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A Recipe That
Will Really Warm You
By 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
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
Three evaluation trials of different COBY products are under way:
- At Lubbock, ARS scientists are burning different types of cotton pellets
in two commercial pellet stoves conveniently located near their test cotton
- At a Texas Tech University feedlot in
Lubbock, ARS and university scientists are beginning a 62-day feeding trial
with 100 to 120 heifers, using the COBY product as a roughage source in a
conventional feed ration.
- At a local universitys test facility in Illinois,
Summit Seed, Inc., and
the Lubbock scientists are testing the COBY-treated cotton waste as a loose
mulch on flower beds.
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.