August 7, 2013
Cotton growers in the High Plains of West Texas are facing deep declines in water resources. Only half the land is irrigated and many cotton growers can no longer irrigate their crops due to depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer. That means more Texas cotton producers, who comprise the fourth largest cotton market in the world, will likely move to dry land farming where cotton is grown without a supply of supplementary water. And, without the benefit of water, yields diminish with at least 10% of the harvest resulting in immature cotton. Clothing manufacturers can't use this substandard cotton because it doesn't spin into threads.
Seshadri Ramkumar, associate professor at Texas Tech University, has been looking for innovative, new commercial uses for the immature cotton, which has little value in the marketplace. Using a nonwoven, natural process, Ramkumar and his team at the Nonwovens and Advanced Materials Laboratory created new cotton products from this otherwise throw-away commodity.