Cotton is righteously being praised as the 'white gold'. Apart from the pallid shade, what are the other hues naturally available in cotton? What are the virtues, and commercial viabilities of naturally colored cotton?

Cotton is an ancient fibre known for its versatility, natural comfort and performance. But the process of cultivation of cotton involves the application of pesticides, and chemical fertilizers, much of which are causing devastating health hazards. Textile industry is also condemned for is usage of chemicals in the dying process. Dyes used in textiles release aromatic amines. The effluents contain heavy metals, toxic solids, and huge volumes of hazardous pigments.

Growing cotton without chemicals and harmful pesticides is now considered environment friendly and biodynamic. It is a positive solution to all the health hazards caused by conventional cotton cultivation, and dyeing process. Naturally pigmented cotton eliminates all the issues regarding processing and dyeing.

Naturally colored cotton dates back to more than 5000 years. Historical evidences exist regarding the usage of naturally colored cotton with pink and brown tint. They are naturally pigmented fibres. The color of the cotton comes due to the plants inherent genetic properties. Based on climate and soil variations, the shades may vary. Brown, black, red, khaki, pink, mahogany, green and off-white are a few hues available.

Virtues of naturally colored cotton:

This is produced without the use of chemicals, pesticides, bleaches, and artificial dyes. Born colored, it is non-allergic, and gives a soft feel to the skin, along with a pleasant aroma. They are eco friendly, as they avoid the usage of carcinogenic dyes, and chemicals in the fabric. They also minimize the effluents of dyeing industries, which pollute the environment, and water resources. Naturally colored cotton does not fade during multiple washes as in conventional dyed cotton. The color only becomes

stronger. During the laundering process, the molecules will reorient to become smoother; thereby the color appears to become brighter.


To get more insightful explanation regarding the same, Fibre2Fashion had an interaction with Dr. Shreekant S Patil, Senior Cotton Breeder & Dr. Manjula Maralappanavar, Senior Scientist (Plant Breeding), All India Co-ordinated Cotton Improvement Project, University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad.


What inspired you to develop the colored cotton?

"Some germplasm lines were maintained, they were very poor with respect to yield and fiber quality, hence not commercially viable either for cultivation or textile industry. They had to be improved for these to make them useful. A project funded by CCI was in operation under which these activities were initiated in 1996. "


What kind of modification is involved - is it genetic modification or something else? How long did it take to reach satisfactory results?

"It is not genetic modification the colored cottons are improved through conventional breeding/genetic improvement by using the improved white linted genotypes for crossing. Its more than a decade and is a continuous process."

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Please apprise us with the qualities of the new colored cotton. How is it different from the regular cotton apart from the color?


"You can get the data in the attached file. The colored cottons have been improved for fiber quality and yield potential to make it possible to use them for machine spinning and using for diverse fabric production. However they have to be and are being further improved for fiber quality. "

Which colors have you come up with? Any plans to add more colors?


"We have shades of brown and one green color. Efforts are on to transfer the genes from flowering plants (petunia and snapdragon) in the direction to diversify the colors but a long long way to go. "

How ecologically and economically viable is it?

"Very ecologically and economically viable because no dyes are used and no processing also, directly, spinning and weaving."


How will it benefit the textile industry? What is your vision for this product?

"Has a very good potential in this eco aware and organic era, has large export potential also."

Can this be taken to mass commercial production? If yes, how and if not, why?


"Can be taken, except for one care, as colored cottons have to be grown in isolation from white cottons(they can contaminate white cotton upon crossing), these can be grown in isolated patches/ villages to make it possible. Also the buyback arrangement has to be done in advance as this cannot be sold in open markets. It has to be cultivated under the technical supervision to maintain isolation and see that there is no seed pilferage. "

What reactions has it got from the industry members?


"Many industries are interested but a link has to be developed between the growers, industry and UAS, Dharwad with an MOU to take care of the above points."

Limitations of Cultivation:

No product is an unmixed blessing, and color cotton has its own limitations. They yield less per acre. This cotton fibre is small, and does not suit heavy machine spinning. Naturally colored cotton has failed to face the rapid industrial turnover.


Using colored cotton creates awareness about preserving environment to the present as well as to our future generations.




2) Development of Naturally colored gossypium hirsutum cotton genotypes suitable for
      textile industry through genetic improvement, Dr. Manjula.