Gossypium barbadense

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Gossypium barbadense
Gossypium barbadense.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Gossypium
Species: G. barbadense
Binomial name
Gossypium barbadense

Gossypium barbadense, also known as extra long staple (ELS) cotton[1] as it generally has a staple of at least 1 3/8" or longer,[2] and also as sea island cotton, is a species of cotton plant. Varieties of ELS cotton include American Pima, Egyptian Giza, Indian Suvin, Chinese xinjiang, Sudanese Barakat, and Russian Tonkovoloknistyi.[2][clarification needed] It is a tropical, frost-sensitive perennial plant that produces yellow flowers and has black seeds. It grows as a small, bushy tree and yields cotton with unusually long, silky fibers. To grow, it requires full sun and high humidity and rainfall.

This plant contains the chemical gossypol, which reduces its susceptibility to insect and fungal damage. In Suriname’s traditional medicine, the leaves of G. barbadense are used to treat hypertension and delayed/irregular menstruation.[3]


The name Pima was applied in honor of the Pima Indians, who helped raise the cotton on USDA experimental farms in Arizona in the early 1900s.[4] The first clear sign of domestication of this cotton species comes the Early Valdivia phase site of Real Alto on the coast of Ecuador (4400 BCE) and from Ancon (archaeological site), on the Peruvian coast, where cotton bolls dating to 4200 BCE were found.

According to other accounts, Real Alto cotton is dated to 3500-3000 BCE, and the oldest coastal Peru cotton is dated 2500 BCE.[5]

By 1000 BCE, Peruvian cotton bolls were indistinguishable from modern cultivars of G. barbadense. Cotton growing became widespread in South America and spread to the West Indies, where Christopher Columbus encountered it. Cotton became a commercial plantation crop tended by slaves in the West Indies, so that by the 1650s, Barbados had become the first British West Indies colony to export cotton.[6]

Sea Island cotton[edit]

In about 1786, planting of Sea Island cotton began in the former British North American colonies, on the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia, when cotton planters were brought over from Barbados.[7] Among the earliest planters of Sea Island cotton in America was an Englishman, Francis Levett, who later fled his Georgia plantation at the outbreak of the American Revolution and went to the Bahamas, where he attempted to introduce cotton production, but failed. Sea Island cotton commanded the highest price of all the cottons, due to its long staple (1.5 to 2.5 inches, 35 to 60 mm) and its silky texture; it was used for the finest cotton counts and often mixed with silk. It was also grown on the uplands of Georgia, where the quality was inferior,[7] and was soon surpassed in commercial production by another native American species, upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum), which today represents about 95% of U.S. production.

Egyptian cotton[edit]

The term Egyptian cotton is usually applied to the extra long staple cotton produced in Egypt[8] and used by luxury and upmarket brands worldwide. It also has the most upper thread count, ranging up to 1000 threads per square inch.[8]

United States agricultural policy[edit]

American Pima accounts for less than 5% of U.S. cotton production. It is grown chiefly in California, with small acreages in West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.[4]

For purposes of federal support, the 2002 farm bill (P.L. 101-171, Sec. 1001) defined ELS cotton.

ELS cotton, like upland cotton, is eligible for marketing assistance loans and loan deficiency payments (LDPs). The national loan rate for ELS cotton under the 2002 farm bill was $0.7977 per pound. ELS cotton, in contrast to upland cotton, does not qualify for direct payments or counter-cyclical payments.[4]


  1. ^ "7 USC 7202 – Sec. 7202. Definitions". vLex. Retrieved November 20, 2011. The term "extra long staple cotton" means cotton ... that is produced from pure strain varieties of the Barbadense species or any hybrid thereof, or other similar types of extra long staple cotton. 
  2. ^ a b Goggin, Brian (December 1991). "Extra-long staple cotton report – production and export statistics for marketing year 1989/90-1991/92 including USSR, Egypt, Israel, Peru and Sudan; U.S. pima cotton production and export statistics". U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service report. Retrieved November 20, 2011. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Medicinal Plants of the Guianas (Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana)" (PDF). Smithsonian – Department of Botany. p. 183. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c Womach, Jasper (ed.). "Agriculture: A Glossary of Terms, Programs, and Laws, 2005 Edition, Order Code 97-905" (PDF). Congressional Research Service – The Library of Congress. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  5. ^ Damp, J. E.; Pearsall, D. M. (1994). "Early cotton from coastal Ecuador". Economic Botany 48 (2): 163. doi:10.1007/BF02908209. 
  6. ^ Sauer, J.D. (1993). Historical Geography of Crop Plants: a Select Roster. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press. ISBN 0-8493-8901-1. 
  7. ^ a b Ecroyd, S., ed. (1910). Cotton Year Book 1910. The Textile Mercury. pp. 12–13. 
  8. ^ a b "About Egyptian Cotton and Thread Counts". King of Cotton. Retrieved 27 May 2015. 

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