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Wrangler Launches Soil Health Pilot Program to Bolster Sustainable Cotton Supply

From left to right are Newby family members James, John, Jimmy, Elizabeth and Jerry Allen. | Image Credit: Alicia Looney Photography  

The fashion and textile industry is in the midst of a paradigm shift with key industry stakeholders working to drive sustainable cotton towards the mainstream. Just a week after the release of Forum of the Future’s new report Cotton 2040: Proposals for Cross-Industry Workstreams to Mainstream Sustainable Cotton, American denim brand Wrangler has announced a new pilot program focused on improved soil health through sustainable growing methods. The announcement was made at SB ’17 Detroit, where Wrangler co-hosted the Good Apparel pavilion.

The U.S. cotton industry, from which Wrangler purchases roughly half of the cotton for its products, outperforms most other cotton growing regions across the globe on environmental metrics. However, Wrangler wants to determine how even greater environmental and economic benefits can be achieved through a programmatic focus on soil health.

“Scientific research shows greater attention to soil health can further reduce the water and energy inputs required to grow cotton and other crops,” said Roian Atwood, Sustainability Director at Wrangler. “We’re working with a cotton grower in Alabama to explore the best way to implement and measure the effects of robust soil practices such as no-till, crop rotation and cover cropping. We hope to have dozens of growers in the program within a few years.”

The Newby’s — a family of seventh-generation farmers from Athens, AL — will work with Wrangler and advisors from the Soil Health Institute (SHI) to unlock further improvements in cotton yield, irrigation, energy inputs, greenhouse gas emissions and soil conservation. Fory-thousand pounds of the Newby’s cotton will be used to make a special collection of Wrangler denim jeans that will be sold in 2018.

“Our family has always looked for new ways to make farming more economical, while taking better care of the land,” said Jerry Allen Newby. “There’s been a learning curve, but we’re beginning to see good results with things like cover crops and soil grid mapping. We’re happy to share what we’ve learned and maybe make it easier for other growers to transition to these practices.”

The pilot program builds on Wrangler’s commitment to supporting U.S. farming communities. The company has been a corporate sponsor of Future Farmers of America (FFA) for more than 50 years and recently hosted a conference at Wrangler headquarters in Greensboro, NC to educate FFA youth on the science of soil health.

In addition to the cotton pilot project and soil health education, other programs include a commitment to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2025, zero waste facilities and process and technology improvements that have saved three billion liters of water over the last decade.

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