Cottonseed may one day offer increased returns as a result of research efforts by Cotton Incorporated, says Bill Lalor, vice president of research for the producer-funded research/promotion organization.
“Most growers and ginners don't see the very extensive marketing program we conduct for cottonseed, because much of the trade show, print, radio, and Internet promotion and advertising is directed to the major dairy areas,” he told members of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at their annual meeting at Biloxi, Miss.
Seeking ways to increase cottonseed use by the dairy industry, Cotton Incorporated researchers developed the Easiflo process, which removes lint tags and applies a starch coating to the seed, enabling it to flow smoothly through handling and feeding equipment.
“This eliminates the problems of clogging that can happen with untreated cottonseed, and gives it handling qualities equivalent to shelled corn,” Lalor said.
The cost is about $15 per ton and three commercial plants using the Easiflo process are now in operation in Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia, with a total capacity of about 150,000 tons per year.
The coating process has helped to reduce energy costs related to handling, has improved railcar loading operations, and has resulted in increased efficiency “which is essential to expanding these markets,” Lalor said. Also being evaluated is a module tamper device that enables more cottonseed to be loaded into railcars.
A spin-off of the Easiflo coating process is a powered roll gin stand, which has a computer-controlled feeding mechanism, that has resulted in a 20 percent to 30 percent increase in ginning rate, improved fiber quality, reduced seed coat fragments, and from 25 pounds to 40 pounds more fiber per bale, he said.
The Easiflo coating is also being evaluated for use on cotton planting seed. “We're quite a ways from marketing it, but it is showing potential and we'll be doing field plots in the 2002 season.” But, he said, studies show the coating doesn't interfere with normal generation and allows for other additives to be applied to the seed.
Cotton Incorporated research to eliminate gossypol from cottonseed is continuing, Lalor said. “If we could get rid of gossypol, we could increase by 30 percent the amount of cottonseed that could be fed to cows. It would also open the market for hogs and other animals which can't handle gossypol at all. The potential for gossypol-free cottonseed is huge.
“We're 80 percent of the way there, but that's not enough. Our research is continuing in Texas, Oklahoma, and California.”
Lalor said Cotton Incorporated is cooperating with the National Cottonseed Products Association in a promotional program to boost the use of cottonseed oil for the restaurant and food processing trade.
“Unfortunately, the price of cottonseed oil is less than that of soybean oil right now, when it had sold at a premium. Olestra, which was based on cottonseed oil and was used in food products to reduce fat absorption in the body, hasn't been a success, and the GMO controversy has had an impact.”
Cottonseed prices have increased “quite a bit” since the “terrible seed prices” of 1990-91, which prompted growers and ginners to urge the creation of a promotion program, Lalor said. “We feel the program has been reasonably successful.
Complaints continue, he said, about small seed size for many of today's varieties.
“We've been impressing on breeders the importance of keeping seed weight per bale up; it has been falling over the last 10 years, particularly for varieties in California. But small seed size goes with high lint yield, so we have to decide which way we want it until we can achieve some genetic breakthrough.”
Seedling vigor can also be a problem, Lalor said, “because smaller seed usually aren't as vigorous.”