Cotton was first domesticated in the Old World about 7,000 years ago; the earliest archaeological evidence for cotton is from the Neolithic occupation of Mehrgarh, during the sixth millennium BC. The two main species, G. arboreum and G. herbaceum, are genetically very different and probably diverged well before domestication. Cultivation of G. arboreum began in the Indus Valley of India and Pakistan, and then eventually spread over Africa and Asia, whereas G. herbaceum was first cultivated in Arabia and Syria. Specialists agree that the wild progenitor of G. herbaceum was an African species, whereas the ancestor of G. arboreum is still unknown. Regions of possible origin of the G. arboreum wild progenitor vary from Madagascar and the Indus Valley, where the most ancient evidence of cultivated cotton was found. The earliest cultivation of cotton discovered thus far in the Americas occurred in Mexico, some 5,000 years ago. The indigenous species was Gossypium hirsutum which is today the most widely planted species of cotton in the world, constituting about 90% of all production worldwide. The greatest diversity of wild cotton species is found in Mexico, followed by Australia and Africa.
In Peru, cultivation of the indigenous cotton species Gossypium barbadense was the backbone of the development of coastal cultures such as the Norte Chico, Moche and Nazca. Cotton was grown upriver, made into nets and traded with fishing villages along the coast for large supplies of fish. The Spanish who came to Mexico in the early 1500s found the people growing cotton and wearing clothing made of it. During the late medieval period, cotton became known as an imported fiber in northern Europe, without any knowledge of how it was derived, other than that it was a plant; noting its similarities to wool, people in the region could only imagine that cotton must be produced by plant-borne sheep. Extra-Long Staple (ELS) cotton has been grown in the Southwest United States since the early-1900's, but it wasn't until mid-century that much attention was given to the new cotton.
The real breakthrough came in 1951 when a seed was developed and introduced that produced an ELS cotton with superior fiber properties, luster and silkiness...as well as an unusually high yield. Subsequent variety releases in the 1970's, 80s and 90's included Pima S-5, S-6 and S-7, all of which boasted higher yields and better spinning characteristics.The name "Pima" was applied to ELS cotton (previously called American-Egyptian) being developed in the U.S. desert southwest in the early 1900's. The name was given in honor of the Pima Indians who were helping to raise the ELS cotton on the USDA experimental farm in Sacaton, Arizona. Although South America is the center of origin of the species gossypium barbadense, to which ELS cottons belong, these cottons were photoperiodic, and the fiber was medium staple in length and coarse, as typified by the current Tanguis cottons of Peru.iii The origin of true extra-long staple cottons can be traced to the introduction of Sea Island to the U.S. in 1786 from seed received from the Bahama Islands, an area from which Columbus is reputed to have taken Sea Island samples to Europe in 1492.iv The g. barbadense cotton that first appeared in the U.S. in 1786, where it became known as Sea Island, had strikingly different fiber properties from the native g. barbadense of South America.v The exact origin of Sea Island cotton is unknown, but geneticists suggest that the most logical hypothesis to explain the ELS type was that it developed by transgressive inheritance through the introgression of length genes from outside the species, possibly from g. hirsutum. The first successful crop of Sea Island was produced by William Elliott on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina in 1790. Although production of this ELS cotton later expanded into the interior regions of Georgia and Florida, the best Sea Island cottons were grown on the Sea Islands; James, Edisto, John and Wadmalaw.vii The crop continued until 1920, when a severe boll weevil infestation had made it unprofitable. Attempts to revive the Sea Island industry in the U.S. in the 1930's failed. The evolution of ELS cottons began in 1825 when Sea Island cotton was brought into Egypt and crossed with a tree cotton named Jumel. The crossing of Jumel and Sea Island resulted in the development of Ashmouni in about 1860. The next several Egyptian cultivars were derived either by selecting within Ashmouni or from crosses of Ashmouni and Sea Island. The successful utilization of inbreeding between the years 1910 and 1940 led to the gradual development of Egyptian cottons that could compete with the quality of Sea Island.viii (It's important to note here that during the development of these later cottons, no germplasm from outside Egypt was used.). The first ELS cultivar released by the USDA was "Yuma" in 1908. It was selected from Mitafifi, an Egyptian cultivar developed in 1887 from a cross of Ashmouni and Sea Island, and was introduced into the southwestern U.S. in about 1900.ix The first commercial ELS crop in the U.S. was produced in 1912 375 bales. Between 1908 and 1949, four additional Pima varieties were developed from the Egyptian germplasm base and released: "Pima","SXP", "Amsak" and "Pima 32". At about the same time "Yuma" was being developed, the Egyptian variety Mitafifi was introduced into Peru.x The same source traces the arrival of American Pima cotton seed into Peru to 1923. However, a Peruvian Cotton information sheet distributed by the Junta Nacional Del Algodon (national cotton association) says Peruvian Pima originated from the "Yuma" cotton developed in Sacaton, Arizona, and was first grown in Peru in 1918. Dr. Carl V. Feaster, a longtime Pima breeder and geneticist, and known around the world as the father of modern-day Pima cottons, says he doubts the first Peruvian Pimas were actually Yuma, but more than likely were Pima, which was grown in the U.S. from 1918 - 1941. He said Pima was a selection from "Yuma" and its fiber characteristics more closely match those of Peruvian Pima's at the time. By 1930, Pima production had reached 28,307 bales in Peru, while the production of Mitafifi was quickly diminishing, soon to be all but extinct. The contrast of the white, fluffy Cotton bolls against the background of the arid coast has formed part of the Peruvian landscape for over 5000 years.
