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Robust Data From the Field
All Trust Protocol grower members enter data from their fields on key sustainability metrics for that crop year, and all data collected is then aggregated. Individual data or information is never shared.
The Trust Protocol focuses on six key sustainability metrics – water use, energy efficiency, land use, soil health, soil carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. The program’s data collection and verification process contains multiple stages but starts when each grower member answers a self-assessment which is regionalized and classified by irrigated and non-irrigated practices. After growers complete all steps of enrollment, the program provides data in aggregate form. Growers are then able to understand how they compare to their regional, state and national metrics, and are able to adjust their practices as such. The program gives them the opportunity to understand how they measure, and therefore improve.
Data for the 2021/22 year highlights how Trust Protocol grower members are continuously improving, implementing sustainable practices, and are on target to meet or exceed the 2025 National Goals.
The 2025 National Goal is a 13% increase of land use efficiency. The 2015 baseline was 48 square feet required for producing a pound of cotton. In 2021/22, Trust Protocol grower members used 41 square feet, a 13% improvement per pound of cotton fiber produced meeting the 2025 National Goal on land use efficiency.
There are many misconceptions about water use in cotton production. In fact, two thirds of cotton produced in the U.S. is not irrigated, and is grown only using natural rainfall. The 2025 National Goal for water use is to increase efficiency by 18%. In 2021/22, Trust Protocol grower members increased their water efficiency by 14% compared to the 2015 baseline, putting them on track to meet the 2025 goal.
The 2025 National Goal for energy use is a decrease of 15%. In 2021/22, Trust Protocol growers reduced their energy use 25% compared to the 2015 baseline. Therefore, Trust Protocol grower members have reduced their energy use more than the 2025 goal.
The 2025 National Goals for greenhouse gas emissions is a reduction of 39%. Relative to the 2015 baseline, the 2021/22 Trust Protocol grower members showed improvement by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 21% as they work to reach the 2025 goal.
The 2025 National Goal for soil loss is a reduction of 50%. In 2021/22, Trust Protocol grower members reduced their soil loss by 78% compared to the 2015 baseline meaning they have surpassed the 2025 goal. Trust Protocol grower members are adopting new techniques to improve soil health with the hope of further increasing efficiency to reduce soil loss.
Soil carbon metrics are calculated by a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) tool, the Soil Conditioning Index (SCI). SCI index ranges from -1.0 to +1.0. If the calculated index is a negative value, soil organic matter levels are predicted to decline and if the index is positive value, soil organic matter levels are predicted to increase. The 2025 National Goal for soil carbon is to focus on 30% of grower members to be in positive SCI improvement. For the 2021/22 crop year, 70% of Trust Protocol grower members had a positive index value, meaning the soil health was well maintained.
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Regenerative Agriculture and Biodiversity
Regenerative agriculture describes farming practices that can reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring soil biodiversity – resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle. It looks at the combination of practices that support resilience as well as builds and nourishes the ecosystem in a holistic manner.
5 Major Principles of Regenerative Agriculture
The Trust Protocol’s recommended practices for grower members reflect core principles of regenerative agriculture. The program focuses on practices that minimize soil disturbance and loss, maintain living roots year-round, keep the soil covered, and maximize crop diversity. Farmers can also integrate livestock where feasible.
- 79% of Trust Protocol grower members maintain erosion control structures for minimizing soil loss
- 45% of Trust Protocol grower members incorporate windbreaks for erosion control
- Trust Protocol grower members plant cover crops that encourage food security and reduce atmospheric carbon
- 93% of Trust Protocol grower members practice conservation tillage which reduces soil loss by 74% compared to the 2015 baseline
- Trust Protocol grower members maximize biodiversity by practicing crop rotation, which increases soil organic matter, decreases greenhouse gas emissions, and produces healthier soil
The Trust Protocol’s vision is to set a new standard in sustainable cotton production where full transparency is a reality and continuous improvement to reduce our environmental footprint is the central goal. Regenerative agriculture aims for net positives, and calls for growers to continually improve their practices and techniques. Practices such as conservation tillage and cover crops aid soil health and increase soil carbon levels.
Regenerative agriculture builds upon the positive environmental impacts of sustainable practices, aiming for a whole systems approach to bio-sequestration, biodiversity, ecotoxicity, climate resilience, water systems, micronutrients, and ecosystem services.