Cotton

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By Kurt Nolte

• Cotton has been spun, woven and dyed since prehistoric times.

• The plant is a shrub native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including the Americas, Africa and India. The greatest diversity of wild cotton species is found in Mexico, followed by Australia and Africa.

• Cotton can also be cultivated to have colors other than the off-white typical of modern commercial cotton fibers. Naturally colored cotton can come in red, green and several shades of brown

• Cotton is a member of the Mallow family of plants. The Arabic people called it “Qutun,” which is where we get the word “cotton.” The Spanish word, “algodón,” is likewise derived from the Arabic.

• Current cotton acreage in Yuma County is an estimated 24,000 acres for a value of approximately $18 million. Among all Arizona counties, Yuma County cotton production ranks third in the state. Planted in March and April, cotton is mechanically harvested in late summer to early fall.

• The primary Yuma variety is short staple upland cotton. It is the major species of cotton grown world-wide, accounting for about 90 percent of planted acreage. Upland cotton has a fiber length of about 1¼ inches. The Pima variety, also grown in the county, has a fiber length of 1½ inches. Pima cotton is most readily identified in the field by its bright yellow blooms, which are much brighter and richer in color than the creamy white Upland blossoms.

• Botanically, the cotton fiber is classified as a epidermal hair growing on the epidermis of the cotton seed. Fibers grow and thicken within a boll and, as it enlarges, it becomes approximately the size of a small fig.

• Cotton fibers thicken at maturity by the production of cellulose (a carbohydrate, the chief component of the cell wall in most plants). An average boll will contain nearly 500,000 fibers of cotton and each plant may bear up to 100 bolls.

• Seeds are separated from the cotton and the cotton is cleaned at the cotton gin. From the gin, the clean fiber is pressed together and made into bales. Each bale weighs about 500 pounds.

• Cotton is a unique crop in that it is both food and fiber. Cottonseed is used as a supplement for dairy feed and is also processed into oil. Uses for cotton fibers range from heavy industrial to fine fabrics.

• Two hundred fifty pairs of men’s cotton pants can be made from one bale of cotton – or 1,217 men’s shirts, 764 dress shirts, 896 woven blouses, 542 women’s skirts, 328 women’s jeans, 3,015 baby diapers, 782 terry bath towels, 7,820 men’s handkerchiefs, 484 men’s dress pants, 373 men’s work pants, 180 men’s overalls, 210 sheets, or 1,210 pillow cases.

• U.S. paper currency isn’t paper at all, it’s a blend of 75 percent cotton lint and 25 percent linen.

Source: Kurt Nolte is an agriculture agent and Yuma County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at knolte@cals.arizona.edu or 726-3904. For additional information please visit https://extension.arizona.edu/yuma.