Cotton Complexities in South India

A cotton worker and her son rest in between packing cotton into a gin on the outskirts of Warangal, Telangana.

By Andrew Flachs, Assistant Professor of Anthropology (Purdue University)

As more than 1 billion people around the world gather to celebrate Diwali, cotton is nearly ready to pick in Telangana, India. A few years ago, Telangana cotton farmer Shiva and I travelled to the city to buy name-brand cottonseeds from a shop with a reputation for selling high-quality agricultural inputs like seeds and pesticides. The seeds Shiva sowed in June brought forth a terrific harvest that year, withstanding pest attacks, and redoubling investments in pesticide sprays, fertilizers, labor, and plowing. Ripe bolls, having withstood the vagaries of an increasingly unpredictable monsoon and new insect pest cycles, bring the promise of fireworks, new clothes, presents, and parties when sold in time for the late autumn festivities. Farmers like Shiva can breathe sighs of relief, content that, this year, their gambles have paid off.

Searching for the lost traits of an extinct crop

By Daniel R. Williams. Daniel's research won the Best Ethnobiology Poster Award at this years meetings in Madison, WI.

"It's a bit like Jurassic Park," I told a greenhouse visitor while I tucked another inflorescence into a glassine paper bag. "People ate this like quinoa almost 4000 years ago. The variety grown here vanished hundreds of years ago, but with a bit of work we can bring it back."