Facts About Cotton

Facts About Cotton - The Plant And Its Uses

There are more than a few interesting facts about cotton. Cotton has been cultivated for centuries in all parts of the world. It was cultivated in ancient times, and even in prehistoric times. The early uses of cotton primarily consisted of using the fibers in the making of textiles It wasn't long however before uses were discovered for the cottonseed, the oil and the husks. Today, a large number of products contain at least some elements of the cotton plant, and as far as textiles are concerned, more cotton is used than any other natural fiber.

Cotton is a tropical to semi-tropical plant and consequently was not known in Europe at first, but was eventually imported from warmer countries, especially from India and the Middle East. Early Spanish explorers in the New World found many cotton textiles in use by the native populations, primarily in the Caribbean area and in Mexico. Mexico has the honor of being number one in the world as far as number of different species of wild cotton to be found is concerned. Cotton was not found by early explorers in the area comprising the United States however. The use of the fiber had not migrated northward from Mexico or Central America. Eventually however, Spanish and English settlers introduced both cotton products and the cotton plant to North America.

Facts About Cotton Fiber - If you were to pick 100 pounds of seed cotton, you could expect to harvest between 30 and 40 pounds of fiber. About 60 % of cotton fiber harvested goes into the production of textiles, primarily wearing apparel, bedding and towels. Much of the rest is used in furnishings, such as auto and home upholstery, draperies, and professional garments and uniforms. A small percentage of harvested cotton fiber finds its way into the medical field where it is used in the making of sterile bandages, compresses, and the like.

Facts About Cotton Seed - Although we usually think of cotton in terms of the textiles produced, there are a vast number of items produced which involve various uses of cottonseed. There are three constituent parts to cotton seed, the oil, the hulls, and the meal. All three parts are put to valuable use. Cottonseed oil is produced by mechanically pressing the seeds. Of all of the vegetable oils produced in the world, cottonseed oil ranks fifth. In some parts of the world it is used in the production of margarine or as a cooking oil. In the United States, cottonseed oil is used primarily in the production of soaps and cosmetics. About one-third of the world's cottonseed oil is produced by China, with India not far behind. Turkey and the United States rank 3rd and 4th, respectively, though lag behind the other two countries significantly. Cottonseed hulls and meal (what is left after the oil has been extracted) are primarily used as livestock feed or in livestock food products. Cottonseed meal is also used in the manufacture of certain fertilizers, soaps, and glycerin.

Facts About Cotton Production - No article on facts about cotton would be complete without mentioning Eli Whitney and his cotton gin. The cotton boll, as picked, consists of a cotton seed surrounded by the fiber. Until Whitney produced the cotton gin, in the 1790's, a tremendous amount of labor was required in separating the cottonseed from the cotton fiber. The cotton gin did that work, making cotton a much more profitable crop in the American south. Even with the advent of the cotton gin, picking cotton still involved considerable labor, affordable mainly because it was done by slaves. It wasn't until early in the 20th century that the picking of the cotton bolls was eventually accomplished by mechanical means.

Growing Cotton - The cotton plant grows best in a rather heavy soil, needs a long and warm growing season, and moderate rainfall. It is a fairly thirsty plant, but can be grown in somewhat arid climates if irrigation is available. The largest single cotton growing area in the world is in the southern region of the United States, where rainfall is generally satisfactory, but when lacking, is supplemented by irrigation, drawing upon the huge Ogallala Aquifer. As the world's resources of fresh water become scarcer, and the fresh water available is needed for other purposes, production of cotton could be adversely affected in many areas in the years to come. Even though most of our wearing apparel these days comes from synthetic fiber, there will always be a demand for cotton, and the demand for cotton in clothing will never completely disappear.