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Cotton

COTTON

COTTON. Although grown in the South since the founding of Jamestown in 1607, cotton did not become a cash crop during the colonial period, and most domestic production was consumed locally in domestic manufacture. By the late eighteenth century, revolutionary inventions in the English textile industry began the process that would transform the American South into the "cotton kingdom." John Kay's flying shuttle (patented 1733) and James Hargreaves's spinning jenny (patented 1770) speeded up weaving and spinning processes, and when these innovations were adapted first to water power and then to steam power, English textile production soared. Cotton imports into England increased fifty fold in the second half of the eighteenth century, but rising prices indicated that the cotton supply was failing to meet the spiraling demand of Lancashire's mills. When trade with England reopened after the Revolution (1783), American planters in the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia found a lucrative market for their long-staple, black-seed cotton. Further inland, only the short-staple (or uplands) variety would grow; and because its green seeds stuck so tenaciously to the staple, they had to be picked out by hand, a time-consuming process that even prevailing high prices could not support.

This all changed in 1793 when Eli Whitney invented his cotton gin, a device that quickly and cheaply separated the seeds from the staple. The new invention allowed Georgia and South Carolina planters to expand exponentially their production of the now-profitable short-staple cotton. Exports increased from 500,000 pounds in 1793 to 18 million pounds by 1800 and more than 90 million pounds a decade later. The cotton belt in Georgia and South Carolina rapidly expanded westward as farmers and planters pushed into the virgin lands in south-central Alabama; into the rich delta lands in Mississippi, northern Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee; and into western Texas. In 1860, the United States produced more than 2 billion pounds (4.5 million bales) of cotton, almost 80 percent of which came from the states of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. About 75 percent of this crop was exported, mainly to England where American cotton enjoyed a near monopoly.

Southerners proclaimed that "cotton was king," and indeed the evidence seemed to support this view. Cotton attracted millions of settlers into the Southwest; southern demand for foodstuffs helped bring population into the Old Northwest; eastern merchants found some of their best customers in the cotton belt; New England textile manufacturers and workers relied for their well-being on the South's chief export; and in the last three antebellum decades, cotton provided well over half the nation's exports.

Many small farmers grew cotton, but the most efficient and extensive producers were planters with gangs of slave labor. Planting began in early spring; slaves spent the long hot days of summer thinning the plants and chopping out menacing weeds; picking started in late August and continued for several months. Planters then ginned, pressed, and baled their cotton on the plantation before shipping it to market—usually New Orleans, Charleston, Savannah, or Mobile—typically consigning it to factors who sold it to representatives of American and European mills. Factors purchased supplies and other goods for their clients and then, after deducting expenses and commissions, remitted the net proceeds of the crop to the planter.

The Civil War proved the limits of king cotton's power. The Union blockade separated the South from its markets and sources of supply; and the British, despite the so-called cotton famine, neither recognized the South nor attempted to break the blockade. The war left most cotton farmers destitute, their fields and equipment in neglect or ruin, and their black labor force free. Gradually the South returned to cotton but under a greatly altered system of production and marketing. Land was rented out in small parcels, usually under the sharecropping system by which the tenant, in return for the right to use the land


and some equipment, shared his crop with the landlord according to a fixed contract. For his supplies, food, and clothing, the sharecropper turned to a local storekeeper (called the "furnishing merchant"), who furnished goods on credit in return for a crop lien that gave him first call on the sharecropper's proceeds from the growing crop. At first recently freed slaves made up the vast majority of tenants, but in time more and more farmers themselves lost their land and became tenants. In 1880, 36 percent of cotton farmers were tenants; in 1920 this figure had risen to almost 50 percent; and in 1935 it had risen to over 60 percent. By the turn of the century, more whites than blacks were tenants.

Meanwhile, cotton production increased. Within a decade after the end of the Civil War, the prewar high of 4.5 million bales was equaled, and the output continued to grow, reaching 10 million bales by 1900 and 16 million bales on the eve of World War I. Acreage devoted to cotton increased from fewer than 8 million acres in 1869 to 25 million in 1900 and more than 35 million in 1914.

By this time there were signs of serious trouble in the southern cotton belt. Declining prices and production inefficiencies brought poverty and hardship to millions of cotton growers, a condition worsened By the boll weevil infestation that entered Texas in 1892 and gradually spread north and east, reaching Georgia and South Carolina in 1922. The United States lost its complete domination of the raw cotton markets as countries such as India,

China, the Soviet Union, and Brazil increased their production. Rich, irrigated lands in the western states of California, Arizona, and New Mexico were shifted to cotton production; and these areas—free from the uncertainties of weather, the boll weevil, and weed infestation—offered disastrous competition to the older cotton areas. With the Great Depression, cotton prices dropped still lower and conditions reached crisis proportions.

Once again change came to the cotton belt. Cotton acreage, which had reached a high of almost 45 million in 1925, dropped to half that total in the immediate post–World War II years and continued to drop, reaching about 11 million in 1971. Production also declined but at a much slower rate. While acreage devoted to cotton dropped 75 percent from the mid-1920s to 1972, production decreased only about 30 percent, from 16 million to 11 million bales. As marginal lands shifted away from cotton, production on better lands became mechanized and more efficient with the introduction of tractors, plows, weeders, and automatic pickers. Sharecroppers fled the cotton fields or were driven away by the introduction of machinery; output per man-hour on the mechanized cotton farms increased nine times between 1940 and 1973. The eastern cotton states became minor producers as the cotton belt shifted west. In 1970, Texas was the largest producer, followed by Mississippi, California, and Arkansas; and Arizona grew more cotton than did Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

Although the United States remained the world's leading cotton producer in 1970, its onetime near monopoly was gone. By the early 1960s its share of world production had dropped to less than 30 percent, and by 1971, to 19 percent. Moreover, cotton growers, despite increasing efficiency and ample government price supports, apprehensively faced a new threat in the increasing popularity of man-made fibers. Per capita consumption of cotton in the United States fell from 30 pounds in 1950 to less than 19 pounds in 1970, while per capita consumption of artificial fibers rose from 10 pounds to 32 pounds during the same period. Despite these threats to the continued vitality of the industry, the United States recovered its position somewhat in the 1980s and 1990s, accounting for 25 to 30 percent of the world trade in raw cotton by 2000. Although China passed America to become the world's leading producer, the United States remained the world's largest exporter of the fiber, which despite its decline, still contributed over $25 billion annually in goods and services to the American economy at the end of the century.

