Interesting Facts About Cotton: It Can Absorb Up To 27 Times Its Weight In Water

Cotton

Cotton

Cotton continually surprises us with its abilities and applications. This type of flowering plant belongs to the mallow family. Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll or protective case, around the seed of a cotton plant of the genus Gossypium in the mallow family Malvaceae.
The plant is a shrub that thrives in tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including the Africa, India, and Americas. Under natural conditions, cotton bolls will increase the seed dispersal.
Cultivation of cotton started about 7000 years ago in India and Pakistan (Old world) and Mexico (New world). Cotton was domesticated independently in the Old and New Worlds. The greatest diversity of the wild cotton species is found in Mexico, followed by Africa and Australia.
The use of cotton for fabric dates back to prehistoric times; fragments of cotton fabric dated between 6000 BC and 5000 BC have been excavated in the Indus Valley Civilization and from 5000 BC in Mexico. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The fiber is often spun into thread or yarn that is used to make a soft, breathable textile. Though cultivated since antiquity, the invention of the cotton gin lowered the cost of production leading to widespread use of cotton. In fact, it’s the most widely used natural fiber cloth in clothing today.
The United States has been the largest exporter for several years. In the US, cotton is usually measured in bales, which measure about 17 cubic feet (0.48 cubic meters) and weigh 500 pounds (226.8 kilograms). China is the world’s largest producer of cotton, but most of it is used domestically. Current estimates for world production are approximately 110 million bales or 25 million tonnes annually; accounting for 2.5 percent of world’s arable land.
People cultivate cotton because of the seeds that represent a valuable source of fibers and oil. Cotton grows well in tropical and subtropical parts of America, Asia, Australia, and Africa. Out of about 43 species of cotton, only four are cultivated on a large scale. 70 countries around the world produce approximately 25 million tons of cotton each year. International cotton trade is a twelve-billion-dollar business.
Below are some interesting, unusual and little-known facts about cotton you probably didn’t know:
1. Unlike other cellulosic fibers (wood pulp, rayon) that lose strength when wet, cotton is stronger when it’s wet. This can be important for several products such as medical fabrics and wipes that’ll get wet. Cotton can absorb up to twenty-seven times its weight in water.
2. Cotton oil is used in food industry as an ingredient of margarine and in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry. It’s also used for the production plastics and rubber.
3. Ancient Peruvians used dark-colored cotton fibers to make fishing nets (dark fibers reduce the visibility of nets in water). Aztecs used brown cotton fibers as currency.
4. Cotton fibers are used to manufacture materials such as flannel, velvet, velour, corduroy, and jersey. These materials are later used in the textile industry to make bed sheets, underwear, towels, jeans, and T-shirts.
5. Fruit of cotton is a leathery capsule known as “boll.” Mature capsule splits to release seed (then fibers become visible). Immature capsule covers white fibers, which protect seed (found inside).
6. Cotton can perform self-pollination in case bees-induced pollination can’t take place. Cotton flowers are bisexual (they have both types of reproductive organs).
7. Cotton grows 3.3 to 4.9 feet in height. Depending on the variety, it can grow in the form of a herbaceous plant, tree or bush. Cultivated varieties have an erect stem with several branches on the upper part of the stem.

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