VIVA 500: Cotton in Florida
February 28, 2013
The age of cotton is unknown. Scientists searching caves in Mexico found bits of cotton bolls and pieces of cotton cloth that proved to be at least 7,000 years old. In the Indus River Valley in Pakistan, cotton was being grown, spun and woven into cloth 3,000 years BC. At about the same time, natives of Egypt’s Nile valley were making and wearing cotton clothing. When Columbus discovered America in 1492, he found cotton growing in the Bahama Islands. By 1500, cotton was known generally worldwide.
Cotton seeds are believed to have been planted in Florida in 1556 and in Virginia in 1607. Cotton was first spun by machinery in England in 1730. The Industrial revolution in England and the invention of the cotton gin in the U.S. paved the way for the important place cotton holds in the world today. Eli Whitney, a native of Massachusetts, secured a patent on the cotton gin in 1793, though patent office records indicate that the first cotton gin may have been built by a machinist named Noah Homes two years before Whitney’s patent was filed. The gin, short for engine, could do the work 10 times faster than by hand.
The gin made it possible to supply large quantities of cotton fiber to the fast-growing textile industry. Within 10 years, the value of the U.S. cotton crop rose from $150,000 to more than $8 million.
Cotton’s Economic Benefits Today
Cotton is still an integral part of Florida’s economy all these years later. In 2011, cotton accounted for $49 million in Florida’s economy. Farmer’s grew over 120,000 acres of cotton and produced 180,000 bales of cotton.
Cotton Pests in Florida
The Cooperative Agriculture Pest Survey (CAPS) program is currently searching for the cotton seed bug in Monroe County. The cotton Seed bug is an active pest with potentially damaging effects in Florida. The cotton seed bug is native to Africa and it has become established in the Caribbean Basin. The cotton seed bug has been intercepted on numerous occasions on material from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. An infestation of the Cotton Seed bug was found in a trailer park in Stock Island, Monroe County, Florida in 2010. The bug has transparent wings, a dark body giving it a contrasting black and white appearance, and a head that resembles that of a rat. The bug is a seed feeder and is generally found eating the seeds of cotton in open bolls. The damaging effects go beyond the eating of the seeds. Sometimes, the bugs are crushed in the ginning process, staining the cotton.
If you spot this pest please contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Helpline at 888-397-1517. For more information on the cotton seed bug or the CAPS program visit www.freshfromflorida.com/pi!