For Wrangler, sustainable farming is helping to drive a more sustainable supply chain for its denim.
In a new report examining the environmental and economic benefits of sustainable farming practices, Wrangler evaluated 45 scientific reports and found that conservation tillage, cover crops and long-term crop rotation can remove three times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere as conventional farming methods. It also improves crop yields and cuts costs.
“Wrangler believes that our supply chain does not begin with fabric or cotton. It begins with soil and the land itself,” Roian Atwood, Wrangler director of sustainability, said. “Preserving and enhancing the health of soil is critical and necessary to the preservation of America’s denim heritage and future generations of people who work the land.”
The report indicates that cultivation practices can “disturb and degrade the soil with tillage, bare soil surfaces, chemical inputs, and continuous monoculture crop production.” However, new farming practices can build the soil’s capacity to function as a “vital living ecosystem.”
Conservation cotton tillage, which includes a range of practices to reduce soil disturbance, is among the three better practices named in the report. By utilizing conservation tillage practices such as keeping plant resident on the soil surface to protect the soil from erosion, farmers can reduce their reliance on using machinery in the fields.
Another practice is the use of cover crops. These crops—often cereal grains or legumes—are planted during off seasons and produce biomass above and below the ground, reduce erosion and enhance the structure and composition of the soil. The report notes that soil can benefit from the variety of different root biomass and structure.
Meanwhile, long-term conservation crop rotations can yield more cotton, lower production costs and increase environmental benefits. The diverse crops nourish the ground, and help manage pests and dieses, resulting in better quality soil.
“If farmers adopt these practices globally, we’ll have much greater resiliency in our food and fiber production. We’ll also have cleaner water and air, and we can draw carbon out of the air to regenerate our soils for current and future generations,” Wayne Honeycutt, Soil Health president and CEO, said.
While soil health practices are on the rise, Wrangler said efforts can be further supported by supply chain partners. The VF Corp.-owned brand has become a steward for sustainable in the denim industry.
In addition to recent investments in indigo foam-dyeing technology, Wrangler launched a soil health program in 2017 to help increase the supply of sustainable cotton and encourage wider adoption of responsible farming practices.
“We’ve experienced the benefits of combining these three practices,” said Eugene Pugh, the program partner and cotton farmer in Tennessee. “It’s allowing us to decrease our inputs while maintaining, and even improving, yield. And at the same time, our soil is improving with each passing season. That feels really good.”
Wrangler purchases roughly half of the cotton for its products from U.S. growers. The pilot program builds on the company’s long-standing commitment to supporting U.S. farming communities and other programs including a commitment to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2025, zero waste facilities and manufacturing and technology improvements that have saved 3 billion liters of water over the last decade.