What Would Eli Whitney
By Don Comis
January 9, 2001
How about heating your home or small
business with pellets made from cotton gin trash?
Agricultural Research Service
scientists in Lubbock, Texas, are burning such pellets--made with a new
low-cost, patent-pending system--in commercial pellet stoves to test their
efficiency and effectiveness.
The scientists are conducting the tests through a memorandum of
understanding with Insta Pro, Intl.,
Des Moines, Iowa. The system can also process cotton gin trash, or byproducts,
into livestock feed and fertilizer or mulch, both as pellets or
ARS agricultural engineer Gregory A. Holt and colleagues process the cotton
gin trash at a pilot plant in their
Cotton Production and
Processing Research Unit cotton gin facility. Their pellet mill presses the
trash and other ingredients into pellets that are 1/4- to 5/8-inch in diameter
and ½- to 1-inch long.
More than 60 commercial mills across North America produce over 610,000 tons
of fuel pellets a year. Typically made of sawdust and ground wood chips, the
pellets are available for purchase at stove dealers, nurseries, building supply
stores, and feed and garden supply stores. The mills could use the ARS
system--known as COBY, for Cotton Byproducts--to include cotton byproducts in
The byproducts are all those parts of cotton plants--like stems, branches,
parts of the cotton bolls, and seeds--that are removed during ginning to leave
the actual cotton fibers as clean as possible.
The key to the COBY recipe is a hot gelatinized starch solution that not
only makes the feed more digestible, but also acts as a glue and lubricant to
smooth the materials flow through equipment. The recipe can include
molasses, cottonseed, various grain meals, urea, sawdust and other items as
Early tests show the feed more digestible than commonly used feed made from
cotton seed hulls.
Cotton Incorporated, Raleigh, N.C.,
helps fund the research and development.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures principal scientific research agency.
Scientific contact: Gregory A. Holt, ARS Cotton Production and
Processing Research Unit, Lubbock, Texas, phone (806) 746-5353, fax (806)