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NEW YORK — The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation and the Soil Health Institute have announced a new US$5m grant to fund research into the production of US-grown regenerative cotton. Operating over five years, the US Regenerative Cotton Fund (USRCF) is a farmer-facing, science-based initiative that will support long-term, regenerative cotton production in the United States, with the goal of eliminating one million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) from the atmosphere by 2026.

The initiative will fund research into the impact of agricultural practices such as no-till farming and cover cropping, while also supporting farmers who want to use such techniques.

Ploughing disrupts the soil and releases carbon into the atmosphere, Cristine Morgan, chief scientific officer at the Soil Health Institute said. “It’s almost like someone taking a wrecking ball and knocking down your house every year,” she said.

She added: “We are very grateful for the opportunity to promote soil health and to assist cotton farmers across the US with storing more carbon, building drought resilience, and mitigating the very effects of climate change that are impacting us all.

“To achieve widespread environmental benefits from regenerative agriculture means we must understand farmers’ needs and experiences when adopting these practices. Adoption is hindered by a lack of information on the business case, locally relevant soil health education programs, and until now, knowledge of how healthy a given soil can become and what that means for improving drought resilience, yield stability, economics, and other benefits for farmers.”

“At the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation, we work to make the dream of a better life a reality by championing equity and creating positive change in communities around the world. Partnering to scale solutions that build community resilience are powerful ways to positively impact people’s lives, now and for the future,” Roseann Lynch, Ralph Lauren Corporation’s chief people officer and head of the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation added. “The US Regenerative Cotton Fund is an ambitious effort crafted in partnership with the experts at the Soil Health Institute that puts growers at the center of creating a sustainable future for U.S. cotton production.” 

Significant opportunity is said to exist in the US for expanding climate-friendly soil health practices in cotton production. Based on data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Census of Agriculture, only eight per cent of cotton cropland is managed using cover cropping and 21 per cent is managed using no tillage.

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