SOWING THE COTTON SEEDS WE LOVE
It’s interesting how detached we’ve become from the origin of the things we consume. With our busy lives getting busier by the minute, we have come to rely heavily on the information we’re fed through clever marketing campaigns which are meant to convince us that their products, their ingredients, their processes are ethical, organic and fair trade. But are we being told the full story?
Are companies today honestly willing to pull back the proverbial curtain and show us what really goes into the making of their goods? We are, and what better place to start then the origin of our product, the cotton seed.
“To see things in the seed, that is genius.” - Lau Tzu
Fundamentally speaking, seeds are at the heart of agriculture. Unfortunately, in a market flooded with genetically modified seeds, organic seeds are harder and harder to come by. Currently, more than 90% of the cotton grown in India and the US is genetically modified. Making matters worse, the cotton crop in India is projected to be down by 12% for 2019 owing to "super-bugs" that have become pesticide tolerant due to, among other things, excessive use of Bt GMO cotton.
The organic seeds we use in the growing of our cotton however are always free of GMOs or Bt pesticide and a first step toward organic integrity. We test the fiber from the cotton ginner to assure we are free of GMO or Bt. It's important to test ahead of cleaning the cotton to validate remnants of seed and leaf to confirm good quality DNA to test for GMOs.
The Cotton Ginner we work with plays a vital role in the process of seed reclamation as they gather and manage the organic cotton seeds at the end of each harvest season, returning those seeds to their organic cotton farmers. This relationship between farmer and ginner creates a perpetual cycle, unadulterated and as nature intended, helping to ensure the chain of sustainable, organic cotton endures.
The life-cycle of the cotton plant, sowing, growing and harvest are similar to the vegetables we eat. When we shop at our weekly farmers market for instance, we notice the seasonality of produce we buy. Shopping in our local super markets provides a different experience all together. Here we find produce from all over the world regardless of the season. This modern-day luxury that we now take for granted, has inherently desensitized us to the natural cycles in our food source, and in turn, creating that all too familiar “on demand” mentality.
“It is vitally important that we can continue to say, with absolute conviction, that organic farming delivers the highest quality, best-tasting food, produced without artificial chemicals or GMO’s and with respect for animal and human welfare and the environment, while helping to maintain the landscape and rural communities.”
COTTON SEED VARIETAL
Alterra Pure uses the cotton varietal Gossypium Hirsutum MCU 5 exclusively. What is that you ask? Well simply put, the features of this variety include extra long fibers, early maturing, naturally disease resistant and drought tolerant.
Gossypium Hirsutum is the predominant species, which alone contributes to about 90% of the global cotton production.
MCU 5 is raw cotton and the a strong choice for Organic Cultivation. It is highly resistant to Verticullum (fungus that causes wilt) and yucky sucking insects. The subdued profile of the vein structure in the leaves creates difficulty for sucking insects to get a good grip.
IN THE WEEDS WITH COTTON BOLLS
The planting season is meant to coincide ahead of the rainy season to take advantage of natural rainfall. As our cotton has no irrigation, the fields benefit from the rainfall and then the farmers collect excess water to use on the cotton, when the rainy season subsides.
Generally, the seeds are planted mid-August to mid-September and the cotton “bolls” are then ready for picking by February and can continue up to April.
Exercising old farming practices, our farmers work on a rotation system,
utilizing 4 separate fields which they rotate seasonally between organic cotton, rice, cattle and rest to regenerate the land.
We work with Natural Organic Farm, located in Odisha, India, which is an NGO organized to manage organic cotton farm co-ops in the Odisha region of India. We chose to partner with Natural Organic Farm owing to their quality, transparency, and integrity. Being committed to expanding the organic cotton footprint in India, Natural Organic Farm partnered with conventional farmers in Lanjigarh, Odisha, to convert to organic after repeated poor crop yields and a poor market for conventional cotton. Natural Organic Farm helped convert 219 acres of land with 92 farmers in 8 villages of Lanjigarh Block.
“Every time you BUY organic, you’re persuading more farmers
to GROW organic.” - Mother Earth News
THE COTTON PLANT - ALL GROWN UP
Once the seeds are planted and depending on the climate and cotton variety, the cotton plant needs approximately 175 to 225 days from sowing to maturation.
The first indication of maturation is the bloom of the cotton flowers, which begin as white or yellow when they open and magically turn pink after pollination (thanks to the work of the bees).
The pods of the pollinated flowers open after a couple of weeks and assume the familiar “hairy” cotton-seeds look, springing open (like popcorn).
Believe it or not, every cotton boll contains about 30 seeds, each of which has 2000 – 7000 seed fibers.
Once cotton bolls are matured, they get picked and begin their next phase of processing with the Ginning Mill – who will prepare the raw cotton for it’s final phase of manufacturing.
Each step along the way matters in the lifecycle of the cotton plant. To be truly organic, the work doesn’t start and stop with the seed, it includes the processing and treatment of the cotton fiber, all the way to final product. And we ensure that each step is certified & verified to meet our critical standards of authenticity.
The more we know and understand about how things are produced the more informed decisions we can make about the products we buy for our home and our families. From Seed to Sanctuary.