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A Recipe That Will Really Warm YouBy Don Comis
April 2, 2002
Add a little cottonseed oil to a lot of the cotton plant trash removed during ginning and you will have a recipe for delivering about 9,000 British thermal units (Btus) of heat per pound of fuel pellets. By comparison, firewood gives off approximately 4,000 to 5,000 Btus per pound.
Pellet Fuels Institute figures show that 57 firms produced bagged fuel pellets--typically made of sawdust, wood chips or wheat straw--and sold 730,000 tons during the 2000-2001 heating season. This was a 14 percent increase over the previous season.
Cotton ginners would like their share of this market, and the Agricultural Research Service has patented the way for them--the COBY (Cotton Byproducts) process. It turns cotton plant parts and added ingredients into a workable mixture that can be shaped into pellets for use as fuel, livestock feed and fertilizer, or left as loose mulch for home gardens.
ARS agricultural engineer Gregory A. Holt and colleagues at the Cotton Production and Processing Research Unit, Lubbock, Texas, helped develop COBY. The process uses a hot, gelatinized starch solution to hold the cotton waste together and to act as a lubricant to smooth the mixtures flow through extrusion equipment.
The heating kills any possible weed seeds or fungi, making it safe to apply as a fertilizer or mulch. It also improves nutrient availability when used as feed.
Three evaluation trials of different COBY products are under way:
More information on the COBY research can be found in the April 2002 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.