History of Cotton

For thousands of years, for world cotton trade South Asia has been the center where the cotton was first cultivated here.

The New World species G. hirsutum and G. barbadense dominates world markets today. This new species used in ancient South Asia were originated in Africa and India and were developed as new fibre crop when the new species were used for the same purpose.

The most primitive reference on paper of cotton in South Asia is mentioned in Rig Veda’s dating about 1500 BC or even longer than estimated. Ancient civilization, Indus Valley dating around 3000 BC, shoe that this region were skilled in spinning, weaving, and dyeing cotton.

The paintings of Ajanta caves (Maharashtra) shows varied patterns and colours of 200 BC to 500 BC developed in India, of fabrics which were in demand outside South Asia and most likely exported to Greece before trade routed were established by Alexander ‘The Great’ between Asia and Europe.

In 5th century BC, the Greek historian, Herodotus, wrote about Indian cotton, describibg ‘trees that bore wool’, transcending the beauty and quality of sheep wool and that Indians wore clothing from these trees.

India became world’s main producer of cotton textiles. The export trade extended to rest of Europe including Britain. White cotton with silk embroidery from Gujarat were first to reach Europe from India especially Britain and dyed cotton wall hangings were most popular.

Recent Account

In the 1600s, the discovery by European explorers that cotton plants were also grown in America, they introduced this species in South Africa in 18th century and later in India and Pakistan replacing old traditional cultivars.

Britain began its own manufacturing of cotton textile in 19th century using raw material from America rather than the Indian sources. India struggled due to its conventional manufacturing practice. On contrary exporting of Indian cotton, it became largest importer of Britain cotton textile.

A virtual collapse in 20th century of the European textile led to recovery of Indian hand- and machine-woven fabrics. Indian cotton industry was slow to develop but political movements and the empowerment of people of India by Mahatma Gandhi change the scenario.


Cotton Production & Trade

The world production estimated at around 20 million tons of cotton is big business and it’s a major crop and the most popular fabric for clothing. The major producing countries are China, America, the Central Asian Republics, India, Pakistan, Brazil and Egypt.

Cultivation & Harvesting Method

Cotton can grow at altitudes of 1000 m in India and is planted in month of June-July. It takes about 100 days for the plants to mature and produce fruits. Harvesting progresses, as the plants flower and fruit and is ready for picking in November and extending  upto February. When bolls are mature, they burst to expose mass of soft white fibres attached to seeds. The bolls also have shorter, fuzzy fibres known as cotton linters. The short fibres that are not aloof during ginning are later cut to provide linters, used in felts, mattresses, twine, upholstery, wicks, carpets, cotton wool, surgical cotton and in chemical industries for rayon, lacquers, photographic films, cellulose explosives, plastics, paper and even sausage skins.


The seeds are separated from the fibres by a automatic process known as ginning and are pressed together in bales. These are then shipped to spinning and weaving mills for thread and yarn or fabric production. Cotton fibres are made into a wide variety of textiles which are vital for everyday use in clothing, home furnishing and in industry globally.

Oils from cottonseed are other important by-products of cotton production. This edible oil is used for salad or cooking oil and seed residue is manufactured into a cotton-cake for cattle feed, high protein containing feed results in quality animal milk and its product. 
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