The first cotton seeds found by archeologists near Mehrgarh are dated to 5000 BCE. Fragments of cotton textile discovered at Mohenjo-Daro, now in Pakistan, are from between 3250 and 2750 BCE. 

There has been a long-term relationship between humans and cotton. It began with the use of fibers from wild cotton plants, which were spun into ropes or yarn and woven into fabric. Eventually, cotton farming began, and early farmers took advantage of natural variations, identifying plants with better qualities and using the seeds from the best performing plants for farming, thus developing domesticated forms of cotton. (Genetic Science Learning Center, n.a.)

Cotton belongs to the tribe Gossypieae, which includes over 50 species in the mallow family, Malvaceae. It primarily grows in tropical and subtropical regions, in well-drained, sandy to silt loam soils, with temperatures between 15-32°C. Cotton requires a long frost-free period, moderate rainfall or irrigation, and an abundance of sunlight. 

It is typically an annual crop, and the new season usually starts right after harvesting of the previous one. The process starts with land preparation, followed by selecting the seeds and sowing, usually in springtime. During the growth phase, cotton needs irrigation in areas with no possibility for rain. Pest and disease control often occurs by spraying, either by machinery in larger farms or manually in smaller-scale farms. In 60-120 days after planting, cotton plants bloom, and the cotton ball is developed within 120-140 days. Mature bolls burst open, revealing the fluffy cotton lint inside, and harvesting occurs using cotton-picking machinery or manually. The invention of the ginning machine in 1793 by Eli Whitney revolutionized the cotton textile industry. 

There are four major commercialized genetic varieties of cotton: Gossypium hirsutum (upland cotton, Mexican or American cotton), Gossypium barbadense (Egyptian cotton), and Gossypium arboreum and Gossypium herbaceum (Asian cotton). Gossypium hirsutum accounts for about 90% of global cotton production (Hu., Y et al. 2019). The leading cotton-producing countries are China, the USA, Brazil, Pakistan, Australia, Turkey, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan. (ICAC, 2022) Cotton farming significantly affects biodiversity and ecosystems.


Image: Cotton production in ‘000 tonnes,