Over the last half-century, U.S. cotton growers and researchers have collaborated to improve the conservation of the natural resources used in cotton production — soil and water — while protecting air quality and improving energy efficiency throughout cotton's life cycle. Modern technology has enabled growers, for example, to double cotton yield on less land with less water and with fewer pesticides.
Unlike the Dustbowl days of the 1930s, a variety of breakthrough farming techniques - such as conservation tillage and planting winter, or cover crops - have been modernized and improved upon to conserve soil and actually help encourage soil creation.
Other modern technologies known collectively as "precision agricultural management" are also being used to detect and manage crop nutrient needs to protect the soil. Reduced erosion and improved soil quality have been the results.
As a highly drought-tolerant plant, cotton has largely thrived without irrigation — just the water of natural rainfall — and most new irrigation systems and strategies used today in the U.S. specifically are substantially more water efficient than previous decades.
Reduced tillage practices now in place also reduce dust emissions from the field, and many air quality controls are practiced at cotton gins.
The bottom line: A tremendous gain in production efficiency from modern technology allows the global cotton industry to produce almost two times more cotton worldwide now than in the 1960s on essentially the same amount of land, which is a marvel of modern agriculture and a significant benefit to our world's natural resources.