Cotton Manufacturing

The processing of raw cotton by modern methods begins with the breaking of compressed bales (average weight 478 pounds). Bale breakers, openers, and pickers loosen and blend the tufts of cotton and remove impurities. Carding engines complete the cleaning process, eliminate short


and broken fibers, and separate and align those remaining into soft, ropelike "slivers." To obtain high-quality yarn, combers process fine (thin) cotton into slivers, removing as much as 20 percent of the shorter fibers. Drawing frames begin the process of attenuating and twisting the slivers and enhance their regularity by drawing them between rollers and arranging them in parallel rows. A series of machines collectively known as "speed frames" conclude the preparation of cotton for the spinning frames, principally by further drawing out and twisting the material into a rope called "roving" and adding strength to the fibers by making them cling to each other more closely. In the spinning stage, frames equipped with ring spindles draw and twist the fibers into yarn while winding them on a bobbin. The process is continuous, with drawing, twisting, and winding taking place simultaneously. During the preparatory and spinning processes cotton suffers a loss in weight of 9–12 percent. In comparison, man-made filament fibers spun into yarn on cotton textile machinery incur a negligible loss. Approximately two thirds of man-made fibers come from chemical producers already processed as filament yarn.

Machines then process cotton yarns into fabrics by knitting, tufting, and weaving. Knitting consists essentially of interlacing a single strand of yarn into a series of interlocking loops. Modern knitting mills produce literally hundreds of items of cotton and cotton-blended apparel. They Also convert considerable quantities of cotton yarn into a variety of tufted products on tufting machines and consume them in various nonwoven constructions, in which machines bond fibers together with adhesives. Manufacturers continue to channel the greatest proportion of cotton yarn into broadloom weaving, where additional preparation is required depending on whether it is destined to be warp (longitudinal) or weft (transverse) yarn. Weaving, conducted on high-speed automatic looms, involves the interlacing of yarn at right angles so as to form a fabric.

Upon leaving the weave shed, most unbleached gray goods undergo one of many finishing treatments. Initially, the fabric passes in succession through a series of scouring, washing, and bleaching units before being dyed and printed. Textile engineers have developed a wide range of mechanical and chemical processes to render the fabric more useful and fashionable. Mechanical processes can stiffen, glaze, and improve the texture of the cloth. Chemistry can also provide additional strength, such as fire retardance and abrasion and wind resistance, or it can impart various qualities desirable in apparel, such as permanent press, crease resistance, and shrinkage control, as well as a silk like sheen and the puckering quality of seersucker.

Industry Changes

The breakdown of major end-uses for all fibers reflects the eroding role of cotton in the American textile industry from the mid-1960s to the end of the twentieth century. Between 1968 and 1973, for example, cotton's percentage of total poundage in apparel dropped from 45 to 33 percent; in home furnishings, from 45 to 29 percent; in other consumer-type products, from 45 to 29 percent; and in industrial uses, from 32 to 21 percent. Aggregate cotton consumption by U.S. mills in 1973 amounted to 3,641,700,000 pounds (29.2 percent of total fiber consumption) compared to 3,773,600,000 pounds consumed in 1970 (39.5 percent of total fiber consumption).

During the 1960s the American textile industry be-came increasingly multifiber. The versatility of modern textile technology permitted the processing of cotton, cotton-synthetic blends, and various man-made fibers without requiring a change in machinery layout. In addition, both capital and labor requirements fell as faster and larger-capacity equipment reduced both the number of machines and the number of operatives and maintenance workers needed for a given output. A small number of large, multiplant firms thus account for a high proportion of capital expenditures for plant and equipment as well as for most textile research. During the 1958–1970 period, capital expenditures for the textile industry as a whole increased at an 11.3 percent annual rate. For knit fabric mills the annual rate was 23 percent; for cotton broadloom weaving establishments, on the other hand, the rate was only 3.7 percent per annum.

The new textile technology flourished primarily in the sprawling, single-story structures dotting the southeastern United States, where large pools of white and black female labor are readily available in hundreds of small communities. At the same time, the trend toward technological modernization has hastened the obsolescence of the aged, multistory mills that predominated in New England. By 1970 three-fourths of cotton textile employment was concentrated in the Southeast. Blue-collar occupations—primarily semi-skilled machine tending—constituted 85 percent of textile employment, a smaller share of jobs going to professional, research, clerical, and sales personnel than in most manufacturing industries. Women workers made up more than 65 percent of the employees in knitting mills but only 25 percent of the employees in textile-finishing establishments.

