U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund

U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund, Soil Health Institute

Soil Health is the Foundation for Regenerative Agriculture

Let's create a healthier future

The newly established U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund encourages the adoption of soil health management systems across more than 1 million acres of U.S. cotton cropland to mitigate the effects of climate change, improve cotton producers’ livelihoods, and create a more resilient future for all.

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Our goal is to draw down 1 million metric tons of CO2e from the atmosphere by 2026 through increased adoption of regenerative soil health practices by cotton producers.

Help Growers Adopt New Practices

The U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund is developing new tools to assist farmers with tapping into their soil health and soil carbon potentials. In addition to these tools, we’re also helping growers measure the benefits of regenerative agriculture practices and developing innovative education and training programs.

Led by the Soil Health Institute – an objective, science-based organization – the U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund is credibly measuring, modeling, and monitoring the benefits of soil health management system adoption to help its partners communicate these valuable outcomes to businesses, policymakers, and consumers.

Our Key Initiatives

Soil Health Targets & Soil Carbon Targets

Different soils have different capacities. The Soil Health Institute has developed an approach, called Soil Health Targets, that provides farmers, their advisers, conservation planners, and others with information on how healthy their particular soils can become. This includes information on how much carbon it can store and what that means for drought resilience, yield stability, and other benefits. Soil Health Targets will be established for all cotton producing soils across nine states.

Soil Health Economics

The economics experienced by cotton farmers will be assessed for those who have adopted regenerative soil health systems for more than five years, as well as for those just starting their regenerative soil health journey. This data will inform producers about what may be expected economically in both the long-term and during their transition to fully adopting a regenerative soil health system.

Economics of Soil Health Management Systems on Five Cotton Farms
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Soil Health Education

Farmer-to-farmer networks will be established and supported by farmer mentors, local technical specialists, and Soil Health Institute trainers and scientists to assist producers with identifying and implementing management practices and systems that work for their soils, climates, and personal and professional goals.

Impact Assessment

Improvements in soil health and carbon sequestration will be measured on participating farms, and the information may be used to drive more market demand for cotton grown using regenerative soil health systems.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) will be engaged to engender greater diversity and inclusion by providing opportunities for students and professionals to develop and enhance careers in decision-making positions in U.S. agriculture.

Regenerative Practices Significantly Benefit Cotton Growers

Cotton is grown in environments where weather extremes are intensifying. Regenerative practices such as cover cropping and no-tillage can increase soil organic carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce erosion, and improve a soil’s drought resilience.

Recent SHI research also shows these practices increase a farm’s profitability >

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The Soil Health Institute is rolling out the U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund program in four states – Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Georgia – with support from founding partner The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation. With additional support, the Soil Health Institute will expand into North Carolina, Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, and California. Collectively these nine states represent 85% of U.S. cotton production.

In each state, the Soil Health Institute is assessing the impact of adopting regenerative practices, such as increased soil organic carbon, increased plant-available water, and reduced greenhouse gases.

Advance Your Soil Health Journey with the Farmer Network

Cotton growers who participate in the U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund’s program will have access to a network of trusted farmer mentors. These mentors will share their experiences incorporating soil health management practices to help members navigate adoption of these practices on their own. The program will also provide some resources to participating farmers for cover cropping assistance.

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Farmer Network Mentors

Growers with experience implementing soil health management systems are a great resource for others looking to begin or advance their soil health journey. Their regional knowledge and lessons learned can benefit cotton growers as they adopt effective soil health practices.

Internship Program

The Fund’s summer internship program is designed to engage undergraduate students studying at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The purpose of the program is to engender greater diversity, equity and inclusion in U.S. agriculture by providing access and opportunity for young professionals to develop careers in decision-making positions.

Further Our Impact

We welcome partners to sponsor our work so we can continue providing scientifically sound assessments of the environmental and farmer benefits achieved through regenerative soil health systems. Those outcomes will be used to amplify factual farmer and public-facing messaging to help drive the demand for new adopters.

Our Supporters

The U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund is an initiative of the Soil Health Institute, made possible with the generous support of the following:

Founding Supporter

Leadership Supporter

Sustaining Supporter

Contributing Supporters

Key Collaborators

Frequently Asked Questions

Soil is essential to all human life on earth. It nourishes and provides support for the livelihood of more than 7 billion people, benefits our water and wildlife, serves important roles in both climate change mitigation and adaptation, is a source of biodiversity, and provides many other benefits.

Yet, in the last century, soils have lost 40-60% of the basic building block that makes them productive, organic matter. Greenhouse gas emissions have reached the highest level ever recorded and are continuing to increase. Drought is expected to increase from impacting 1% of the world’s arable land to over 30% by the end of the century due to climate change. Approximately 80% of our nation’s rivers and streams are currently impaired due to nutrient runoff and other contaminants.

