During a routine field trip to a Shipibo-Konibo indigenous community in Yarinacocha, Ucayali Department, Peru, in July 2019, the American anthropologist Dr. James M. Vreeland, Jr. was surprised to discover a series of large cotton plants with a peculiar formation of seeds, called by cotton experts, «kidney cotton». The term was coined over a century ago to describe the unusual characteristic of tightly packed seeds in a single package that resembles the shape of a human kidney. All other cotton seeds are usually separated, usually 8 to 10 individual seeds in a single acorn, with 3 to 4 locules forming a single acorn, weighing 3 to 7 grams.
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Although native Shipibo-Konibo artisans recognize this peculiar form of the seed packet, no particular name seems to survive today in their language, simply called huasmen, the generic name for cotton.
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Additionally, the typical Amazon «rough» cotton coexists with the «kidney» variety, but the team was unable to document a genetic mix of the two in a single plant morphology. Both varieties can be considered «native cotton» in the classification created by Dr. Vreeland in the 1970s. Both also belong to the group of Amazon ecotypes, Gossypium barbadense, which are widely cultivated in the natural white and naturally pigmented varieties. local Pakucho varieties throughout the Amazon region of Peru.
Artisans find that «kidney cotton» acorns are easily ginned by hand, as the fiber is quickly and gently released from the seed surface. Furthermore, the fiber is unusually long and very white for an Amazonian breed.
According to Dr. Juan Lazo, director of the Peruvian Cotton Institute -IPA- three laboratory analyzes of LVH in Lima of fiber collections separated by Dr. Vreeland, showed that kidney cotton fiber has formidable textile properties:
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• Fiber with a length similar to that of the Tanguis, in a range of 30 to 32 mm.
• The resistance of the fiber is very high, similar to that of the current American Pima
• Very thick micrometric fiber, typical of the Rough or Aspero jungle
• Color fiber similar to that of Tanguis and Pima IPA 59, with a high level of brightness
• The weight of the fiber per acorn is very high, similar to the best varieties of Upland cotton, the most widespread commercial variety worldwide.
Despite the unusual length, strength and whiteness of the «kidney cotton fiber», the extremely high micronage or thickness of the fiber somewhat limits the industrial textile applications of this variety. However, these physical characteristics are particularly appropriate for the spinning and weaving of strong fabrics such as canvas, twill, flat cloth, and other constructions ideal for school, office and factory uniforms, military clothing, pants, T-shirts, and medium-weight polo shirts, and the upper for slippers and other footwear.
Dr. Lazo also reported that there is no example of this cotton in the IPA collections, nor does he know if it exists in any other institution.
Dr. Vreeland also said that an expedition he led with Drs. Miguel Holle from CIRF, Dr. Juan Lazo, geneticist Carlos Seminario, entomologist Félix Chicoma and other cotton specialists, documented a similar variety of kidney cotton on a roadside plot in the lower Tambo valley, over the years. Eighties, but no institution at that time was interested in further examining the potential of this unusual type of cotton from the Peruvian Amazon.
Detail of the structure of the leaf, reddish stems and an acorn of «cotton kidney» Amazon, in the native Shipibo-Konibo community, Yarinacocha, July 2019. Photo Dr. James M. Vreeland, Jr,