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TEXAS – Organic cotton farming can improve yields while also impoving bi-divesity, according to La Rhea Pepper (pictured), an organic farmer and managing director of the US-based Textile Exchange.

Responding to suggestions that organic cotton is uneconomic due to its variable yields, Pepper differentiates between organic ‘grown by default’ and organic ‘grown by design,’ the former being when a farmer doesn’t have the money to invest in any other inputs, but also lacks the training to adhere to best practices in soil management; the latter being farming organically as part of a long-term commitment, investing in training, certification and so forth.

Pepper told Apparel Insider: “Speaking from experience, organic [cotton] grown by design [demonstrates] comparable, or better yields than [its] conventional counterpart. The farmers who are converting are making an investment from a chemically intensive production system and are going to experience a drop in yield until they are able to build healthy soils. The investment continues with additional management, implementation of a multi-crop system and in many cases, more labour.

“This investment yields so much more than cotton, it eliminates nutrient pollution in our waters and eliminates pesticides in our air and water while it creates bio-diversity and food security – all components of a more resilient community.”

She added: “The current, chemically intensive system has failed – it has created poverty and pollution. It is time to change the system and it is time that the price of cotton reflects the cost of production. Fair prices need to go to the farmer to break the cycle of poverty that we are seeing in countries around the world.”

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