We are at a critical juncture in human history where we must address these challenges by transforming agriculture, and soil health is the framework to do just that.

That is why the Soil Health Institute is establishing the U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund with financial support from the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation. This Fund will bring together a diverse group of farmers, advisors, landowners, conservationists, soil scientists, agronomists, educators, business leaders, philanthropies and influential individuals who share a common belief that, together, through soil health, we can support farmers in tackling the barriers they face when transitioning to regenerative soil health systems.

The U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund is a national initiative established and led by the Soil Health Institute. With its mission of safeguarding and enhancing the vitality and productivity of soils, the Institute serves as the objective, science-based, non-profit organization responsible for assisting cotton farmers with adopting regenerative soil health systems and measuring their environmental and economic outcomes for farmers, consumers, businesses, and policymakers.

The Fund’s goal is to drawdown C02e from the atmosphere through regenerative soil health systems by sequestering atmospheric carbon into soil carbon . Soil health systems – through improved nutrient cycling and nutrient management – can also reduce emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas; however, that is not accounted for in the US Regenerative Cotton Fund’s goal.

SHI sees opportunities that would allow cotton growers to measure and report their soil health improvements in the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol. Consequently, SHI is committed to working synergistically with the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol to bring those benefits to growers and the U.S. cotton industry.

No. The Soil Health Institute is focused on supporting growers with adopting regenerative soil health systems, and that does include quantifying the benefits to growers and the environment. However, SHI does not issue carbon credits.

Information, updates, and opportunities to participate alongside the Soil Health Institute on the economics of soil health systems, soil health and soil carbon targets, and farmer-to-farmer mentoring networks in Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

The U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund will partner with existing and new producer-led mentoring networks to drive hands-on education and support for farmers from producers, advisors, local technical specialists and Soil Health Institute trainers. These mentor programs allow new adopters to learn how other farmers have successfully implemented regenerative practices, while also learning from local technical experts to assist with that transition.

Soil health is the foundation of regenerative agriculture. That’s what we do when we improve soil health – we are regenerating the soil. That is also why you often see the Principles of Regenerative Agriculture described as the same Principles for Soil Health. When growers improve soil health they are regenerating a soil’s capacity to function and optimizing its capacity to efficiently cycle carbon, water, and nutrients. A recent study found that soil health is the prevailing outcome most frequently identified for regenerative agriculture.

A cover crop is a crop that is planted between successive cash crops to improve soil health or provide other conservation benefits by keeping a living root in the soil and the soil surface covered. (A cash crop is a crop that is planted to be harvested and sold such as cotton, corn, soybean, wheat, or others.)

Using an approach called Soil Health and Soil Carbon Targets, the U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund will provide farmers, their advisers, conservation planners, and others with information on how they can improve and measure the health of their soil. This will include information on how much carbon it can store and what soil health improvement means for drought resilience, yield stability, trafficability, nutrient cycling, and other benefits. Soil Health and Soil Carbon Targets will be initiated in four states and established for all cotton producing soils across nine states as additional funding is secured.

According to the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture (2017), cotton is produced on approximately 11.4MM acres in the U.S.

Today, cotton production in the United States underutilizes basic climate-friendly soil health practices. According to the USDA Ag. Census, only about eight percent of land in the top ten cotton producing states is managed using cover cropping and 21 percent is managed using no tillage.

SHI will use a variety of methods to quantify progress including soil measurement, modeling, and farmer surveys.

Impacts of adopting regenerative soil health systems will be assessed on participating farmers’ soils by measuring such attributes as soil organic carbon, bulk density, aggregate stability, total nitrogen, soil microbial respiration, plant-available water, and other parameters that will assist in establishing baseline levels and monitoring improvements in soil health.

In addition, we will quantify regenerative soil health system benefits to the environment by modeling changes in greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient runoff, and nutrient leaching on participating farms.

Most of our learnings on the economics of soil health have been in corn-soybean systems. The results of that work can be found here. As part of the U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund, SHI will replicate our partial budget analysis process with cotton growers to determine their economic experiences with adopting soil health systems. We expect this to provide key information important to growers.

The U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative is designed to provide internships to students at four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), expanding to more HBCUs as time goes on. The goal of these internships is to engender greater diversity and inclusion by providing opportunities for students to develop and enhance scientific careers in decision-making positions in U.S. agriculture, specifically in emerging fields of soil health and regenerative agriculture.

The first phase of The U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund work is rolling out in four states – Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Georgia. With additional funding and support, the program will expand into North Carolina, Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, and California. Collectively, these nine states represent approximately 85% of U.S. cotton production.


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