• Conventional cotton

    Chapter 5 - Market segments - Types of cotton

    Conventional cotton production relies heavily on the use of agro-chemicals.* It has been estimated that cotton uses approximately 9% of the world’s agrochemical pesticides, about 20% of the world’s insecticides and 8% of the world’s chemical fertilizers. The amounts of chemicals needed to grow cotton affect human health and the world’s eco-system.

    In the early 1900s, cotton insect pests were controlled primarily through cultural and physical methods. Insecticides have become an integral part of the cotton production systems in the world. More than 90% of total world cotton area is treated with one or more insecticide applications per season. The major chemical classes presently in use** are relatively inexpensive and broad-spectrum. They are, however, significantly disruptive to most beneficial insects and they have significant environmental residue problems. Insect resistance to insecticides is the major problem affecting agrochemical usage on cotton. Herbicide resistance is also becoming a problem.

    The use of water resources in cotton farming presents a significant environmental challenge. Irrigated cotton is frequently grown in regions where fresh water is in short supply, such as the Mediterranean and desert or near-desert areas in Australia, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and west United States. Extensive irrigation of cotton affects regional water resources and ecosystems, possibly contributing to surface and groundwater depletion. Inadequate drainage has contributed to the salinization of fresh water in China, Egypt and Uzbekistan. Fertilization practices increase the risk of erosion, and diffusion of residues of synthetic fertilizer increase the risk of contamination of surface and groundwater.

    Current production technology affects the sustainability of cotton production worldwide. The solution lies in developing alternative approaches, which are less dangerous to human health and the environment. The success of cotton production depends on the least use of chemicals, and the best use of available resources such as water and soil.

    *Pesticides including insecticides, fungicides and nematicides, herbicides and nutrients, including nitrogen fertilizers.
    **Organophosphates, carbamates and synthetic pyrethroids. 
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    Cotton Exporter's Guide

    Brochure - African cotton promotion
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