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Cotton Under The Microscope

Avtar
Feature Images

Traditional methods of growing and weaving cotton 

Like all other major crops, cotton plants that are cultivated on farms in the contemporary landscape, descend from species that grew in the wild. Such wild forms of cotton are not so different from the usual cotton that is used in manufacturing and retail today. It grows in relatively warm parts of the world producing big seed pods.

Over thousands of years ago, people learned that the fiber from the wild cotton seed was capable of spinning into yarn and further turning into fabrics, since then cotton is under the microscope. And therefore, the ancient people began growing and weaving cotton. The farmers observed that some plants proved to be a bit more useful than others for whichever reasons because their yarn was of better quality. The farmers were aware that characteristics were passed from seed to seed –as a result, they took seeds from the most optimum plants and saved them for the upcoming year’s crop. This method – called selective breeding transformed wild cotton into a domesticated cotton form that came to be known as the miracle crop.

Old traditions in cotton production were used by several ethnic groups in Asia. The Cham people are an ethnic group that is native to Southeast Asia. They live in the Kampong Cham Province in Cambodia and in several provinces in Southern Vietnam. Traditionally, the Cham people grew several types of cotton plants known as ‘cacboi’, the flowers of which resembled goose feathers when they were ready for harvesting. 

cotton farm

Depending upon the end products that the cloth would be used for, the farmers used two variants of traditional looms – the ‘daneng abank’, that created cloth sheets, and the ‘daneng jihdl’, that produces belt (narrower) sheets.

How technology brought advancements to traditional methods

Methods of agriculture saw rapid advancements towards the second half of the 20th Century and at the onset of the 21st Century. These changes and developments had major effects on farming practices and forever changed the way farmers work.

In the 1940’s the US Vice President Henry Wallace led a special program that was created to help developing nations in feeding their increasing populations. The program initiated a cultivation process that enabled plants to thrive with totally new crop management and irrigation techniques. 

By the 1960’s, such new technologies were available in countries across the globe. A multinational company, Monsanto introduced products like bollgard– insect protected cotton seeds. This provided protection against cotton bollworm and pink bollworm.

Cotton

Another addition to farming technology was yield monitors and remote sensing. Having an accurate reading of crop production activities was always a key part, this new addition to techniques helped a lot. It enabled the farmers to know where exact changes needed to be made. Also, farmers could identify site-specific differences which were many a time so subtle that they couldn’t detect them from a cotton picker. 

Total production of global & India

The worldwide cotton production in the years 2017 and 2018 was 122 million bales. The world average yield was about 794 kg per hectare. And China’s crop production was 28.5 million bales, which was a 22 percent increase from the previous season.

Bargraph

Countries that produce the finest quality of cotton fabrics

India has had a big cotton industry from the past 3000 years and is well-known for producing fine quality cotton. On an average, India churns out about 34 million bales of cotton per year. Australia is also one of the major producers of the finest quality cotton. The country’s open spaces and healthy natural environment make it the optimum place to grow cotton. Australia too has a rich history in producing cotton and is also a responsible and modern sector that produces one of the finest quality cotton fabrics in the world.

Man working

The Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan is the third-largest exporter of cotton and seventh-largest producer -globally. They mostly produce cotton organically. Burkina Faso– a landlocked country in the African continent is another key producer of cotton. A major 80% of the working residents are part of the farming industry. The cotton farmers do not use modified seeds which leads to a finer quality of cotton fibers. Pakistan and Brazil are also known as fine quality cotton-producing countries.

How cotton is mixed with other materials to make it affordable

A lot of retail products are made from 100% cotton, but there are also many products in the market that are a 50-50 cotton blend. These items are mostly half cotton and half polyester. This popular amalgamation of breathable and natural fabric – that is cotton, with an industrially made, affordable material – that is polyester, is one of the most commonly produced in the textile industry. Polyester is known to be more affordable than cotton. The affordability makes the 50-50 blend a decent compromise between polyester’s cheap price and cotton’s natural feel.

Conclusion

This breathable, low maintenance fabric is always under the microscope with new innovations and weaving techniques being continuously researched upon. Cotton fabrics have worldwide demand and are produced and manufactured in various countries to meet the necessity of the people.   

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