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Grant Description
There is a critical need for expanding organic cotton area and production in the US due to rapidly increasing consumer demands for organic cotton products and very low domestic supplies. Achieving this will require a coordinated effort among researchers, extension specialists, and broader industry stakeholders.

The long-term goal of this project is to sustainably expand organic cotton production in the US cotton belt through the promotion of regenerative production practices. The specific objectives of this project are:

1. Partner with long-term organic cotton producers to observe agronomic practices, track soil health, conduct economic evaluations, and identify sociological constraints and opportunities.
2. Evaluate agronomic, ecosystem, and economic benefits of locally suitable regenerative practices.
3. Evaluate weed suppressive potential of advanced breeding/already developed cotton lines for utilization in organic production.
4. Expand adoption of organic production practices through collaborative extension and demonstration activities.
5. Provide educational opportunities to train the next generation of research and extension scientists and organic practitioners.

These objectives were developed based on extensive discussions with various stakeholders involved in organic cotton production and marketing.

Understanding the agronomic, economic, and marketing strategies employed by long-term organic cotton producers is critical in our efforts to increase organic cotton production in the US cotton belt. Through field visits and discussions, we were able to establish a 4-year partnership with organic cotton producers managing a total of 63 certified/transitioning organic fields, spanning across New Mexico, Texas, and Tennessee. These fields include transitioning (<3 yrs) and certified organic operations ranging from 1 to 12 years in duration. These organic cotton producers have agreed to collaborate throughout the duration of the project and are enthusiastic to learn about new management practices, soil health, and carbon marketing opportunities in working with the team. A total of 23 conventional cotton fields in an adjacent locality will also be included as a basis for comparison. Thus, a total of 86 fields will be studied over 4 years.

The objective 1 of the proposed OREI project will directly involve these 86 cotton fields covering approximately 7500 acres in Texas (56 fields), 3000 acres in New Mexico (24 fields), and ~100 acres in Tennessee (6 fields). In Texas, the fields will comprise two equal sets of irrigated and dryland cotton since both are common, whereas in NM and TN all fields are irrigated. In collaboration with these organic cotton farmers, we will study the impact of agronomic production practices followed by each participating farmer on cotton growth, pest incidence (weeds, insect pests, diseases, nematodes), yield, and quality over a period of 4 years (Objective 1A). By connecting with these organic producers and studying their operations, our goal is to identify production practices that have been viable for them and also identify where challenges still exist, and improvements could still be made. These producers may have already overcome major adoption barriers since they have been successfully growing organic cotton over a number of years; however, the sustainability of these practices is unknown, especially from the soil health standpoint. For example, a farmer relying heavily on tillage for weed control may be able to successfully grow the crop short-term, but this practice can severely compromise soil health over the long-term. By closely monitoring soil health indicators (Objective 1B), we will be able to determine which practices are promoting cotton yield without jeopardizing soil health in the long run and which ones need improvements. Our contact farmers have agreed to share the information on input costs and sale prices, which will be used to conduct a partial budget analysis and determine the economic sustainability of their operations. The economic analysis will also include the benefits of soil health promotion measures obtained with regenerative practices such as cover cropping (Objective 1C). These farmers will also be engaged in socioeconomic investigations to understand barriers and opportunities for organic production (Objective 1D). Collaboration with these farmers will also help us understand their operations for thorough scientific investigations of their practices and socio-economic constraints and opportunities.

In Objective 2, fully-replicated small-plot experiments will be conducted in certified organic fields in New Mexico, Texas, and Tennessee over a 4-year period to evaluate specific regenerative management practices currently not in common use by farmers in the region. The experiments in Tennessee are expected to assist with expanding organic cotton research and outreach activities to the Mississippi Delta. In addition to providing locally-relevant research data, these plots will allow for experiential learning of regenerative practices as well as serve as demonstration venues. Additionally, evaluations will be carried out to select cotton varieties with weed-suppressive potential for utilization in organic production (Objective 3).

The project will develop and deliver outreach/extension programs to foster continued growth of the organic cotton industry in the US cotton belt (Objective 4). The outreach activities also include broader stakeholder engagement for establishing partnerships among various parties involved in organic cotton production, marketing, and consumption. Furthermore, a robust educational activity is planned for training the next generation of scientists and practitioners, utilizing the broad range of field activities planned as part of this project (Objective 5).

Overall, this project addresses critical stakeholder-identified needs. It is anticipated that the findings will greatly advance our understanding of organic cotton production practices that are profitable and sustainable. This will eventually promote the implementation of best management practices and help increase the acreage and production of organic cotton in the US.
Place of Performance
College Station, Texas 77843-0001 United States
Geographic Scope
Single Zip Code
Texas A&M Agrilife Research was awarded Expanding Organic Cotton Production in the US through Regenerative Practices Project Grant 20235130040849 worth $3,498,357 from the Institute of Food Production and Sustainability in September 2023 with work to be completed primarily in College Station Texas United States. The grant has a duration of 4 years and was awarded through assistance program 10.307 Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative. The Project Grant was awarded through grant opportunity Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative.


Last Modified 9/6/23

Period of Performance
Start Date
End Date
18.0% Complete

Funding Split
Federal Obligation
Non-Federal Obligation
Total Obligated
100.0% Federal Funding
0.0% Non-Federal Funding

Activity Timeline

Interactive chart of timeline of amendments to 20235130040849

Subgrant Awards

Disclosed subgrants for 20235130040849

Additional Detail

SAI Number
Award ID URI
Awardee Classifications
Public/State Controlled Institution Of Higher Education
Awarding Office
Funding Office
Awardee UEI
Awardee CAGE
Performance District
John Cornyn
Ted Cruz

Budget Funding

Federal Account Budget Subfunction Object Class Total Percentage
Integrated Activities, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agriculture (012-1502) Agricultural research and services Grants, subsidies, and contributions (41.0) $3,498,357 100%
Modified: 9/6/23