Welcome to our Cotton 101 blog! We are going to break down the differences between organic cotton, conventional cotton, and transitional cotton.
Organic Cotton. Organic cotton is grown using methods and organic practices like mechanical weed control and natural irrigation that are better for you, better for the farmers that grow it and better for the environment. Since the farms operate with very limited irrigation systems, they rely mostly on rain water to water their crops. Because of this, they need the right amount of rain at the right time. If the rain comes too early or too late after the crop is planted, this will lead to their biggest obstacle; weeds. Weeds can destroy a crop if not handled within a couple of days. Since they use organic practices, it’s not easy weeding acres and acres of farmland. Or affordable. Thankfully, with the help from the tractors farmers use, they can tackle the weeds without using ecological practices.
Conventional Cotton. If you’re driving down a road in Lubbock, Texas (where we originally sourced our organic cotton that was used in our tri-blend fabric), you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the organic cotton field and the conventional cotton field. It’s the farming practices that are different.
One of the differences between these two types of cotton is how they defoliate. If you google defoliation of cotton, you will learn that it is the application of chemicals to encourage or force cotton leaves to drop from the plant, allowing harvest of the crop in a timely manner. Organic cotton farmers wait for the temperature to freeze, so the cotton leaves naturally drop from the plant. This is a risk organic farmers take, but to them, it’s worth it.
Another difference you can’t see is the type of seeds which are used. Organic farmers use non-GMO seeds. GMO seeds are genetically modified, which translates to their DNA being altered through human intervention.
The last kind of cotton we’re going to discuss is Transitional Cotton. Don’t worry, cotton isn’t transitioning to a Doug Fir or anything crazy like that, it’s still going to be cotton. It’s just going through a three-year time period in order for the ground the cotton is grown in, to cleanse itself from the non-organic practices that had previously been used on the crops. During this timeframe, the farmer will continue to grow cotton, but in an organic way. Because farmers are unable to call their crop organic cotton until three years after the last non-organic application was used, this conversion takes time. With the demand for more organic cotton, we have heard that more farmers are transitioning their land as we speak.
As we recently shared with you, Texas experienced a terrible drought last year, which led to a major US organic cotton shortage. Our team worked around the clock to continue to find new global sources of organic cotton. It’s not as easy as it sounds though. With the demand for more organic products these days, the supply for organic cotton is super slim. So we are looking at farms globally as well as within the US that are growing transitional cotton and will keep you posted with all our findings.
If we can all agree that transitional cotton is a worthy substitute for organic cotton, this will encourage more farmers to convert their farm to organic practices. Which will do wonders for the farmers growing cotton, as well as for the consumers who wear cotton.