U.S. Cotton Takes Steps to Set Sustainability Goals

In March 2017, U.S. cotton industry organizations, the National Cotton Council, Cotton Board, Cotton Council International, and Cotton Incorporated, joined ten technical experts in cotton production to discuss how future technologies would impact trends in key performance indicators (KPIs) used to assess the sustainability of agricultural production systems.  The discussions centered around nine research topic areas:

  • Fiber Quality
  • Cottonseed and by-product utilization
  • Genetics
  • Genetic engineering
  • Crop physiology
  • Agronomy
  • Insect pest management
  • Geospatial technologies and data
  • Machinery and automation
A total of 14 KPIs were considered during the discussion.  The meeting was also informed by a survey of over 50 cotton producers on their perception of future opportunities and challenges to cotton production as well as a pre-meeting questionnaire of the technical experts to list relevant technologies that could impact KPIs in the future.

Overall, there was significant optimism about the positive future for U.S. cotton, especially in the continued increase in yield without a significant increase in production inputs due to genetic gains and improved management tools.  This also led to consensus that the technologies discussed would have an overall positive impact on the long-term profitability of cotton production.  Of the fourteen KPIs considered during the meeting, the group formed preliminary estimates of what levels could be achieved in the next 5, 10 and 30 years for six KPIs based on their technical expertise.  The report from this meeting will provide industry leaders with data on technical feasibility of achieving gains in these KPIs as they consider setting sustainability goals for the U.S. cotton.