What is in this article?:
- Cotton industry leaders looking for new markets, profits for growers
- Cotton also a food crop
- Information available on Web
• Finding more profit in cotton for growers is an ongoing challenge for Tom Wedegaertner’s team at Cotton Incorporated, and cooperative efforts to produce flavor-infused, gourmet oils made from cottonseed may just be the ticket.
MONTY BAIN, regional communication manager for the U.S. Cotton Board taste-tested gourmet cottonseed oils at meetings around the Southeast this past year.
Information available on Web
The website, www.acala-farms.com, provides a complete description of each of the cottonseed oil flavors, recipes for using the oils and easy-to-use forms for buying the products.
“I love the Fresh Cilantrooil. I use it three or four nights a week on salads, salsa or vegetables. I like the other flavors, but cilantro is my favorite. The fresh roasted garlic, jalapeno-lime and smoky chipotle are also popular,” Wedegaertner says.
Cotton is often mischaracterized as harsh on soils and the industry's pesticide use is frequently overstated. The truth is that modern-day U.S. cotton growers have significantly reduced the pesticides and other inputs required to grow cotton by using advanced technologies that prescribe optimal 'doses' for any part of any given acreage.
Cotton is unique among most crops grown because it can be used for food, fuel and fiber.
In New Mexico, a Cotton Incorporated-funded project involves a campus cafeteria using cottonseed oil for cooking, then returning the oil to the farm and recycling it into biodiesel for use in vehicles that are involved with growing cotton. “We call that the Circle of Cotton Sustainability,” Wedegaertner explains.
About half the cottonseed produced from the U.S. crop goes to livestock feed, primarily dairy cows. The remaining half goes to cottonseed crushing plants for the production of oil, meal, hulls and linters for a wide range of applications, including extensive use in the food industry.
Historically, cotton growers have looked at cottonseed as a way to cover gin costs. In recent years, it has covered the cost of ginning cotton and then some. It has the potential to become a lucrative by-product that can enhance cotton growers’ bottom line as well help to feed a growing world population.
Another ongoing research project, Wedegaertner says, involves de-hulling cottonseed and processing the seed into small nuts, which look a lot like pine nuts.
“If this research plays out the way we hope it does, we could see a small, but lucrative market for cottonseed nuts that could bring $1-2 per pound extra for cotton growers. The edible nut will actually be worth more than the lint,” he says.
Not too many years ago cottonseed was valued at less than 10 percent of the total value of the cotton plant. Now, its value exceeds 20 percent, thanks in part to the cottonseed marketing efforts of Cotton Incorporated.
Products like the Acala Farms Flavor-infused Cottonseed Oils are helping to turn public opinion toward cotton as more than a fiber crop. And as that market grows, so too will the value of cottonseed products.