A survey method is presented for the unbiased sampling and identification of bacterial genera associated with nonsticky, moderately sticky, and sticky cottons. The method utilizes the MIDI Microbial Identification System (MIS) which uses whole cell fatty acid analysis by gas chromatography rather than relying on colonial growth morphology and conventional biochemical testing. The method uncovers a greater diversity of bacterial species than has been reported. A gram-index concept is introduced which relates the ‘gram-reaction character' of a cotton growing region. The nonsticky, moderately sticky, and sticky cottons all exhibited a high raw and relative gram-positive index. The corresponding raw and relative gram-negative index was very low. No difference was observed between the cottons. The predominant genera found were Bacillus spp. and Staphylococcus spp.; Pseudomonas spp. were surprisingly absent.