How many times do you touch cotton when you get ready in the morning? After you shower, you probably dry off with a cotton towel. When you get dressed, you might slip on a T-shirt, blue jeans, socks and underwear made of cotton. You make coffee--was your brand of coffee filter made from cotton, too?
Cotton, known as "the fabric of our lives," is the most commonly used fiber globally, and the United States is one of the leading suppliers of cotton. In the Missouri Bootheel region, a group of farmers are growing a new kind of long-staple cotton with a fiber quality that is superior for processing by spinners and for producing high-quality end fabrics.
But you might not have heard about Missouri-grown cotton yet. That’s because in January 2009 Missouri cotton farmers, the Missouri Department of Agriculture and Bayer CropScience began a project with the MU Department of Textile and Apparel Management (TAM) to brand and market Missouri-grown cotton.
Select farmers are growing a new, genetically modified, better-quality upland cotton in limited quantities from seed developed by Bayer CropScience. Although this variety also grows in other areas, the growing conditions of the Upper Delta region in the Missouri Bootheel appear to be the best in the United States for this new variety.
To maximize the potential of this cotton, it is essential to determine how it can be most effectively marketed to the consumer. That’s where the MU Department of Textile and Apparel Management (TAM) comes in.
Using their expertise and research capabilities, TAM faculty and students are helping Bayer and the Missouri Department of Agriculture assess consumers’ willingness to pay for a Missouri brand of premium cotton in apparel products and develop a marketing and business plan for the branded cotton.
The Cotton Project culminated in the Sustainable Cotton Summit, a two-day event focused on sharing the latest research efforts with TAM students. In addition, students in the capstone class were challenged with creating ideas for branding and marketing Missouri grown cotton. This is an exemplary way in which research informs our teaching.
Collaborative work between TAM, Bayer Crop Science, and Missouri cotton farmers continues. Results from the research and student marketing plans have been presented to various outlets and the student marketing plans are being considered for implementation by constituents. Missouri’s cotton farmers could soon see positive impact from these research-informed efforts.–Adapted from an article in the HES Vanguard, 2009.