Although cotton manufacturing remains more fragmented and highly competitive than most industries, a trend toward fewer and larger firms is taking place; numerous mergers and acquisitions were effected during the 1960s, and Many small mills shut down. By 1970, the four largest establishments making cotton broadwoven fabric accounted for 33 percent of total industry value of shipments (compared with 13 percent in 1947), while the eight largest firms accounted for 50 percent of the value of broadwoven shipments (compared to 22 percent in 1947). In the 1980s and 1990s, pressures on the textile industry increased as expanded foreign production cut into the U.S. industry's export profits. Then, in the late 1990s, a 40 percent decline in the average worth of Asian currencies, coupled with a 25 to 30 percent decline in the price of Asian yarn and fabric exports, sent the American industry into a crisis. In 1996 alone over 100 U.S. textile mills closed, taking over 60,000 jobs with them. The industry responded by pressuring the national government to help it open new overseas markets and by turning to newer, more efficient production technologies to reduce production costs.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Gray, Lewis C. History of Agriculture in the Southern United States to 1860. Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1958.

Holley, Donald. The Second Great Emancipation: The Mechanical Cotton Picker, Black Migration, and How They Shaped the Modern South. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000.

Kane, Nancy F. Textiles in Transition: Technology, Wages, and Industry Relocation in the U.S. Textile Industry, 1880–1930. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988.

Woodman, Harold D. King Cotton and His Retainers. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1968.

JackBlicksilver/c. w.

See alsoBoll Weevil ; Irrigation ; King Cotton ; Sharecroppers ; Slave Trade ; Slavery ; Textiles .

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Cotton

Cotton

Background

Cotton is a shrubby plant that is a member of the Mallow family. Its name refers to the cream-colored fluffy fibers surrounding small cottonseeds called a boll. The small, sticky seeds must be separated from the wool in order to process the cotton for spinning and weaving. De-seeded cotton is cleaned, carded (fibers aligned), spun, and woven into a fabric that is also referred to as cotton. Cotton is easily spun into yarn as the cotton fibers flatten, twist, and naturally interlock for spinning. Cotton fabric alone accounts for fully half of the fiber worn in the world. It is a comfortable choice for warm climates in that it easily absorbs skin moisture. Most of the cotton cultivated in the United States is a short-staple cotton that grows in the American South. Cotton is planted annually by using the seeds found within the downy wool. The states that primarily cultivate cotton are located in the "Cotton Belt," which runs east and west and includes parts of California, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas, which alone produces nearly five million bales. Together, these states produce approximately 16 million bales a year, second only to China. Business revenue generated by cotton today is approximately $122.4 billion—the greatest revenue of any United States crop.

The cotton plant is a source for many important products other than fabric. Among the most important is cottonseed, which is pressed for cottonseed oil that is used in commercial products such as salad oils and snack foods, cosmetics, soap, candles, detergents, and paint. The hulls and meal are used for animal feed. Cotton is also a source for cellulose products, fertilizer, fuel, automobile tire cord, pressed paper, and cardboard.

History

Cotton was used for clothing in present-day Peru and Mexico perhaps as long as 5,000 years ago. Also, cotton was grown, spun, and woven in ancient India, China, Egypt, and Pakistan, around 3000 b.c.

Cotton is not native to Western Europe. Around A.D. 800, Arabic traders likely introduced cotton to Spaniards. By the fourteenth century, Mediterranean farmers were cultivating the cotton plant and shipping the fiber to the Netherlands for spinning and weaving. British innovations in the late 1700s include water-powered spinning machinery, a monumental improvement over hand-spinning. An American named Samuel Slater, who worked with British machinery, memorized the plans for a machine spinner and returned to Rhode Island to set up Slater Mill, the first American textile mill to utilize machine spinners. This mill represents the beginning of the U.S. Industrial Revolution, built on the mechanism of the cotton industry.

Two developments spurred the cultivation of American cotton: cotton spinners and the cotton gin. The cotton gin, developed by Eli Whitney in 1793, easily removed tenacious cottonseeds. Southern plantation owners began planting cotton as a result of these innovations, using enslaved labor for harvesting the cotton. Vigorous cotton cultivation in the South using enslaved labor is considered one reason for friction between North and South that led to the Civil War.

Southern cotton was shipped to New England mills in huge quantities. As a result of machine spinning, weaving, and printing, Americans could cheaply purchase calico and it became universally worn. However, labor costs were significant in New England. Mill owners found ways to reduce those costs, first by employing women and immigrants who were often paid poorly, then by employing young children in the factories. After oppressive labor practices were largely halted, many factories moved to the South where labor was cheaper. (Unionizing efforts affected the profits of those mills.) Today, a fair amount of cotton is woven outside the United States where labor is less costly. Polyester, a synthetic, is often used along with cotton, but has little chance of supplanting the natural fiber.

Raw Materials

The materials required to take cotton bolls to spun cotton include cottonseeds for planting; pesticides, such as insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides, to battle disease and harmful insects; and fertilizers to enrich the soil.

There are agricultural requirements for growing cotton in the United States. Cotton has a long growing season (it can be as long as seven months) so it is best to plant cotton early—February in Texas but as late as June in northern cotton-growing states such as Missouri. Cotton should not be planted before the sun has warmed the soil. It performs best in well-drained, crumbly soils that can hold moisture. It can be grown between latitudes of 30° north and 30° south. Good cotton crops require a long, sunny growing season with at least 160 frost-free days and high moisture levels resulting from rainfall or irrigation during the growing season. However, too much rain during harvest or strong winds during picking can damage the open bolls and load the fiber with too much water, which can ruin the cotton in storage. Generally, a cotton farmer must farm about 2,000 acres (20,000 hectares) if the operation is to be economically viable. On average, an acre will produce about 1.5 bales of cotton, or about 750 lb (340 kg).

