WAKEFIELD – Our host Philip Berman talks to Daren Abney, executive director of the US Cotton Trust Protocol; Christine Morgan, chief scientific officer for the Soil Health Institute; and Jesse Daystar, chief sustainability officer with Cotton Incorporated; for the final chapter of our three-part 'Threaded Together' podcast series.
The focus this week is on the US Climate Smart Cotton Program, a five-year collaborative pilot to advance 'climate smart' conservation practices on more than a million acres of land, representing 10% of US cotton crops.
Listeners will hear why brands and retailers are now wising to the fact that cotton and climate are two sides of the same coin.
The programme is led by the US Cotton Trust Protocol while other partners include the Soil Health Institute, as well as Cotton Incorporated, Cotton Council International, Agricenter International, North Carolina A&T State University, Alabama A&M University and Texas A&M AgriLife Research.
Significantly, it is funded through a $90 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which, as Abney explains, indicates how seriously cotton's climate impact is being taken in the corridors of power.
"I think this opportunity really came about because the US government is seeing agriculture at scale as an opportunity to address climate challenges," he tells podcast listeners.
The programme involves the promotion of regenerative agriculture, and our guests explain and discuss the merits of practices such as crop rotation, cover crops, reduced tillage, and better nutrient management.
Soil expert Morgan explained: "The main thing that we want to do is improve the soil. We want to get carbon out of the atmosphere and we also want to release fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere."
Abney said that it was important the programme focused on the practices which worked best with local conditions because what worked in one state, or even one county, would not necessarily work in another.
Another priority was helping 'historically underserved cotton producers', including socially disadvantaged and ethnic minority farmers and ranchers, who could find experimenting with alternative practices a significant risk.
"It is scary and risky to think about adopting a new practice that may leave you with no crop at the end of the season. So the Climate Smart Grant is really giving them that ability to de-risk that process," explained Abney.
Jesse Daystar concluded, “With Climate Smart practices, you not only have the ability to reduce the impact of your clothing, but you can potentially have a carbon-negative piece of clothing, at least as it comes to the fibre. So we have a really unique opportunity to scale Climate Smart cotton and reduce our overall impacts on the apparel industry.”
Cotton Incorporated is a US-based, not-for-profit company, that provides resources and research to help companies develop and market innovative and profitable cotton products.