Cotton is the most common, non-edible crop in the world and makes the most money for its sale due to being the most popular fibre to make clothing with. The cotton industry provides jobs for more than 250 million people worldwide, especially in developing countries. Approximately half of all textiles (e.g. clothes, towels, sheets) are made of cotton, yet some say the industry is unsustainable and we may not be wearing cotton in future. Why?
Since humans began growing cotton on a large scale, farmers have had to battle challenges including insects ranging from the deadly bollworm, plant and stink bugs, aphids, thrips and spider mites to larger threats like drought. You saw in the video how the farmers were spraying their cotton crops to protect it from ‘pests’. In fact, insect pest management (using poisons called pesticide) is the highest cost for growing cotton. Read more about the diseases that cotton has to contend with at the Australian Farm Biosecurity website. But insects are not the only problem with cotton...
What is the biggest problem with growing cotton?
Cotton's biggest impact on the earth is from pesticides, followed by the huge amount of water it needs whilst growing. Also, the land farmed for cotton can no longer be used by native animals, insects and plants, and they need to find somewhere else to live. You saw in the video how important water is for growing cotton. Did you know that to produce one cotton t-shirt, around 20,000 litres of water must be used to keep the cotton plant alive?
So, what is the answer to these problems with cotton? View the videos below to learn about how we can enjoy organically-grown cotton.
Cotton is important, but how about saving the world’s most delicious fruits?
A world without watermelons and bananas is unimaginable! Back in the 1950s, Australia’s banana supply was in danger when a nasty fungus called the ‘Panama disease’ was identified as the cause of widespread banana tree deaths. This spelled big trouble for the industry as well as the trees themselves - they were being attacked at the root level and through their vascular system, which is like the ‘plumbing system’ of plants. The Panama fungus was resistant to fungicide and could not be controlled with chemicals. So, what could banana farmers do?
This ruthless disease nearly wiped out entire plantations of the Gros Michel banana in Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia and Ecuador so scientists acted quickly to research different banana varieties that Australians could grow. Luckily, they discovered that the Cavendish variety of banana is immune to the deadly fungus, leading farmers to replant their farms with the Cavendish banana. This made them the most popular variety of banana grown in Australia today.