Findings from its report, “Seeding Soil’s Potential,” emphasize the efficiency of emerging sustainable farming practices that can help “build the soil’s capacity to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans.” Its report is the culmination of research evaluated from more than 45 scientific papers and reviews across academic, government and industry researchers, the company said. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services, The Nature Conservancy and the Soil Health Institute are among the organizations that reviewed and validated Wrangler’s research.
Wrangler’s study concluded that the practices of “conservation tillage, cover crops and crop rotation result in the removal of three times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere as conventional farming methods, while improving crop yields and reducing costs.” The brand said it has shifted its focus to soil to bolster its supply of sustainable cotton; better evaluate the impacts of sustainable cotton farming techniques, and spotlight growers that have successfully adopted and implemented the growth of sustainable cotton. Wrangler introduced its soil health pilot program in 2017 and has pledged to double its use of sustainably farmed cotton by 2019.
“Cotton cultivation practices can disturb and degrade the soil with tillage, bare soil surfaces, chemical inputs and continuous monoculture crop production,” Wrangler said. In addition, Wrangler publicly announced its goal to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2025 and to reduce water usage at its facilities by 20 percent by 2010. And the brand celebrated a milestone in 2016 of three billion liters of water saved since 2007.
Wrangler reported that its soil health pilot program includes five cotton producers, representing farms in: Halls, Tennessee; Athens, Ala.; Albany, Ga.; Conway, N.C., and Big Spring, Texas. Cotton is grown on about 12.5 million acres in the U.S. across the Southeast and Southwest regions, according to Wrangler. Roian Atwood, director of sustainability for Wrangler, said, “Wrangler believes that our supply chain does not begin with fabric or cotton. It begins with soil and the land itself. Preserving and enhancing the health of soil is critical and necessary to the preservation of America’s denim heritage and future generations of people who work the land.”
Atwood told WWD, “Agricultural systems, similar to manufacturing systems, function on material flows and ultimately are measured on their efficiency. Sustainability performance can peak when there is no more efficiency to be gained or when additional opportunities for sustainability go unnoticed. In the past, soil’s role in agricultural systems wasn’t evaluated, but increasingly farmers are seeing the advantages, both economically and environmentally of a more efficient, healthy soil.” Atwood continued, “It’s simple, you wouldn’t ask a facility without sewing machines to sew your products; it’s not efficient. If soils are depleted, we have inefficient cotton plants, that need more inputs like chemicals and water, and are susceptible to weather events and pests.”
Eugene Pugh, the program partner and cotton farmer in Tennessee, said, “We’ve experienced the benefits of combining these three practices. It’s allowing us to decrease our inputs while maintaining, and even improving, yield. And at the same time, our soil is improving with each passing season. That feels really good.”
And Wayne Honeycutt, president and chief executive officer of the Soil Health Institute, said, “I’m grateful Wrangler has taken up this cause, because the potential to transform agricultural lands with soil health practices is tremendous. If farmers adopt these practices globally, we’ll have much greater resiliency in our food and fiber production. We’ll also have cleaner water and air, and we can draw carbon out of the air to regenerate our soils for current and future generations.”
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