The American upland cotton plant, native to south America but in possession of the whole world (Cotton, the biography of a revolutionary fiber, by Stephan Yafa)

Scientific name of upland cotton:Gossypium hirsutum L. (genus: Gossypium L.) (Purdue university, 1998)

The upland cotton is a shrub like plant (Purdue university, 1998) that ranges in height from 15 to 16 inches (Cotton incorporated, 2010). It has white woolly lint, consisting of millions of short fibers (that vary in length), surrounding its seeds (see
Figure 1 shows a Diagram of the different parts of the Upland cotton plant, consists of a Boll, flower, branches, stem, and square(picture from picassa web, labeled myself)
figure 1) called the boll (herbs2000 2010 and Cotton incorporated, 2010). The boll is also known as the fruit of the plant, the plant consists of many bolls (herbs2000, 2010). The seeds are in an egg-like shape and are dark brown (see figure 2) (Purdue university, 1998). The stem is long and thin, it consists of many branches that either aid in flowering or producing leaves (Textiles in depth, 2010). Although the stem is brown, the leaves are green when irrigated correctly, the leaves are broad and heart shaped (
R.M. Meade, N.D.). The square of the plant is green and it is the part of that plant that develops the fruit, but it first develops into a flower (Texas AgriLife Research & Extension Center, 2010). The square has fringe like leaf parts that stick out of it, giving it an unusually and rugged texture (Textiles in depth, 2010). The upland cotton plant blossoms creamy white flowers that last for a week, and within 24 hours turns pink, notice in figure 1. the flowers are about to fall off (Stephen Yafa, 2006). The bloom helps in the ripening of the seed pods and when the flower fall off it reveals the boll(see figure 3) (Agro atlas 2009 and Stephen Yafa 2006).

picture of the seeds that are attached to the boll of the Upland cotton plant(confex, N.D.)

figure 3 shows how the flower falls off and the boll is revealed, when the boll matures it is cut off for products (west african plants, N.D.)


The plant is believed to be originated from Central America (see figure. 3) and it preferably grows during longer days (Purdue university, 1998). The upland cotton plant tends to grow in sunny, dry and hot climates, with less rainfall and water. Moisture tends to destroy the flowers and pollination does not occur (Agro atlas, 2009). Places near the equator are ideal for the growth of the cotton plants (Agro atlas, 2009). Since the plant grows very slowly (requires about 150 days) it needs a constant temperature between 25-40 degrees Celsius (Agro atlas, 2009). If the temperature drops below 25 degrees the growth begins to slow down (Agro atlas, 2009). If the temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius, the pollen becomes infertile and no fertilization occurs (Agro atlas, 2009). Some irrigation is important for plant growth, but not too much, because it reduces fertility (Texas AgriLife Research & Extension Center, 2010).
figure 3 shows the map of South America the Green colour represents the different regions where cotton is grown (USDA, 2010)

The soil has to be cool for the plant to emerge in a few days or it is unable to grow (Plant of the Week, 2006).The maintenance of the soil is really important because cotton uses a lot of the nutrients in a short period of time, using fertilizers and herbicides becomes necessary to reduce competition for resources and to insure that the plant receives enough to nutrients grow (UNCTAD, N.D.). The highest percentage for where it is grown is in China at 24%, but it is mostly cultivated in America (UNCTAD, N.D.). Within America 17 states grow this type of plant, Texas being the highest. (UNCTAD, N.D.).


Brief summary of how the products are obtained

Summary: How we obtain upland cotton plant, and which part we get:
When the plant has fully matured and the boll is ripe-it is ready to be picked. Today, because we mechanically harvest the cotton plant (seeds are planted at the same time so they are mature and ready to be picked at the same time), we use machines that pull off the boll from the plant such as spindle pickers or stripper machines(Think quest-cotton, N.D.). After being picked, the boll is gone through many processes, in which it is cleaned and separated from the seeds through ginning (Think quest-cotton, N.D.). After it is thoroughly cleaned, so that there are no twigs or leaves, it is packed into bales that are ready to use and are sent to textile mills (Cotton counts, N.D.). The seeds are also used for an important product and are sent to an oil mill (Cotton counts, N.D.).


