Washington: An international collaboration with strong Aggie ties has figured out how to make a longer cotton fiber.
A Texas A and M University biologist believes that this could potentially have a multi-billion-dollar impact on the global cotton industry and help cotton farmers fend off increasing competition from synthetic fibers.
The research is funded primarily by the US Department of Agriculture Office of International Research Programs.
"This technology allows improvement of fiber quality in upland cotton, which is widely grown everywhere," Alan Pepper, an associate professor in the Texas A and M Department of Biology and senior author of the paper that was led by a former Texas A and M graduate student now in Uzbekistan, said.
"This will increase the competitiveness of natural cotton fibers versus synthetic fibers, which have been snagging an increasing amount of the market share every year," he said.
The overwhelming majority of cotton harvested in the US and worldwide is upland cotton, or Gossypium hirsutum, with more than 6.5 million acres planted in 2012 in Texas alone, according to the USDA.
A higher-end cotton called Gossypium barbadense is more desirable because of greater fiber length and strength but is late-maturing, low-yielding and more difficult to grow because it requires dry climates with significant irrigation and is less resistant to pathogens and pests.
The researchers` method increased the length of the fiber by at least 5 millimeters, or 17 percent, compared to the control plants in their experiment.
The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.