The Production Process

  1. In spring, the acreage is cleared for planting. Mechanical cultivators rip out weeds and grass that may compete with the cotton for soil nutrients, sunlight, and water, and may attract pests that harm cotton. The land is plowed under and soil is broken up and formed into rows.
  2. Cottonseed is mechanically planted by machines that plant up to 12 rows at a time. The planter opens a small furrow in each row, drops in seed, covers them, and then packs more dirt on top. Seed may be deposited in either small clumps (referred to as hill-dropped) or singularly (called drilled). The seed is placed 0.75 to 1.25 in (1.9 to 3.2 cm) deep, depending on the climate. The seed must be placed more shallowly in dusty, cool areas of the Cotton Belt, and more deeply in warmer areas.
  3. With good soil moisture and warm temperature at planting, seedlings usually emerge five to seven days after planting, with a full stand of cotton appearing after about 11 days. Occasionally disease sets in, delaying the seedlings' appearance. Also, a soil crust may prevent seedlings from surfacing. Thus, the crust must be carefully broken by machines or irrigation to permit the plants to emerge.
  4. Approximately six weeks after seedlings appear, "squares," or flower buds, begin to form. The buds mature for three weeks and then blossom into creamy yellow flowers, which turn pink, then red, and then fall off just three days after blossoming. After the flower falls away, a tiny ovary is left on the cotton plant. This ovary ripens and enlarges into a green pod called a cotton boll.
  5. The boll matures in a period that ranges from 55 to 80 days. During this time, the football-shaped boll grows and moist fibers push the newly formed seeds outward. As the boll ripens, it remains green. Fibers continue to expand under the warm sun, with each fiber growing to its full length—about 2.5 in (6.4 cm)—during three weeks. For nearly six weeks, the fibers get thicker and layers of cellulose build up the cell walls. Ten weeks after flowers first appeared, fibers split the boll apart, and cream-colored cotton pushes forth. The moist fibers dry in the sun and the fibers collapse and twist together, looking like ribbon. Each boll contains three to five "cells," each having about seven seeds embedded in the fiber.
  6. At this point the cotton plant is defoliated if it is to be machine harvested. Defoliation (removing the leaves) is often accomplished by spraying the plant with a chemical. It is important that leaves not be harvested with the fiber because they are considered "trash" and must be removed at some point. In addition, removing the leaves minimizes staining the fiber and eliminates a source of excess moisture. Some American crops are naturally defoliated by frost, but at least half of the crops must be defoliated with chemicals. Without defoliation, the cotton must be picked by hand, with laborers clearing out the leaves as they work.
  7. Harvesting is done by machine in the United States, with a single machine replacing 50 hand-pickers. Two mechanical systems are used to harvest cotton. The picker system uses wind and guides to pull the cotton from the plant, often leaving behind the leaves and rest of the plant. The stripper system chops the plant and uses air to separate the trash from the cotton. Most American cotton is harvested using pickers. Pickers must be used after the dew dries in the morning and must conclude when dew begins to form again at the end of the day. Moisture detectors are used to ensure that the moisture content is no higher than 12%, or the cotton may not be harvested and stored successfully. Not all cotton reaches maturity at the same time, and harvesting may occur in waves, with a second and third picking.
  8. Next, most American cotton is stored in "modules," which hold 13-15 bales in water-resistant containers in the fields until they are ready to be ginned.
  9. The cotton module is cleaned, compressed, tagged, and stored at the gin. The cotton is cleaned to separate dirt, seeds, and short lint from the cotton. At the gin, the cotton enters module feeders that fluff up the cotton before cleaning. Some gins use vacuum pipes to send fibers to cleaning equipment where trash is removed. After cleaning, cotton is sent to gin stands where revolving circular saws pull the fiber through wire ribs, thus separating seeds from the fiber. High-capacity gins can process 60, 500-lb (227-kg) bales of cotton per hour.
  10. Cleaned and de-seeded cotton is then I 0 compressed into bales, which permits economical storage and transportation of cotton. The compressed bales are banded and wrapped. The wrapping may be either cotton or polypropylene, which maintains the proper moisture content of the cotton and keeps bales clean during storage and transportation.
  11. Every bale of cotton produced in the United States must be given a gin ticket and a warehouse ticket. The gin ticket identifies the bale until it is woven. The ticket is a bar-coded tag that is torn off during inspection. A sample of each bale is sent to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for evaluation, where it is assessed for color, leaf content, strength, fineness, reflectance, fiber length, and trash content. The results of the evaluation determine the bale's value. Inspection results are available to potential buyers.
  12. After inspection, bales are stored in a carefully controlled warehouse. The bales remain there until they are sold to a mill for further processing.

Quality Control

Cotton growing is a long, involved process and growers must understand the requirements of the plant and keep vigilant lookout for potential problems. Pests must be managed in order to yield high-quality crops; however, growers must use chemicals very carefully in order to prevent damage to the environment. Defoliants are often used to maximize yield and control fiber color. Farmers must carefully monitor moisture levels at harvesting so bales will not be ruined by excess water during storage. Soil tests are imperative, since too much nitrogen in the soil may attract certain pests to the cotton.

Expensive equipment such as cotton planters and harvesters must be carefully maintained. Mechanical planters must be set carefully to deposit seed at the right depth, and gauge wheels and shoes must be corrected to plant rows at the requisite spot. Similarly, improperly adjusted machinery spindles on harvesting machines will leave cotton on the spindle, lowering quality of the cotton and harvesting efficiency. A well-adjusted picker minimizes the amount of trash taken up, rendering cleaner cotton.