Picture video on how jeans are made

Flow chart on the processes leading to the final product: DENIM JEANS

A slide show on the steps outlining the processes of making a pair of jeans

Cotton makes strong and durable jeans if the process is done correctly
It begins with planting cotton seeds; there are farms that are designated to growing upland cotton, primarily in America (country it is native to). When the plants are ready to be harvested, usually after summer and in dry season (they mature at the same time due to mechanical farming) the cotton pickers strip the cotton off of the plant (UNCTAD, N.D.). The thousands of cotton bolls are put into a cotton gin that separates the cotton from its seeds (How products are made, 2010). It is then put through numerous cleaning cycles to remove any leftover branches, leaves, flowers and unwanted material (How products are made, 2010). After going through many processes, and cleaning in the fluff cycle, the cotton is put through machines where the brushes clean, untangle, straighten, and gather the cotton into threads which are then stretched and turned into yarn (How products are made, 2010). The yarn is next dyed usually a synthetic indigo colour and is washed and dried (The story of cotton, N.D.). After the dying process the yarn is put into a loom where it is woven into a blue fabric (The story of cotton, N.D.). The material is then torched to smooth out any extra fuzz and give it that classic denim look (How products are made, 2010). The fabric is usually made in huge amounts, and in large sizes which makes it efficient in use. The denim is shipped out to companies where they are stitched, one and a quarter square yard of denim is needed for a typical pair of jeans having twenty one pieces (How products are made, 2010). After being sewed together, the jeans can be put through many other processes to give it different designs or looks; some jeans go through stone washes to make it look worn out (How products are made, 2010). The finished product is then shipped off(through trucks, airplanes, ships) to stores and companies where they are then sold to consumers.


Cotton is manufactured into a wide variety of products (see figure 3) that consumers all around the world use (Think quest-cotton, N.D.). Cotton is a very important textile fiber, it's used for a lot of the clothing we wear today and the seeds of the plant are made into cotton oil (Think quest-cotton, N.D.). After the oil is extracted from cotton seeds the residue is used as livestock
figure 1 shows An example of a product made by cotton
feed because it’s high in protein (UNCTAD, N.D.). Not only is cotton made into clothing it’s made into sanitary products such as toilet paper, diapers, cotton swabs, towels (see figure 1), female hygiene products such as pads and tampons, it is also used to make paper for money and books (UNCTAD, N.D. and Jrank-cotton by-products, 2010). There are thousands of products that are made out of fields of cotton plants. Cotton is used because it's easy to grow, and it spins into yarn easily (Think quest-cotton, N.D.). Cotton linters (short hair like filaments on the seeds of the cotton plant) are used for production of plastics, makeup, fertilizer (see figure 2) and even ICE CREAM (Cotton counts, N.D.).
Figure 2 shows What the seeds are used for(UNCTAD, N.D)
Figure 3 shows the types of products that are made out of cotton( UNCTAD, N.D)

who_uses_it.JPGSince cotton is grown on farms, and has become a money making business, it is mainly used by businesses that sell their cotton made products to consumers. It is a product that is used in our daily lives. U.S. textile mills use about 7.6 million bales of cotton each year (Cotton count, N.D.). So consumers and cotton industries depend on cotton. Not only do humans use this multipurpose crop, insects such as ladybugs, beetles and wasps also depend on it (Agriculture guide, N.D.). Many countries such as the USSR, Pakistan, Egypt, and China cultivate this crop because not only are they increasing their economic stability they export the cotton making a large profit out of the plant (Dale G. Bottrell, et. Al, 1977). Developing countries really depend on the growth of cotton because it prevents and reduces poverty (MPRA-Ian Gillson, et. Al., 2004).
Some countries that face environmental disasters start depending on other countries for the production of cotton; this increases a countries profit (MPRA-Ian Gillson, et. Al., 2004). Cotton is a source of earning profits from imports and exports which makes them beneficial to everyone (MPRA-Ian Gillson, et. Al., 2004). Cotton prices are fairly low and are affordable which increases consumption and demand for products. This results to increased production. This plant has revolutionized fabric and for some countries it has increased their economic stability, growth and wealth (Cotton counts, N.D.). With its countless uses the cotton industry has provided many jobs, about 440,000 Americans are working in the cotton growing industry (Cotton counts, N.D.).

