Cotton in the Army. In Lubbock, Texas, Texas Tech researches are turning raw cotton into a material that can help soldiers who are victims of chemical warfare. The cotton is cleaned, processed and turned into a thin smooth fabric. When carbon is sandwiched between two cotton layers, the result is a fabric that can be used as wipes by soldiers to absorb chemical toxins. The fabric has been awarded a patent and is being used by the Pentagon.

Cotton prices are exciting and optimism is high for cotton producers. But to stay on top, the cotton industry has to remain focused on several factors, according to Worsham.

Input costs. Input costs are going to rise, especially as prices rise, Worsham said. “We’re going to have to do everything we can to conduct research to maximize the benefit of inputs so we can get the most bang for our buck.”

The environment. The cotton industry is undertaking an extensive life cycle analysis not only for growing cotton but for processing cotton. “The research is to gauge where our environmental footprint is and what we can do with research to reduce that footprint. That includes using less energy and water use in the dyeing and finishing processes.”

The energy crisis. “Our research has shown that rising energy prices can have a negative impact on cotton demand. As energy prices rise, people have less money to heat and cool their houses, so they have less discretionary income. One of the things that could be crowded out are apparel and home furnishings.”

Global markets. “We still rely heavily on the export market for cotton. That is going to continue, so whatever we can do to work the global supply chain is going to be important.”

New products using cotton. “We’ve been working for several years on moisture management to help cotton compete with synthetics. There was a major announcement recently by Under Armour that they will incorporate a cotton product called Charged Cotton into their apparel offerings.”