Byproducts/Waste

There is much discussion regarding the amount of chemicals used in cotton cultivation. Currently, it is estimated that growers use, on average, 5.3 oz (151 g) of chemicals to produce one pound of processed cotton. Cotton cultivation is responsible for 25% of all chemical pesticides used on American crops. Unfortunately, cotton attracts many pests (most notably the boll weevil) and is prone to a number of rots and spotting, and chemicals are used to keep these under control. There are concerns about wildlife poisoning and poisons that remain in the soil long after cotton is no longer grown (although no heavy metals are used in the chemicals). As a result, some farmers have turned to organic cotton growing. Organic farming utilizes biological control to rid cotton of pests and alters planting patterns in specific ways to reduce fungicide use. While this method of cultivation is possible, an organically grown crop generally yields less usable cotton. This means an organic farmer must purchase, plant, and harvest more acreage to yield enough processed cotton to make the crop lucrative, or reduce costs in other ways to turn a profit. Increasingly, state university extension services are working with cotton farmers to reduce chemical use by employing certain aspects of biological control in order to reduce toxins that remain in the land and flow into water systems.

Where to Learn More

Books

Daniel, Pete. Breaking the Land. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1987.

Johnson, Guinevere. Cotton. Let's Investigate Series. Mankato, MN: The Creative Co., 1999.

Other

The Cotton Pickin' Web. http://ipmwww.ncsu.edu/CottonPickin (January 2, 2001).

Land of Cotton Online Newsmagazine for the Cotton Industry. http://www.landofcotton.com (January 2, 2001).

National Cotton Council of America. Education Materials. http://www.cotton.org/ncc/education (January 2, 2001).

The Organic Cotton Site. http://www.sustainablecotton.org. (January 2, 2001).

NancyE.V.Bryk

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cotton

cotton, most important of the vegetable fibers, and the plant from which the fiber is harvested.

The Cotton Plant

The cotton plant belongs to the genus Gossypium of the family Malvaceae (mallow family). It is generally a shrubby plant having broad three-lobed leaves and seeds in capsules, or bolls; each seed is surrounded with downy fiber, white or creamy in color and easily spun. The fibers flatten and twist naturally as they dry.

Cotton is of tropical origin but is most successfully cultivated in temperate climates with well-distributed rainfall. All western U.S. cotton and as much as one-third of Southern cotton, however, is grown under irrigation. In the United States nearly all commercial production comes from varieties of upland cotton (G. hirsutum), but small quantities are obtained from sea-island and American-Egyptian cotton (both belonging to the species G. barbadense). G. arboreum and G. herbaceum are the chief cultivated species in Asia.

Cotton is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Malvales, family Malvaceae.

Planting and Production

Cotton is planted annually by seed in furrows; the plants are thinned and weeded during the spring growing season. Diseases and insect pests are numerous; of these the most destructive has been the boll weevil, which has caused enormous losses. Genetically altered strains of cotton are being developed that can resist infestation by some insects and damage by application of herbicides.

Mechanical harvesting is preceded by a chemical-defoliant spray to remove the leaves, leaving only the cotton bolls. In the ginhouse the cotton is separated from the seeds by a cotton gin and then baled. The usual plantation bale, weighing 500 lb (227 kg), is covered with jute and bound with iron hoops. The U.S. Dept of Agriculture has established standards for grades of cotton. The manufacture of cotton cloth involves many processes—carding, combing, and spinning—which transform raw fiber into yarn or thread strong enough for weaving.

Uses of Cotton

Innumerable commodities are made from cotton. From the lint (the fiber separated from the seed) come the major products, chiefly textile and yarn goods, cordage, automobile-tire cord, and plastic reinforcing. The linters (short, cut ends removed from the seed after ginning) are a valuable source of cellulose. Cotton hulls are used for fertilizer, fuel, and packing; fiber from the stalk is used for pressed paper and cardboard.

Production of the chief byproduct, cottonseed oil, has grown into a separate industry since its establishment in the late 19th cent. The oil content of cotton seeds is about 20%. After being freed from the linters, the seeds are shelled and then crushed and pressed or treated with solvents to obtain the crude oil. In its highly refined state, cottonseed oil is employed as salad and cooking oil, for cosmetics, and especially in the manufacture of margarine and shortenings. Paint makers use it to some extent as a semidrying oil. Less refined grades are used in the manufacture of soap, candles, detergents, artificial leather, oilcloth, and many other commodities. Cottonseed oil is increasingly important to cotton growers as cotton fiber meets competition from cheaper and stronger synthetic fibers.

History

Early History

Cotton has been spun, woven, and dyed since prehistoric times. It clothed the people of ancient India, Egypt, and China. Hundreds of years before the Christian era cotton textiles were woven in India with matchless skill, and their use spread to the Mediterranean countries. In the 1st cent. Arab traders brought fine muslin and calico to Italy and Spain. The Moors introduced the cultivation of cotton into Spain in the 9th cent. Fustians and dimities were woven there and in the 14th cent. in Venice and Milan, at first with a linen warp. Little cotton cloth was imported to England before the 15th cent., although small amounts were obtained chiefly for candlewicks. By the 17th cent. the East India Company was bringing rare fabrics from India. Native Americans skillfully spun and wove cotton into fine garments and dyed tapestries. Cotton fabrics found in Peruvian tombs are said to belong to a pre-Inca culture. In color and texture the ancient Peruvian and Mexican textiles resemble those found in Egyptian tombs.

Effect of the Cotton Gin

The invention (1793) of the cotton gin, a machine for separating seeds from fiber, and the mechanization of textile production in the Industrial Revolution enabled cotton to supersede flax and wool textiles. Cotton has played a significant role in history. Britain's need for imported cotton fiber encouraged its accession to the Monroe Doctrine; Britain's need for vast African and Indian markets for its cotton manufactures influenced its role as an imperial sea power. Beginning in North America in the Jamestown colony (1607), cotton cultivation became the basis of the one-crop, slave-labor economy of the Deep South and a principal economic cause of the Civil War. The end of slavery and the exhaustion of the soil pushed the Cotton Belt to the west. The demand for and production of cotton in the 19th cent. also provided impetus for the development of global capitalism.

