There was an instantaneous roar of applause from the 100 or so cotton farmers attending a recent tour of Cotton Incorporated.

The outburst didn’t come from news of solving the problem of resistant weeds, or the loss of Temik or of lowering the input costs of growing cotton in any way.

The response by cotton growers came from news that has a much more direct impact on the bottom line of growers across the Cotton Belt.

Mark Messura, senior vice-president for global supply chain marketing for Cotton Incorporated, had just announced that Under Armor, a company whose advertising campaign once proclaimed ‘cotton is the enemy’ will soon have cotton in 25 percent of their entire sports clothing line of apparel.

Considerably more than a moral victory for cotton growers, Messura’s announcement means cotton now has a firm foothold in what used to be enemy territory.

Improving cotton usage in the burgeoning athletic sportswear industry is one of the keys to increasing cotton’s market share in the world apparel industry.

Upping market share isn’t a small deal. A drop of one percent in market share means a loss of 360,000 bales of cotton to rayon, nylon, or any number of other synthetic materials used to make clothes.

A patented process called TransDry, developed by researchers at Cotton Incorporated, appears to be opening up the athletic wear industry once owned lock, stock and barrel by synthetics.

“It’s just a fact of life that when you sweat you’re uncomfortable. Athletes can’t perform to their highest level of performance, if their clothes stick to their arms and legs. Staying dry is a big deal in that market and TransDry is the best thing out there to keep you dry in a sweaty situation,” Messura says.

Company’s like Under Armor can market TransDry by whatever clever names they wish. The important thing for U.S. cotton growers is that these companies can’t use the patented process unless they use cotton in the garment.

Currently Puma Golf, Bobby Jones and Under Armor use the TransDry process. A number of other companies use the process for men’s and women’s active wear and underwear.