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What are some facts about cotton?

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Quick Answer

Cotton is a major agricultural crop in the United States and has been cultivated throughout the world for more than 5,000 years. The best-selling fabric in the world, cotton is an excellent choice for clothing year round, but in ancient Egypt, it was reserved for only the high priest to wear. As of 2015, China and India produce the most cotton worldwide.

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Farmers grow 98 percent of all cotton produced in the United States in 14 states stretching from South Carolina in the east to California in the west, with Texas ranking as the top cotton-producing state in the nation. Approximately 3,500 U.S. farms grow cotton, and the United States accounts for about 20 percent of the world's crop. The country's cotton industry generates about 200,000 jobs and more than $25 billion dollars.

Most people likely think of cotton as white, but it is possible to grow it in a number of colors, including rust, brown and light purple. Not only used for fabric, cotton comprises 75 percent of paper made in America, even paper currency, and cottonseed supplements dairy feed and also acts as a source of oil. The filament in Thomas Edison's first light bulb was cotton.

Inventions that greatly impacted the cotton industry include spinning machines and the cotton gin. The first cotton was spun by machine in 1730. In 1794, American inventor Eli Whitney patented the gin, which sped up the process of removing seeds from the cotton crop.

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