Cotton Production Today

Today the leading cotton states are Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Louisiana. From the early days of the republic until recent years the United States was the world's leading cotton producer and second only to Great Britain in the manufacture of cotton goods. China now is the leading cotton-producing country, followed by the United States and India. Other important cotton producers are Pakistan, Brazil, Uzbekistan, and Turkey. China and India are the leading cotton manufacturers, followed by the United States, where cotton mills have relocated from New England to the Southern cotton-producing states. Historically, all cotton-producing nations have depended on cheap labor; although mechanical cultivating and picking devices have long been known, they have been widely used (especially in the United States) only since World War II.

Bibliography

See J. M. Munro, Cotton (2d ed. 1987); C. W. Smith and J. T. Cothren, ed., Cotton (1999); G. Riello, Cotton (2013); S. Beckert, Empire of Cotton (2014).

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Cotton

COTTON

a valued fiber crop.

An important fiber crop in the Middle East from the early Islamic period onward, cotton acquired new significance in the nineteenth century as the region's paramount export crop and most important raw material link to the world of European industrial capitalism. Egypt took pride of place in the development of the cotton industry as the earliest and long the largest producer of cotton for export. Traditionally, Egyptians had grown several different short-fiber varieties for domestic use, but under Muhammad Ali the government experimented with a locally discovered long-fiber variety of the sort preferred by European textile manufacturers. The first large harvest, overseen at every stage by experts from Syria and Anatolia, was realized in 1822. It brought a good price in Europe, where specialists appraised it as second in quality only to American Sea Island cotton from Georgia.

Poor agricultural practices and quality control, stemming partly from the Egyptian government monopoly's reluctance to reward peasant farmers

for following the advice of the experts, led to a decline after initial success. After the mid-1830s, the frustration of Muhammad Ali's ambitious industrialization efforts, which had included textile factories for producing military uniforms, contributed to the decline. Recovery was unexpectedly prompted by the American Civil War, which made it difficult for European mill owners to acquire high-quality raw materials. Exports soared from 25,000 tons, the plateau reached in the 1850s, to 125,000 tons in 1865. After a postwar readjustment, exports resumed their increase, hitting a record 374,000 tons in 1910. By that time, cotton, to which almost a quarter of all cropped land was dedicated, accounted for 80.1 percent of Egypt's total exports, up from 66.6 percent in 1884. Later, nationalist critics charged the British, in control of Egypt since 1882, with turning the country into a giant cotton farm for the benefit of British manufacturers.

The American Civil War stimulated cotton exports from Syria and Anatolia, as well, but the post-war slump in prices drove production back down. Iran, too, shared in the wartime boom; but there the postwar fall in prices was eventually countered by a twelvefold expansion in general trade with Russia, particularly from the 1880s on. By World War I, Russia received 70 percent of Iranian exports, with cotton the most important product. Volume was 25,000 metric tons in 1913, amounting to some 95 percent of all cotton exports. In the 1930s, the Iranian government entered on an industrialization drive that increasingly exploited cotton for domestic manufacturing. By the end of the decade, production had grown to 38,000 metric tons, of which only one-seventh was being exported; and Iranian mills were supplying half the domestic market for cotton cloth.

Cotton developed as the major cash crop of the Sudan from 1925 onward with the development of new irrigation projects. Turkish production expanded after World War I and boomed in the 1950s when the Korean War raised world commodity prices. The same circumstances turned cotton into Syria's biggest cash crop. Israeli and Afghan production expanded in the 1960s, much of the latter country's cotton being destined for export to the Soviet Union. By the late 1970s, 11.6 percent of the world's cotton production came from the Middle East, and the region encompassed 7 percent of the total world acreage devoted to cotton. The largest outputs, in thousands of metric tons, were those of Turkey (522), Iran (490), Egypt (413), Sudan (166), Syria (150), Israel (65), and Afghanistan (50). Much smaller amounts were produced in Morocco, Iraq, Jordan, and Yemen.

Cotton is the fabric of choice for clothing in much of the Middle East. Its lightness and absorbency particularly suit it to hot climates. Terms of Middle Eastern origin pertaining to types of cotton clothdamask from Damascus, gauze from Gazatestify to the long history of cotton textiles and are a reminder of a time when many cities of the area were known for their distinctive weaves and patterns. The transition from handwoven cotton fabrics to factory-made products initially favored the export of raw fiber and the import of inexpensive finished goods. This led, in turn, to disarray in the domestic textile industry, largely based on small workshops. Though tens of thousands of workers were still using handlooms at the end of World War I, and such distinctive local fabrics as the block-printed cottons of Iran and the embroidered tablecloths of Damascus survive to this day as choice products of national handicraft industries, most cotton textile production now takes place in modern spinning and weaving mills.

In 1977 the region produced 500,000 metric tons of cotton yarn, with the highest output from Egypt, Turkey, and Syria. It also produced 2,640 million square meters of cotton fabric, with production concentrated most heavily in Egypt, Iran, and Syria. These figures represent approximately 5 percent of total world production from a region then comprising roughly the same proportion of the world's population.

see also muhammad ali.


Bibliography

Issawi, Charles. An Economic History of the Middle East and North Africa. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.

Owen, E. R. J. Cotton and the Egyptian Economy, 18201914: A Study in Trade and Development. Oxford: Clarendon, 1969.

Rivlin, Helen Anne B. The Agricultural Policy of Muhammad Ali in Egypt. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961.

