Thursday, November 30, 2023

U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund Project

Christi Short
By Christi Short
Rochester, Texas

On the emerging sustainability landscape, there is still so much for consumers, retailers and farmers to define and understand. As we move into the era of capturing carbon, improving our environmental footprint and creating industry goals for improvement, questions like “Where are we now?” and “How can we move forward from our current baseline?” begin to emerge. The U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund is working to gather data that will help cotton producers answer these questions. 

Cotton Incorporated is a strong funding supporter and collaborator with the U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund, which is operated through the Soil Health Institute in North Carolina. USCRF is working to increase the adoption of soil health management systems across the Cotton Belt. USCRF will work with growers across the United States to gather soil health measurements from their farms to establish a baseline from which they can set realistic soil health improvement goals for their operations.

SHI educators and local technical specialists are aiming to educate producers that regenerative practices such as cover cropping and no-tillage can increase soil organic carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce erosion, improve soil’s drought resilience and, in-turn, increase the farmer’s profitability. 

Focus On Farmers

In 2022, the first year of the USCRF Project, SHI scientists collected more than 300 soil samples across Texas and Arkansas to establish soil health targets and provide reports to growers. These reports include information on soil compositions, capacities and the potential the different soils can have. The anonymized and aggregated data gathered in 2022 from growers in Texas and Arkansas will inform regional reports so that other growers across the area know what practices might be applicable to them.

Dr. Cristine Morgan teaches a group about “j rooting” in cotton in North Carolina.

In 2023, SHI anticipates expanding the program and establishing soil health and carbon targets on more farms in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. 

“I am excited about the work we are doing with growers across the United States to determine what their farms and soils are capable of,” said Dr. Cristine Morgan, SHI chief scientific officer. “We want to help growers make informed, educated and calculated decisions for what type of practices can not only provide an economic impact to their operation, but also create healthy, living soils. This project is really about outreach, education and the economics of adopting soil health management practices.”

Morgan emphasized this information is vital for farmers to determine what practices make sense for their operation, what they can improve and what measurement goals they can realistically increase over the years.  

Specialists And Mentors

Through a variety of private and public funding and research cooperation, USCRF surveyed 2 million acres in 2022 and plans to get to add an additional 3.8 million in 2023. Currently, SHI has seven technical specialists and seven farmer mentors working through the USCRF to reach, educate and mentor farmers. 

“Cotton Incorporated has been a vital partner with us in this project, providing funds, connections and partnership in growing the reach of the program. We are glad to have the experts at Cotton Incorporated on our team,” Morgan emphasized. 

Cotton Incorporated has a variety of resources for growers interested in learning more about soil health and management practices.  

You can view the March Cotton & Coffee episode featuring Dr. Cristine Morgan on The Cotton Board’s YouTube Channel. 

Visit CottonToday.com for more information on cotton sustainability. 

Search “soil health” on the CottonCultivated.com website for even more information. 

To learn more about SHI, USCRF and to reach out to Dr. Morgan and her team, visit https://bit.ly/41dqYqR .


Christi Short is the Cotton Board’s regional communication manager for the Southwest. She can be reached at cshort@cottonboard.org.

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