Colouring cotton

Published: Saturday 15 January 1994

-- "Colour without dyes" is the aim of Indian plant breeders, who have been trying to develop cotton coloured by nature itself. "Our labs have the germplasm of many types of coloured cotton and scientists are trying to develop stable colours," said S S Narayanan of the Central Institute of Cotton Research, Nagpur, at a seminar on hybrid research and development held in December in New Delhi.

Naturally coloured cotton has been in use since 2500 BC and scientists point out that excavations in north Peru have revealed cotton of different colours. The United States has become the leader in producing and marketing naturally coloured cotton, with manufacturers advertising it as an "environment-friendly" product for which the polluting dyeing process is not required.

In India, the commercial use of naturally coloured cotton began in the 1950s, when bales of naturally coloured khaki ware manufactured by Binny Cotton Mills. However, this was abandoned as the colour was neither fast nor uniform. Now Indian scientists are working to remove these drawbacks.

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