Improving air quality is a continuous focus area for the U.S. cotton industry. Reduced tillage practices now in place reduce dust emissions from the field, and many air quality controls are practiced at cotton gins. Furthermore, cotton has a small greenhouse gas footprint, and when the carbon stored in the fiber is taken into consideration, the carbon emitted in cotton's production is canceled out by the carbon in the fiber.
Cotton and Air Quality
Agriculture and the cotton industry are modifying their impact through better management of agricultural practices on the farm and in processing agricultural products.
Specifically, reduced tillage decreases dust emissions from the field, and many air quality controls are in place at the gin where the cotton fiber is separated from the seed. Reduced tillage practices also increases sequestration rates of soil carbon — as much as 400 pounds of carbon per acre per year.
Furthermore, the carbon footprint from the planting of cotton through ginning is fairly small, approximately 300 pounds of carbon equivalent emissions per acre. In a no-tillage production environment, if credit is taken for the 400 pounds of carbon in the soil, cotton production actually stores 100 pounds more carbon than its production emits. Taking additional credit for the carbon in the fiber, an acre of no-till cotton actually stores 450 pounds more of atmospheric carbon than was emitted in its production.