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The Story of CottonThe Story of Cotton

Everyone’s favorite pair of jeans and jammies started out as bunch of single celled fibers growing on tiny cottonseeds. The cotton plant is a shrub that is native to tropical and subtropical climates around the world. The cotton fiber is a collection of single cells made of almost pure celluloseThe structural component of the primary cell wall of green plants. Wood pulp and cotton provides most of the cellulose for industrial uses. Cotton is almost 90% cellulose.. These fibers’ naturally springy structure gives them lots of strength, durability, and absorbency. When dried, they form flat, twisted, ribbon-like shapes perfect for spinning fine yarn and clothing you and all your friends.

Cotton evolved on almost every continent, but it took cotton from the opposite ends of the earth to create the plant we use today. A one-in-a-million chance meeting of an American plant with an African plant (or Asian, we’re not sure!) produced the cotton ancestor that gives us 90% of the world’s commercial cotton. Through the domesticationThe process of genetically adapting wild animals and plants into cultivated forms that suit the interests of human beings process, breeders grew cotton plants with longer, stronger, softer and more numerous fibers. When the cotton genomeAll the genetic material in the chromosomes of an organism, whether animal, plant, or microbe is fully sequenced, scientists might figure out exactly which genes control traits like softness or strength.

Another way that genome scientists can help cotton farmers is by developing and breeding plants that require less water. Cotton is a thirsty crop, and as water resources get tighter around the world, economies that rely on it face difficulties and conflict. Cotton farming also brings environmental concerns. Because cotton is a target for nasty bug infestations, many growers heavily douse their plants in pesticides that are dangerous to human and animal health. Plants bred or engineered with enhanced natural defense mechanisms may reduce the need for these chemicals and improve the environment.