Making Cotton More Sustainable—Solutions from Outer Space?

Jul 24, 2017 4:00 PM ET

Making Cotton More Sustainable—Solutions from Outer Space?

Cotton represents nearly half the fiber used to make clothes and other textiles worldwide. But the economically valuable fiber is also a water-hungry crop to produce. It can take between two to five thousand gallons of water to produce two pounds of cotton—about equal to a tee shirt and a pair of jeans. And then there is the heavy use of chemicals to protect the vulnerable plant from insects, weeds, and disease. How could this widely grown and useful fiber be grown more sustainably?

Target and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space think answers could come from outer space. They have announced a one million dollar-prize for scientists and researchers who can find ways to use the space station to make cotton farming more sustainable. NASA said that it will make “on-orbit access to the station available to advance cotton sustainability solutions.” These may include “projects in plant biology, water technology, or remote-sensing technologies.” Today’s farm producers already use GPS and big data, so looking go the stars for earthly sustainability solutions doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

I’m John Howell for 3BL Media. 


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