Clarksdale, Mississippi - It took Bowen Flowers and his men only two days to harvest a thousand acres of cotton. By sunset, this was just about the only cotton left to pick. (@radiosmith/NPR)
Clarksdale, Mississippi - Bowen Flowers (the tall one) has 4000 acres of cotton. He gives a tour to reporter Robert Smith minutes before the harvest begins. Genetic engineering has created cotton plants that yield more than ever before while keeping away pests and weeds. Bowen says the goal is always to harvest more cotton with fewer human hands. (@radiosmith@jessjnpr/NPR)
Clarksdale, Mississippi - The last stop on our t-shirt reporting project is back to the beginning. The cotton harvest. We traced the fiber in our t-shirt back to the Mississippi delta and today we’ll see how its done. Here’s one new thing: instead of a motel, we are staying in refurbished cotton shacks like the one above. The folks at the Shack Up Inn are being gracious hosts for our team. And we can see our cotton fields from the window. (@radiosmith@jessjnpr/NPR)
Miami, Florida - The cargo ship that carried our women’s tee from Cartagena, Colombia just pulled in! (Eric Helton/NPR)
Lubbock, Texas - We’re spending the day out in the cotton test fields with biologist Cindy Green. She’s showing us fiber length and strength the old fashioned way: with her fingers. These days, she says, high tech machines do the measurements to the micron, but you can still eyeball a beauty. Next: cotton sex-ed. (@radiosmith/NPR)
Lubbock, Texas - This is how your t-shirt was conceived and born:
1. The cream-colored cotton flower blooms in the morning and is only fertile for one day. Usually it pollinates itself, unless breeders get their fingernails in there to mix and match.
2. The pretty pink flower means the cotton sex was successful. The petals are dying, and in their place grows…
3. The cotton boll. Size of a golf ball. It contains some fuzzy seeds and the cotton lint.
4. When it dries… BAM! The cotton fibers burst out.
Harvesting this complicated boll is a whole other story. We’ll be reporting on that in a couple of weeks from Mississippi. (@radiosmith/NPR)