Denim jeans have been around for centuries. They have created equality amongst men and women. They have made life much easier to manage (such as using the washroom) and they are much more comfortable. Jeans are extremely durable, flexible and look fashionable too this is why they last longer, so people don't have to buy new ones over and over (Low impact living, 2009). Cotton is a fiber that can be washed and dyed into any colour, this means that jeans do not only have to be blue they can be a variety of colours (Mellisa LaRose, 2002). Ever since the discovery of denim jeans in 1890s by Levis Strauss they have become universal and are used by everyone around the world today (Helpful home ideas, 2010). The denim fabric can also be made into jackets, skirts, shirts, shorts, hats and even shoes basically many typed of clothing. Denim jeans have shaped the society of some nations and created a cultural aspect (design boom, 2008). Denim jeans are produced in bulk and large amounts because of machines, this increases sales, production and efficiency. Denim jeans are a valuable trading product because cotton, which it is made by, cannot be grown in every parts of the world (only places near the equator) so countries that grow this crop benefit a lot from the sales of its products (UNCTAD, N.D. and Cotton counts, N.D.).The production of denim jeans has created jobs for many individuals , due to the many processes people are needed to manufacture denim jeans, and this has lead to an increase in the economic value of a particular country or city, this is because jean production gets competitive (MPRA-Ian Gillson, et. Al., 2004). Jeans can also be manufactured by synthetic fibers, and cotton is not the only source they rely on. Denim jeans are used for a person’s daily use, it is great for the outdoors, they keep people very warm and they do not wrinkle easily so little ironing is needed.
Jeans are usually produced in countries where minimum wages are extremely low, this ensures that the prices of jeans are cheap so consumers can afford them and the demand for new designs of jeans keep increasing. No matter how bad the economy gets the jean production is always a go, people never reduce their purchasing and jeans are something that never go out of style they fit every outfit, although the production might slow down it will not stop. Denim jeans are of no beneficial impact to the enviornment other then that the seeds are used as fertilizers because they are high in protein(think quest-cotton, N.D.). The cotton plant is rather harmful to the enviornment especially in the growing, manufacturing, transportation and the selling process.
Denim Jeans are usually chosen over any other pants due to their comfort, cotton made denim jeans have replaced silk and wool, what they were made out of long time ago (how to do things, 2010). They replaced these expensive fabrics because they were difficult to obtain and cost more (how to do things, 2010). Jeans don't stain easily and they're washing machine safe, they don't require a lo of handling and care.

Danger_Sign.jpgHarmful Impacts
Denim jeans are made from cotton and heavy machinery is used to harvest, clean and manufacture the cotton. Machines release a lot of pollution such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing ozone depletion. Although initiatives to reduce chemicals and pollution are taking place, these chemicals still exist, especially in developing countries, or companies with low standards on health care (Ezine Articles, 2010). It takes about 2/3 pounds of fertilizer, and pesticides to grow conventional cotton for only one pair of jeans (Bridgette Meinhold, 2009). These chemicals are extremely harmful to the surrounding environment and laborers working at the farms who are exposed day in and day out to these harsh chemicals (eartheasy, 2010). The chemicals contaminate ground water, surface water and pollute drinking water (Ezine articles, 2010). The indigo dye used to colour the jeans is drained into nearby waterways contaminating everything in their way (Bridgette Meinhold, 2009The chemicals also destroy habitats for animals that lived on that region of land. Usually forests are cleared away, for they have rich soil ideal for agriculture, deforestation reduces our biodiversity and the natural habitat for the species living in it.

