Cotton 101: Facts about Cotton — The Crop & Products

cotton boll close upMy friend Jasper Cunningham tweeted me one day asking me if I had some cotton facts on my blog. He seemed to enjoy several of the posts in my Cotton 101 series, especially the cotton dictionary, but I realized some quick and easy facts about cotton may be of interest too.

Type of Plant

Cotton is a perennial that farmers grow on an annual schedule. The plant wants to survive first and foremost. It focuses on maturing bolls and creating seed for future seasons second. Plants can differ in their growth from being columnar (where all the bolls are in fairly close to the main stalk) or bushy (where fruiting branches go longer & bolls continue to be produced further out on the branches.

Environment Needed to Grow Cotton

Cotton thrives in heat. It also prefers a bit of water now and then but doesn’t do well in soils that hold water in the root zone — that means loams and sandy soils are preferred to clay-types.

What states in the US has cotton farmers in the population mix?

Coming west to east: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina  and Virginia. I have to tell you a few other states have played with cotton acres too — I’m an honorary lifetime member of the Nebraska Cotton Farmers Association. 😉

Items Made from A Bale of Cotton

How many finished textile products can be made from a typical 500 lbs. bale of cotton lint? Below are a few examples of what might be made from a bale of cotton. (These numbers are approximations)

  • Men’s dress and business shirts 800
  • Men’s & boy’s jeans 325
  • Ladies blouses and shirts 850
  • Ladies knit & woven dresses 350
  • Diapers 3,000
  • Pillowcases 1,200

How much cotton does it take to make?

The following examples are estimated amounts of cotton required to make these common consumer items.

  • 1 Pair Jeans 1.5 lbs. (24 oz.)
  • 1 Man’s Shirt .6 lbs. (10 oz.)
  • 1 T-shirt .5 lbs. (8 oz.)
  • 1 Diaper .15 lbs. (2.5 oz.)
  • 1 Bath Towel .6 lbs. (10 oz.)

Cotton in US Money

US paper currency isn’t paper at all… it’s a blend of 75% cotton lint and 25% linen. A 480 pound bale of cotton can be made into 313,600 $100.00 bills!

Cotton Facts & Global History

  • Sheer cotton muslin, woven in ancient India, was so fine that 73 yards of it weighed one pound!
  • In ancient Egypt, only the High Priest was allowed to wear a cotton garment.
  • Cotton is a member of the Mallow family of plants. The Arabic peoples called it “Qutun,” which is where we get the word “Cotton.”
  • Eli Whitney’s cotton gin wasn’t a new idea. The “Churka,” invented in India 3,500 years earlier, was very efficent at ginning long staple cotton but ineffective on the short staple variety. Whitney’s gin was the first gin to process short staple cotton.
  • Mills in Lancashire, England exported 7,000,000,000 yards of cotton fabric in 1913. That’s an amazing 221.97 yards per second!

The Impact of the Boll Weevil

Between 1920 and 1922, the Boll Weevil caused cotton production in South Carolina to drop 70 percent!

Sources include: General knowledge I’ve built after decades in cotton, awesome friends at the National Cotton CouncilCotton’s Journey – The Story of Cotton – COTTON FACTSCotton Facts! Bet you didn’t know…...

About Janice Person

I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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32 Responses to Cotton 101: Facts about Cotton — The Crop & Products

  1. jeans facts October 1, 2011 at 6:16 am #

    Superb site you have here but I was curious if you knew of any community forums that cover the same topics discussed in this article? I’d really love to be a part of online community where I can get responses from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Bless you!

  2. Cotton Luver February 3, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    OMG SO COOL COTTON!!!!!!!! <33333333

    • that one kool kid :) February 20, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

      why are you so obsessed with cotton

      • that one kool kid :) February 20, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

        but very good info thanks 🙂

      • Janice Person February 20, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

        Why? Because it is AWESOME! It grows as a plant and then becomes blue jeans…. that’s freakin amazing don’t you think? 🙂

  3. susie February 4, 2014 at 8:48 am #

    Thanks so much for the very interesting info. On a recent trip to Virginia, my 8 and 6 year olds had never seen cotton growing. We stopped and picked some. Using these facts for show and tell.

    • Janice Person February 20, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

      That’s awesome! Glad I could help out. If you have questions don’t hesitate to ask!

  4. Cella Delsing March 23, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    This information is amazing. I have to do a project for school and I was wondering what the annual value cotton has, also if it is in any kind of foods.

  5. Charlieann July 25, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

    brill..I have seen it growing in the Mississippi, and love wearing and sewing with cotton fabric.
    thanks for the info,I thought it was getting a bit scarce these days due partly to climate change

    • Janice Person July 29, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

      It is getting scarce for a couple of reason if you think about cotton farms… one is grain prices have been high with the levels of food demand, Another is more technology in synthetic fibers make people try them… but the natural fiber is best for me most of the time.

      • Ann Charles July 30, 2014 at 1:30 am #

        Yes I prefer the natural fibers they are more comfortable to wear

  6. Anna ?? September 14, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    Why would you make something out of cotton? This is for me hwk

  7. toni December 27, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    How many acres does it take to make one bale of cotton?

    • Janice Person December 27, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

      Toni, that really depends on where you are growing it and what kind of year you are having weather-wise, and whether you have the ability to irrigate your crop, etc. In some areas, where cotton relies solely on rain water, an acre may be pretty good. In other areas farmers may be use to 3 bales to an acre or more! Does that help?

  8. nagma May 9, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

    thank you so much i was looking for some info for my 5th grade project and u gave me some info thank you very much

    • Janice Person May 9, 2015 at 2:26 pm #

      Great! Love being helpful, especially since my sister teaches elementary school!

  9. Addy Melendez June 6, 2015 at 7:44 am #

    Hi Janice I’m a middle school teacher and someone gave me some branches from a cotton plants, but I would like to grow one in my house. Where can I get the seed I live in Florida. My name is Addy

    • Janice Person aka JPlovesCOTTON July 29, 2016 at 9:53 am #

      Sorry I missed this comment . Question before! Cotton seed is not available in general for people to plant in the Southern US because the plants can harbor some pretty devastating pests. You may want to check with the National Cotton Council in the event you are in an area where it is allowed… They would know.

  10. Intersted Person July 29, 2016 at 2:25 am #

    How many cotton plants does it take to make one tee shirt?

    • Janice Person aka JPlovesCOTTON July 29, 2016 at 9:50 am #

      That’s an interesting question…. It would really depend on the farm yield. I may create a new blog post based on that question!

  11. Anonymous September 26, 2016 at 1:48 pm #

    How much cotton to make a beanie?

  12. 1234 November 1, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

    how many seeds does cotton have?

  13. Vuyo November 18, 2016 at 1:48 pm #

    Hi Janice. I am interested in cotton farming, I need a guidance step by step I am from South Africa in province where there are no farmers producing cotton.


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