect the
land they call both home and office. But while these sustainability practices
and tools are now commonplace in the US, these improvements haven’t been
properly demonstrated to brands and retailers due to a lack of comprehensive
data. That is where the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol
The Trust Protocol underpins and verifies US cotton’s sustainability
through sophisticated data collection and independent third-party verification.
It measures six sustainability metrics, including soil loss and soil carbon from
US cotton growers, and shares farm-level data in aggregate with brands and
retailers to help them better measure against their sustainability commitments.
This is why the Trust Protocol is aligned with national goals to reduce US
cotton’s soil loss by 50 percent and increase soil carbon by 30 percent by 2025.
With access to the new system, growers can continuously improve their farms’
sustainability and soil health. The Trust Protocol provides growers with what
they need to baseline their own operations including verified year-over-year
data to measure their progress and insights and best practices from across the
industry to help them work towards the 2025 national goals.
By signing up for the Trust Protocol, brands and retailers will gain access to
US 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. Members will
also experience full supply chain transparency through the Protocol Credit
Management System, which uses TextileGenesis’ blockchain technology to
record and verify the movement of US cotton fiber along the entire global supply
Since its launch in 2020, the Trust Protocol has welcomed over 350 members
across the supply chain including Gap Inc.,
Byford and Next; and mills and manufacturers across the globe. These
members have joined to better understand the sustainability progress of US
cotton and communicate that progress to their customers.
US cotton growers know that to progress with sustainability, they must start at
the soil. Better care for cotton fields preserves the quality of the land,
improves biodiversity, and sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. While
progress starts in the ground, the US Cotton Trust Protocol ensures it doesn’t
Become a member today at TrustUSCotton.org.
Published Jun 29, 2021 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.