Tag Archives: cotton production

About California Cotton

California cotton is a big industry for the state. Cotton production in accounts for roughly $3.5 billion dollars annually pumped into California’s economy. Over 20,000 people are employed directly in the production of cotton. Approximately 137,000 additional jobs are created indirectly as a result of the California cotton industry.

Cotton is grown in California in three main regions including the San Joaquin Valley, Southern Desert Valleys and the Sacramento Valley. The San Joaquin Valley is the primary cotton growing spot, featuring seven counties which are major cotton producers. Fresno County is the number one cotton growing county in California.

California offers a wonderful climate that is near ideal for optimum cotton growth. The warm sun is plentiful during much of the year in California which affords cotton the long growing season it needs. The soil in certain regions of California is fertile, well draining, yet can still hold water well, making it ideal for cotton. The dry California climate is perfect for growing cottons like Pima.

At its peak, California featured 1.5 million acres of cotton farmland. California cotton growing has been on the decline. In California, cotton crops are being replaced by pistachios, almonds, walnuts, grapes, alfalfa, and corn crops instead. California cotton is still the state’s second most valuable crop.

Of those growers who still plant cotton, many have been electing to grow extra-long staple crops of Pima cotton, as it is in high demand and can command premiums prices per pound. In fact, California is the largest Pima cotton growing area in the United States.
As a result, California grows much of the best cotton in the world.

Currently there are around 60 active cotton gins remaining in California.,1963 was the peak year with 299 active cotton gins in California. While the numbers do reflect a decline, each gin also becomes more efficient and more productive as time goes on.

California produces approximately 2 to 2.5 million bales of cotton per year. There are about 1400 farms growing cotton in California on an average of 500 acres per farm. California is frequently the second highest producing state yearly. California cotton makes up about 10 to 14 percent of cotton production nationally in the United States. The yields of California cotton are extremely impressive as compared to a national average of 615 pounds of cotton per planted acre. California farms produce 1300 pounds per acre.

Cotton is an annual crop in California, being planted anew each spring. California cotton is typically planted beginning in March and completed by May 1st. California cotton is fully irrigated and is picked by machines. The majority, approximately 80 to 85 percent of California cotton will be shipped overseas to Southeast Asia.

Many types of products are made from the processed cotton that is produced in California. Typical products include dresses, high quality shirts and premium quality bedding. California’s Pima cottons are used for very fine, luxury fabrics. 600,000 tons of cottonseeds, a crop byproduct, are produced each year in California. 95% of this California cottonseed is fed to cattle. The rest is made into cottonseed oil.

How the Cotton Gin Works

The cotton gin which was invented by Eli Whitney in 1793 was a revolutionary machine.
The term gin comes from the abbreviation for the word engine. The cotton gin changed the entire cotton growing industry. Prior to the cotton gin’s invention, workers had to pick out seed pods and seeds from the cotton by hand. This method was extremely tedious and unproductive. Each worker was only able to produce one pound of clean cotton a day this way.

Once the cotton gin came into service, production increased dramatically. A cotton gin could produce 55 pounds of clean cotton a day or 55 times that of a human worker. Such a dramatic increase in production had a huge impact on the industry, making cotton much more profitable to grow.

The cotton gin is actually a pretty simple machine. Cotton grows in what are known as bolls. First the cotton bolls are fed into the top of the machine. Inside the cotton gin there is a rotating wooden roller that has small spiky wire teeth hammered into it. The wooden cylinder is rotated by cranking it. When the cylinder rotates, the teeth snare the cotton fibers of the boll and pull the fiber strands through a grate. The slots in this grate are set too close together for cotton seeds to pass through. The fibers are stripped away from the seeds. Basically, the seeds are combed out of the cotton.

Cotton production rose significantly thanks to the cotton gin. In 1792 180,000 pounds of cotton were produced. Just two years later 6 million pounds were produced, thanks to the cotton gin. Eventually there came to be water and horse powered versions of the cotton gin which increased cotton yield even further.

Cotton cloth had been very expensive before the invention of the cotton gin. Afterwards, cotton cloth became the top selling textile in the world. Cotton was affordable and became the number one cash crop in the United States. The cotton gin really helped to change our nation, and the world, as it encouraged more cotton growth down South and factory growth in the Northeast and England.

Unfortunately Eli Whitney was not able to patent his design for several years after his initial invention. Many copied his design, resulting in Whitney not profiting from the cotton gin nearly as much as he could have. Planters bought gins to process cotton grown on the plantation. Factories were created to house gins and process the cotton.

Modern day cotton gins still operate with the same basic concept that Eli Whitney devised. However, additional services have been added to the original cotton gin design. Now gins can dry the cotton, moisturize it, sort it, clean it and bale it into bundles, getting the cotton completely ready for sale.

These steps have expedited the cotton trade for the modern grower. Nowadays the cotton gin is a one stop shop for cotton processing. Thanks to electric power and high velocity air blasting, fully automated modern cotton gins are able to produce 15 tons of cleaned cotton per hour.