Finding ways to add value to a generic commodity like cottonseed may require thinking outside the box. But a Centre, Ala., company has taken it a step further: All the way to the ground.

Mulch & Seed Innovations LLC in Centre has been working with Cotton Incorporated’s director of cottonseed marketing and research, Thomas Wedegaertner, to develop a new cottonseed-based product called GeoSkin Cotton Hydromulch.

The mulched cotton gin waste/byproduct mixed with water can be sprayed on areas of bare soil such as construction sites to prevent erosion. That’s becoming an increasingly important topic for city, county and state governments, which are under pressure to reduce the amount of runoff from such sites.

“Erosion creates unsightly-looking gullies, and more importantly, they steal from private and commercial properties an irreplaceable item — soil,” says Wedegaertner, a speaker at the Southern Cotton Ginners Association annual meeting in Memphis.

With the average variable and fixed costs of ginning and the price of cottonseed running neck and neck in recent years, ginners are fighting a losing battle to keep their heads above water. That is putting a premium on research efforts such as the GeoSkin product that is being developed in a former cottonseed delinting plant in Centre.

Mulch & Seed Innovations owner Andy Ellis said his company is competing with manufacturers of paper or wood-based mulch to get the attention of contractors.

“Our tests show that the cotton byproduct mulch is just as good as, or better than, paper or wood-based mulch,” says Ellis. “But getting people to change and try something new has been somewhat difficult.”

More than 300,000 tons of hydromulch are currently being used in the United States annually — a market the GeoSkin developers would like to tap into.