Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Columnists

November 27, 2013

Bill Starr: Time for reflection

AMERICUS — Thanks giving is just around the corner, and what a great time to reflect on things that we are thankful for. I am thankful every day that my work revolves around agriculture.  Sumter County agriculture is not only important to the local folks but to folks in the state of Georgia as well. I’m especially thankful that Sumter County grows a lot of Gossypium hirsutum. Now before anyone starts getting concerned about this Gossypium plants being grown here let’s take a look at what this plant truly is. First of all Gossypium hirsutum is a tropical plant that is grown on a lot of acres  in Georgia as well as many other states in the United States. The plant is a shrub native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including the Americas, Africa, and India. The greatest diversity of species of this plant is found in Mexico, followed by Australia and Africa. Gossypium was independently domesticated in the Old and New Worlds. This plant has been cultivated and used to make fabrics for at least 7,000 years, and may have existed in Egypt as early as 12,000 B.C.. This plant has made its mark in history, Thomas Edison tried more than 1,000 different materials before deciding that charred fiber from this plant made the ideal filament for the very first light bulb. The Wright Brothers used fiber from this plant to cover the wings of their aircraft for the first powered flight in 1905. I feel sure all of us are very familiar with this plant whether we realize it or not. Every day we come in contact with this plant and following are just a few examples of the products made from this particular plant. U.S. paper money is actually not paper at all but a blend of a product of Gossypium hirsutum and some other things to make our currency durable enough for circulation. Even America’s favorite pastime has long associations with this plant; let’s just say there would be no homeruns hit without this plant. 150 yards of fiber made from this plant are in every baseball. Now let’s talk about Gossypium hirsutum’s importance to the state of Georgia. In 2011, Gossypium retained its position as one of the leading cash row crops in Georgia with production of 2.5 million bales of lint at an estimated market value of $1.2 billion.  The seed yield was 756 tons valued at approximately $161.3 million.  The market value of lint and seed was $1.3 billion! In 2011, Georgia ranked second nationally in Gossypium hirsutum acreage with 1.6 million planted, and second in production with an average yield of 791 pounds of fiber per acre.  I think you might be figuring out by now exactly what this Gossypium hirsutum plant must be, if not let me give you a few more hints: How about “The look, the feel of Gossypium hirsutum the fabric of our lives”. If you haven’t figured it out yet I am talking about cotton. Cotton is a part of our daily lives from the time we dry our faces on a soft cotton towel in the morning until we slide between fresh cotton sheets at night. It has hundreds of uses, from blue jeans to shoe strings. Clothing and household items are the largest uses, but industrial products account for many thousands of bales. The cottonseed is crushed in order to separate its three products – oil, meal and hulls. Cottonseed oil is used primarily for shortening, cooking oil and salad dressing. The meal and hulls that remain are used either separately or in combination as livestock, poultry and fish feed and as fertilizer. The stalks and leaves of the cotton plant are plowed under to enrich the soil. Some cottonseed also is used as high-protein concentrate in baked goods and other food products. Cotton is important to Sumter County and to our state and I sure am thankful for cotton because of its comfort in clothes. Cotton is so important to our state that 4 –H and the  Georgia National Fair sponsor a contest at the fair where the youth participants present a 30 second commercial promoting cotton. Following is the commercial that my son wrote for that competition: Cotton is  comfortable, cotton is cool,

Cotton is just right to wear to school.

Whether shirts, socks, towels, or pants,

I am sure glad Georgia leads the way, in planting cotton plants.

Cotton is actually two crops: fiber and seed,

When it comes to clothes, cotton is all you need.

In Georgia cotton is sometimes called white gold,

A bale of cotton can make socks untold.

Cotton is harvested and then it’s ginned,

I really love cotton can you tell my friend?

Cotton is separated into seed and lint,

Buying cotton clothes is money well spent.

Cotton has been in Georgia for many years past,

One thing I can guarantee is cotton clothes will last

Cotton has many attributes this much is true,

I think cotton is great, how about you?”

 

Bill Starr is Sumter County Extension coordinator, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Contact him at 924-4476.

 

 

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