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Producer Survey Reveals Effort
To Protect Wildlife


One of the most important research projects conducted by Cotton Incorporated in 2008 may have been the implementation of its producer-directed Natural Resource Survey (NRS).

“Cotton farmers have always been good environmental stewards but with so much scrutiny being placed on product sustainability these days by manufacturers, brands and consumers, we had to support our supposition with concrete facts and figures,” says Dr. Kater Hake, vice president, Agricultural Research, Cotton Incorporated.

“Producer responses received from the NRS will allow us not only to meet that goal but also use that information to shape future research projects.”

Here are a few results from Cotton Incorporated’s NRS.

Respondents, Acres & Water

More than 1,300 respondents representing 16 percent of acres in 17 cotton-producing states participated in the survey. Of those acres, 746,864 were non-irrigated while 636,429 had some form of irrigation.

“Texas had the highest number of respondents with 446 but all cotton-producing states were well represented in the survey relative to their state’s production numbers,” says Hake.

Of those producers with irrigation, 81 percent have made improvements to their irrigation systems over the last 10 years to 1) improve yield and 2) to improve water use efficiency.

“Producers know yield pays the bills, but investing time and money to improve their water-use efficiency sends a strong message that U.S. cotton producers clearly understand the importance of the world’s No. 1 natural resource – water,” says Hake.

Pivot/sprinkler systems are being used by 49 percent of respondents while 44 percent are using surface irrigation. Based on rainfall, irrigation and reported yield data, average water use efficiency was 67 pounds of lint per inch of water – up from 50 pounds per inch reported in 1990s literature.

Energy is the single largest culprit contributing to cotton’s carbon footprint. When calculating energy needed for harvest and ginning (averaged across irrigated and non-irrigated acres), it takes an average of 7,655 BTUs to produce one pound of lint.

“A truly stunning statistic is that for each pound of lint, 1.5 pounds of cottonseed are produced with a gross energy content of 9,300 BTUs per pound,” says Hake. “So, for each pound of lint, cotton provides 13,950 BTUs of positive energy through cottonseed.”

Preserving Wildlife

Cotton farmers love and respect the outdoors. This was confirmed by the fact that 58 percent indicated they take at least one measure to improve wildlife habitat on their farms.

In the question, ‘Have you noticed any changes to wildlife on your farm in the last ten years?’, more than 60 percent say that bird population has increased, 62 percent say that beneficial insects have increased and an astounding 78 percent reported an increase in deer, beavers, porcupines, frogs, rabbits and foxes.

“Increases in wildlife don’t just happen,” says Hake. “Wildlife must have an environment that is conducive to population increases.”

The NRS was the most all-encompassing, cotton producer survey ever implemented by Cotton Incorporated. It was anonymously conducted on-line and generated genuine responses.

“We will share more NRS information with the industry at the 2009 Beltwide Cotton Conferences and throughout the year,” says Hake.

The Cotton Board, which administers the Cotton Research and Promotion Program conducted by Cotton Incorporated, provided information for this article.

Highlights of NRS Survey

• 1,300 producers participated.
• 17 states represented in survey.
• Texas had the most responses.
• All states in Belt represented.
• 58 percent of farmers improving wildlife habitat.
• 78 percent report increase in wildlife populations.
• 81 percent have improved irrigation systems.

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