Many health problems are capable of arising amongst costumers who wear the cotton made jeans such as skin eczema, due to the high concentrations of chemicals used to manufacture the product (Ezine articles, 2010).Denim jeans are not much of a harm to society or people. The transportation of the denim jeans to stores and factories causes pollution; some products are shipped through airplanes, others by trucks and several by ships. This means that pollution is occurring on land, sea and air (Environmental impacts of transportation, 1998).
The dyeing process releases a lot of chemicals that are washed into lakes and rivers (ecofashionworld, N.D.). Some jeans are stone washed to give it a worn out look, the stones are volcanic pumice stones that have to be mined and shipped to denim companies all over the world, every process and step the jeans go through harms the enviornement. Even washing jeans with detergents that contain phosphorous are washed into lakes contaminating them and killing species living in it (ecofashionworld, N.D.). The production of this product has many negatives and something must be done to stop the damage.


Which will it be fashion or environment? It’s our duty as consumers to reduce our consumption to a minimum and purchase what is needed. Unnecessarily purchasing denim jeans is not the right way to live, denim jeans last for a long time and it would be better to use the pair till they ware out. We need to take an initiative and stand against consumption. For some this is impossible, so what is the better alternative?
Buy used jeans from nearby thrift stores, jeans can be altered easily to fit one’s body and they are far more cheaper then jeans purchased from stores (Bridgette Meinhold, 2009).
Buy Organic jeans. Organic jeans are made from organic cotton that does not use synthetic fertilizers and toxins, it is produced without the use of harsh chemicals, bleaches or dyes and the best part is they are hypoallergenic (eartheasy, 2010). Also Natural fertilizers such as compost are used to grow the cotton, and the form of pest control is extremely natural: using lady bugs to drive away insects (eartheasy, 2010).
Reuse and recycle instead of throwing away old clothes. One can make a lot of things with their old jeans such as hand bags, wallets, covers etc. Some companies accept used jeans and make them into insulations for homes (Low impact living, 2009).
Washing less and hanging the jeans in the air or freezing them after every wear will reduce and kill odors and re-wearing it will be possible (Eartheasy, 2010).
Now it is likely for one to purchase jeans made out of bamboo (Designer denim, 2007). Bamboo is one of the world’s most sustainable resources (New internationalist magazine, 2010). It grows rapidly, it has resistance to droughts and once cut it doesn’t need to be re-planted, it grows back (New internationalist magazine, 2010). It’s so efficient that it takes in 5 times the amount of greenhouse gases and produces a lot more oxygen (New internationalist magazine, 2010). Hemp is also an excellent alternative especially for those who live in hot regions of the world, hemp does not require fertilizers or insecticides to grow and the fabric is naturally resistant to UV light (New internationalist magazine, 2010).
So save the earth be environmentally friendly and take a stand.

The American Upland cotton plant is also known as Gossypium hirsutum L. and it is native to central America(Purdue university, 1998). It is a shrub like plant that is cultivated for its white hair like filaments surrounding the boll ((herbs2000 2010). The cotton plant grows in very hot climates and dry land, moisture is not ideal for pollination and fertilization of cotton plants (Agro atlas, 2009). When the Cotton boll is ripe it is ready to be harvested, large machines pick the boll off of the plant and deliver it to the factories where it is cleaned, ginned, and spun into yarn(Think quest-cotton, N.D.). Cotton is made into many of the products we use today, some examples of products are: towels, oil, ice cream, fertilizers, and pads (UNCTAD, N.D.). The cotton fabric goes through various processes to end up as the final product for denim jeans, 2/3 pounds of fertilizers and pesticides are required to be making one pair of denim jeans and the indigo dye is washed into water systems (Bridgette Meinhold, 2009). All the processes leading up to and selling denim jeans is extremely harmful to environment and beneficial to individuals, companies and the economy of some countries (cotton counts, N.D. and eartheasy, 2010). Some alternatives to buying denim jeans made out of cotton are organic cotton jeans, or jeans made out of bamboo. The cotton plant is all around us in our lives, this was just a brief introduction to what the plant is and what it is used for.
For more information please contact me at salwafarooqi@cottonproduction.com

References, open attached file please