What’s cotton mostly known for? Being thirsty! Cotton is always on the hunt for the slightest drop of water. Let’s separate out intrinsic characteristics from production data, half-truths and tired myth to get to the truth.
It’s actually before the seeds are sown that cotton fields are heavily irrigated, in order to prepare the soil. Then, when the cotton blooms, it has to be regularly watered.
Irrigation can offset insufficient rainfall. This has economic benefits, helping to protect, stabilize and increase yield. This is why over-irrigation is frequently practiced in conventional agriculture, but the process risks leaching water, nutrients and chemicals intended for the crops.
There are two different water footprints: blue water and green water.
Blue water footprint comes from irrigation, which is potentially problematic when not sustainably managed.
Green water is rainwater or natural soil moisture. While rainwater isn’t something that can be controlled, natural soil moisture can be optimized through certain farming practices that improve water retention in the soil, such as organic farming.
Regions and technologies
The widely repeated figures you often hear – yes, the ones about how much water went into making your tee-shirt or jeans – date to the early 2000s. But crop techniques and technologies have evolved since then. Climate, rainfall and growing conditions vary greatly from country to country, even region to region.
So – thirsty or not?
Our purpose here isn’t to tell you that cotton doesn’t require water, but to share with you some key points to consider and the need for context, so you can make informed decisions! Ask your suppliers for detailed information reflecting the real situation on the ground, not widely peddled myth.