Cotton is the largest non-food agricultural commodity, said to account for 21% of global fibre use. It’s an incredibly popular natural fibre because it’s light, breathable, soft, strong, easy to work with, and easily absorbs dyes.
Conventional cotton also has a serious environmental impact, but the new Kiss the Ground Cotton trademark is here to help farms transition to better practices and everyday people to find these options. Read on to learn more.
The problems with cotton
Conventional cotton production is extremely chemical-intensive, including pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and synthetic fertilisers, all of which can impact air, water, soil, biodiversity, and human health. It has been estimated that cotton alone accounts for 5% of global pesticide use and 14% of global insecticide use, with 1-3% of agricultural workers suffering from acute pesticide poisoning and at least 1 million requiring hospitalisation each year.
These chemicals also leach into the environment as they penetrate soil, runoff and infect local waterways and, if sprayed, can travel onto neighbouring farms or into local communities through the air. They then contaminate food and water supplies, causing increased disease, illness and even birth defects. This runoff also destroys soil microbes and bacteria (making growing conditions worse as land loses its ability to take in carbon from the air or water from rainfall) while pests build resistance to these chemicals. This leads to new pesticides being constantly developed, resulting in greater pesticide use and spiralling costs for farmers.
What is Kiss the Ground cotton?
Kiss the Ground Cotton is an new approach, promoting regenerative agriculture and a pathway to regenerative cotton. The program is a collaboration with the Citizens of Humanity Group, who began their regenerative agriculture journey in 2022, and Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA), a leader in regenerative agriculture media and education. It will work directly with farmers in the United States and abroad, supporting their growth, education, and adoption of regenerative principles. The program aims to support the transition of farms to adopt regenerative agriculture methods, rebuilding healthier soil and experiencing a wide array of benefits.
Regenerative agriculture is one of the greatest tools and opportunities for reversing the effects of climate change while increasing soil fertility, replenishing fresh water, and improving human health. Kiss the Ground cotton’s programme will support farmer growth, education, and implementation of regenerative principles, enabling them to prioritise soil health and reap the economic and environmental benefits that come from these shifts. Support will include teaching the farmers how to adopt the best regenerative farming methods and practices for their specific contexts.
We see an incredible opportunity to impact one of the most chemical intensive and soil degrading systems of agriculture – growing cotton – by directly supporting cotton farmers to transition to regenerative agriculture
The Kiss the Ground cotton trademark will let consumers know that the products they purchase are made with cotton grown on farms pursuing soil regeneration.
Regenerative practices are a key tool in tackling the climate crisis and global heating. Healthier soil contains higher levels of carbon; a fundamental part of regeneration is sequestering higher levels carbon by converting CO2 in the atmosphere into organic matter in soils. This also makes it a key tool for carbon drawdown around the world, while producing healthier, more resilient plants.
Because regenerative agriculture focuses on building and maintaining living soils full of diverse microbes that make more nutrients available for crops, the need for synthetic inputs, such as fertilisers and pesticides, is reduced or even removed. This comes with additional environmental benefits, such as reducing chemical runoff and air pollution from spraying crops, while also saving farmers money. There are many different methods of regeneration that can be applied, depending on different farm contexts, but the core goal remains the same: restore soil health to draw down more carbon and cultivate better crops.
Though each farm will be different, when you buy something made with Kiss the Ground cotton you know the land has been managed in ways that prioritise planetary wellbeing, inherently benefitting human wellbeing simultaneously.
Kiss the Ground, together with Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA), a regenerative farming consultancy company with 15 years’ experience in the regenerative farming industry, have designed their program to work individually farmers to grow cotton regeneratively.
This program supports farmers as they work to become efficient regenerative farmers and reap the benefits that come from a healthier soil with year after year improvements. The programme will include teaching farmers how to adopt the best regenerative farming methods and practices, alongside various options for financial help. These include help in acquiring necessary equipment and biological materials, covering the cost of testing the crop, or price subsidies.
The program will be monitored to assure compliance, as each farm will be annually tested for soil and plant health to ensure progress and verification that regenerative outcomes are being fulfilled. An individual approach will also be taken with each farm to determine and create how to best support the route to healthier agriculture depending on the specific conditions of the area. Based on location, soil structure and other factors as well, no two farms are the same and the program is designed to be tailored accordingly.
An overnight transition from conventional to regenerative farming isn’t feasible. Instead, the plan is to incorporate as many of these practices as possible at the outset, with the goal of adopting more at each growing season. From brittle environments to more moist ones, from different crops to livestock, from no funds to extensive funds, context is key. How farmers regenerate land will vary and depend on many components, so a holistic framework is necessary to achieve regeneration.
Regenerative methods that can be adopted include:
- Least Disturbance: no/low till approaches to soil, reducing or removing chemical inputs, less compaction.
- Living Roots: leaving roots intact maximises photosynthesis, allowing plants to pump increasing amounts of carbon into the ground to feed microbes. The more microbes, the more carbon the plant pulls from the air to feed them!
- Soil Armour: keeping soil covered with living plants or crop residue, wood chips, or mulch. Bare soil gets much hotter at midday & more vulnerable to wind and water erosion.
- Increased Biodiversity: plant variety, in particular perennial planting, increases the biodiversity below and above ground as well as increases the functionality and resilience of the ecosystem.
- Cover cropping: to eliminate the use of herbicides
- No glyphosate
- Animal Integration: animals that aren’t forced to overgraze one small area, but instead allowed to roam over vast amounts of land, can play a pivotal role in nutrient cycling and regenerating landscapes.
“In the United States, less than 20% of the adult population has ‘heard of’ regeneration as a viable solution for the world’s climate, water and health crises… As a society, we need to get to a place where we think more about how the products we consume are created and choose the ones that are part of the solution.”
-Evan Harrison, CEO of Kiss the Ground
Ultimately, these are long-term projects that won’t change things overnight. But, these are changes that could prove to be incredibly important. Watch this space.