Tignor, Robert L. Modernization and British Colonial Rule in Egypt, 18821914. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966.

Richard W. Bulliet

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Cotton

Cotton

Cotton is a fiber obtained from various species of woody plants and is the most important and widely used natural fiber in the world. The leading cotton-producing countries are China (the world's biggest producer), the United States, India, Pakistan, Brazil, and Egypt. The world production of cotton in the early 1990s was about 21 million tons (19 million metric tons) per year. The world's largest consumers of cotton are the United States and Europe.

History

Cotton was one of the first cultivated plants, and it has been a part of human culture since prehistoric times. There is evidence that the cotton plant was cultivated in India as long as 5,000 years ago. Specimens of cotton cloth as old as 5,000 years have been found in Peru, and scientists have found 7,000-year-old specimens of the cotton plant in caves near Mexico City, Mexico.

Cotton plant

Cotton is primarily an agricultural crop, but it can also be found growing wild. There are more than 30 species of cotton plants, but only 4 are used to supply the world market for cotton. The cotton plant grows to a height of 3 to 6 feet (0.9 to 1.8 meters), depending on the species and the region where it is grown. The leaves are heart-shaped, lobed, and coarse veined, somewhat resembling a maple leaf. The plant has many branches with one main central stem. Overall, the plant is cone- or pyramid-shaped.

The seeds of the cotton plant are contained in capsules, or bolls. Each seed is surrounded by 10,000 to 20,000 soft fibers, white or creamy

in color. After the boll matures and bursts open, the fibers dry out and become tiny hollow tubes that twist up, making the fiber very strong.

Growing, harvesting, and processing

Cotton requires a long growing season (from 180 to 200 days), sunny and warm weather, plenty of water during the growth season, and dry weather for harvest. Cotton grows near the equator in tropical and semitropical climates. The cotton belt in the United States reaches from North Carolina down to northern Florida and west to California. Cotton plants are subject to numerous insect pests, including the destructive boll weevil.

For centuries, harvesting was done by hand. Cotton had to be picked several times in the season because bolls of cotton do not all ripen at the same time. The cotton gin, created by American inventor Eli Whitney (17651825) in 1793, mechanized the process of separating seeds from fibers, revolutionizing the cotton industry.

Before going to the gin, harvested cotton is dried and put through cleaning equipment that removes leaves, dirt, twigs, and other unwanted material. After cleaning, the long fibers are separated from the seeds with a cotton gin and then packed tightly into 500-pound (225-kilogram) bales. Cotton is classified according to its staple (length of fiber), grade (color), and character (smoothness). At a textile mill, cotton fibers are spun into yarn and then woven or knitted into cloth. At an oil mill, cottonseed oil is extracted from cotton seeds for use in cooking oil, shortening, soaps, and cosmetics.

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Cotton

Cotton

Cotton was woven in West Africa as early as the thirteenth century. Unlike the earlier handwoven cloths, cotton was woven on looms, frames used to interlace individual threads into fabric. These looms produced narrow strips of cloth that would be stitched together to form larger pieces of cloth. Typically, six to eight strips would be sewn together to form a dress or other garment. Like other cloths used by Africans, cotton was wrapped around the body to create many different styles of clothing, from toga-like dresses to turban headdresses.

Patterns were applied to cotton in a variety of different ways. Finished cotton fabric was dyed with natural pigments to create bold whole color clothing, or individual threads were dyed before weaving so that geometric patterns could be woven directly into the fabric. People living in different regions preferred different colored dyes. Those living near the Gold Coast, along the shores of Ghana, preferred blue, while those in West Africa favored red. Mud and soap were also used to make patterns on cotton fabric.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Blauer, Ettagale. African Elegance. New York: Rizzoli, 1999.

Kennett, Frances, and Caroline MacDonald-Haig. Ethnic Dress. New York: Facts on File, 1994.

Starke, Barbara M., Lillian O. Holloman, and Barbara K Nordquist. African American Dress and Adornment: A Cultural Perspective. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 1990.

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Cotton

Cotton

Four species of cotton are grown for commercial fiber (lint) production. Gossypium arboreum L. and Gossypium herbaceum L. are grown in Africa and Asia. These produce lint of inferior quality. Gossypium barbadense is grown commercially in limited parts of the world and produces a lint of excellent quality, long and strong, that is used in high-quality garments. It is difficult to produce and is grown in limited quantities. Gossypium hirsutum is grown on most of the world's cotton acreage, producing a good quality fiber that is shorter and has less fiber strength than G. barbadense. The United States, India, China, Brazil, and Australia are major producers.

Cotton is unique since the fiber is an extension of cells of the seed coat instead of being derived from other plant parts, as flax and the other fiber crops are. Each cotton fiber is actually a single cell and is nature's purest form of cellulose. Unlike synthetic fibers, which are made from petroleum, cotton is a renewable resource. The fiber is used in textiles, high-quality paper, cellophane, and plastics. The seed and fiber (seed cotton) are harvested and processed in a gin where the fiber is removed from the seed. The seed is sold for livestock food for ruminant animals such as cattle. Seed is also processed to produce cottonseed oil for cooking and the meal is used as a source of protein for livestock. The fiber is graded for trash content, color, length, strength, and coarseness and generally sold to textile mills.

Before the invention of the cotton gin, the lint was so expensive due to the labor required to remove the lint from the seed that cotton garments were only for the very wealthy. With the invention of the gin, cotton became affordable for everyone. Cotton is a very labor-intensive crop. Slave labor was the principal means of production in many areas until more of the production steps were mechanized.