In Peru, cultivation of the indigenous Cotton species (gossypium barbadense) was the backbone of the development of the pre-Columbian coastal cultures of the Norte Chicho, Moche and the Nazca. Cotton was grown upriver, made into nets and traded with fishing villages along the coast for large supplies of fish. The Incas also harvested Cotton and used it both for practical reasons and artistic purposes. Their Cotton weaving techniques and the quality of their textiles impressed even the Spanish Conquistadores.Today, the name Pima Cotton is used after the Pima Indians who first harvested this type of Cotton in the United States. But make no mistake; the historical origins of this plant are distinctly South American. Peruvian Pima Cotton is still cultivated in the Northern coastal valleys of Piura and Chira, as it has been for thousands of years. The climate and soil conditions there are perfect, with ideal seasonal rainfall, long days of Peruvian sunshine and high temperatures.Peruvian Pima Cotton is particularly sought for because of its extraordinary fiber length of up to 42mm. Pima Cotton fibers can be more than double the length of standard Cottons, a fact that gives Pima Cotton some distinct and very desirable qualities: Longer fibers produce stronger and finer yarns by allowing fibers to twist around each other more times. Peruvian Pima Cotton is thus known for its silky softness, its durability and resistance to pilling. Furthermore, in Peru, Cotton is still handpicked resulting in a brilliant white shade that can be easily dyed. Wearing genuine Peruvian Pima Cotton is a very unique experience.
Cotton is used to make a number of textile products. These include terrycloth, used to make highly absorbent bath towels and robes; denim, used to make blue jeans; chambray, popularly used in the manufacture of blue work shirts (from which we get the term "blue-collar"); and corduroy, seersucker, and cotton twill. Socks, underwear, and most T-shirts are made from cotton. Bed sheets often are made from cotton. Cotton also is used to make yarn used in crochet and knitting. Fabric also can be made from recycled or recovered cotton that otherwise would be thrown away during the spinning, weaving, or cutting process. While many fabrics are made completely of cotton, some materials blend cotton with other fibers, including rayon and synthetic fibers such as polyester. In addition to the textile industry, cotton is used in fishnets, coffee filters, tents, gunpowder (see Nitrocellulose), cotton paper, and in bookbinding. The first Chinese paper was made of cotton fiber. Fire hoses were once made of cotton. The cottonseed which remains after the cotton is ginned is used to produce cottonseed oil, which, after refining, can be consumed by humans like any other vegetable oil. The cottonseed meal that is left generally is fed to livestock. During slavery, cotton root bark was used as an abortifacient, that is, a folk remedy to provoke abortion. Cotton linters are fine, silky fibers which adhere to the seeds of the cotton plant after ginning. These curly fibers typically are less than 1/8 in, 3mm, long. The term also may apply to the longer textile fiber staple lint as well as the shorter fuzzy fibers from some upland species. Linters are traditionally used in the manufacture of paper and as a raw material in the manufacture of cellulose. Shiny cotton is a processed version of the fiber that can be made into cloth resembling satin for shirts and suits. However, its hydrophobic property of not easily taking up water makes it unfit for the purpose of bath and dish towels (although examples of these made from shiny cotton are seen). The term Egyptian cotton refers to the extra long staple cotton grown in Egypt and favored for the luxury and upmarket brands worldwide. During the U.S. Civil War, with heavy European investments, Egyptian-grown cotton became a major alternate source for British textile mills. Egyptian cotton is more durable and softer than American Pima cotton, which is why it is more expensive. Pima cotton is American cotton that is grown in the south western states of the U.S. In South Asia, cotton is widely used in mattresses, which are the most common type of mattress used in that region.