The cotton plant is a perennial tree that is grown as an annual plant since it is easily killed by freezing weather. The perennial nature of the plant makes it very difficult to grow. The crop can grow too large under good conditions and growth must be controlled with chemicals. The crop in many areas is killed with chemicals in order to facilitate harvest before adverse winter weather develops. Many of the production areas have serious insect problems requiring the use of several applications of insecticide. These problems made cotton one of the first plants to be a candidate for genetically engineered (manmade) insect-resistance genes to be incorporated in order to reduce the use of insecticides. The engineered resistance has been a tremendous success.

A specialty market exists for organically grown (produced without use of chemicals) cotton and naturally brown or green-colored lint. A very small acreage of organically grown cotton is being produced; production, however, is difficult due to severe weed and insect problems. Lint that is naturally white, brown, or green can be produced. The colored lint eliminates the need for artificial dyes.

see also Agriculture, Modern; Economic Importance of Plants; Fiber and Fiber Products.

Bobby J. Phipps

Bibliography

Kohel, Russel J., and Charles F. Lewis, eds. Cotton. Madison, WI: American Society of Agronomy, 1984.

Mauney, Jack R., and James McD. Stewart, eds. Cotton Physiology. Memphis, TN: Cotton Foundation, 1986.

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cotton

cot·ton / ˈkätn/ • n. 1. a soft white fibrous substance that surrounds the seeds of a tropical and subtropical plant and is used to make textile fiber and thread for sewing. ∎ cloth made from cotton fibers. 2. (also cotton plant) the plant (genus Gossypium) of the mallow family that is commercially grown for this product. Oil and flour are also obtained from the seeds. • v. [intr.] inf. 1. (cotton on) begin to understand: he cottoned on to what I was trying to say. 2. (cotton to) have a liking for. DERIVATIVES: cot·ton·y adj.

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cotton

cotton as a trade crop or fabric; Cottonopolis was a nickname for the city of Manchester, in NW England, once a centre of the British cotton trade, and King Cotton was cotton as the dominant commercial crop of the southern American states personified.
Cotton State an informal name for Alabama, where cotton was a key crop.

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cotton

cotton XIV. — (O)F. coton — Arab. ḳutn, in Sp. Arab. ḳoton.
Hence cotton vb. furnish with or take on a nap XV; (prob. transf. from the production of a nap in the finishing of cloth) †prosper, get on XVI (orig. in This gear or matter cottons); get on with XVII; take to XIX.

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cotton

cotton Annual shrub native to subtropical regions. Most cotton is grown for the fibres that envelop the seeds and are made into fabric. Family Malvaceae; genus Gossypium.

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cotton

cotton See MALVACEAE.

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cotton

cottonbaton, batten, fatten, flatten, harmattan, Manhattan, Mountbatten, paten, patten, pattern, platen, Saturn, slattern •Shackleton • Appleton •Hampton, Northampton, Rockhampton, Southampton, Wolverhampton •Canton, lantern, Scranton •Langton, plankton •Clapton •Aston, pastern •Gladstone •Caxton, Paxton •capstan • Ashton • phytoplankton •Akhenaten, Akhetaten, Aten, Barton, carton, Dumbarton, hearten, Parton, smarten, spartan, tartan •Grafton •Carlton, Charlton •Charleston • kindergarten •Aldermaston •Breton, jetton, Sowetan, threaten, Tibetan •lectern •Elton, melton, Skelton •Denton, Fenton, Kenton, Lenten, Trenton •Repton •Avestan, Midwestern, northwestern, Preston, southwestern, western •sexton •Clayton, Deighton, Leighton, Paton, phaeton, Satan, straighten, straiten •Paignton • Maidstone •beaten, Beaton, Beeton, Cretan, Keaton, neaten, Nuneaton, overeaten, sweeten, uneaten, wheaten •chieftain •eastern, northeastern, southeastern •browbeaten • weatherbeaten •bitten, bittern, Britain, Briton, Britten, handwritten, hardbitten, kitten, Lytton, mitten, smitten, underwritten, witan, written •Clifton •Milton, Shilton, Stilton, Wilton •Middleton • singleton • simpleton •Clinton, Linton, Minton, Quinton, Winton •cistern, Liston, piston, Wystan •brimstone • Winston • Kingston •Addington • Eddington •Workington •Arlington, Darlington •skeleton •Ellington, wellington •exoskeleton •cosmopolitan, megalopolitan, metropolitan, Neapolitan •Burlington • Hamilton • badminton •lamington • Germiston • Penistone •Bonington • Orpington • Samaritan •Carrington, Harrington •sacristan • Festschriften •Sherrington • typewritten •Warrington • puritan • Fredericton •Lexington • Occitan • Washington •Whittington • Huntington •Galveston • Livingstone •Kensington •Blyton, brighten, Brighton, Crichton, enlighten, frighten, heighten, lighten, righten, tighten, titan, triton, whiten •begotten, cotton, forgotten, ill-gotten, misbegotten, rotten •Compton, Crompton •wanton • Longton •Boston, postern •boughten, chorten, foreshorten, Laughton, Morton, Naughton, Orton, quartan, quartern, shorten, tauten, torten, Wharton •Alton, Dalton, Galton, saltern, Walton •Taunton • Allston • Launceston •croton, Dakotan, Minnesotan, oaten, verboten •Bolton, Doulton, molten •Folkestone • Royston •Luton, newton, rambutan, Teuton •Houston • Fulton •button, glutton, Hutton, mutton •sultan •doubleton, subaltern •fronton • Augustan • Dunstan •tungsten • quieten • Pinkerton •charlatan • Wollaston • Palmerston •Edmonton • automaton • Sheraton •Geraldton • Chatterton • Betterton •Chesterton • Athelstan •burton, curtain, uncertain •Hurston

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