Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Lubbock, Texas » Cropping Systems Research Laboratory » Cotton Production and Processing Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #326481

Research Project: Enhancing the Profitability and Sustainability of Upland Cotton, Cottonseed, and Agricultural Byproducts through Improvements in Pre- and Post-Harvest Processing

Location: Cotton Production and Processing Research

Title: Cotton: A Massively Underutilized and Often Overlooked Protein and Biomass Resource

item Holt, Gregory

Submitted to: Industrial Crops and Products International Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/11/2016
Publication Date: 2/19/2016
Citation: Wedegaertner, T.C., Holt, G.A. 2016. Cotton: A Massively Underutilized and Often Overlooked Protein and Biomass Resource. Industrial Crops and Products International Conference Proceedings. online.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Every year the cotton crop on the planet produces about 11 million metric tons of protein. Unfortunately, the cotton plant has also evolved a chemical defense mechanism, a toxin (gossypol) that resides in tiny but visible pigment glands. Having a phenotypic marker for the toxin is unique and has allowed for the discovery of naturally occurring mutant plants (that do not produce the toxin,) called “glandless cotton.” Cotton breeders have developed glandless cotton varieties that have acceptable yield and fiber quality properties, and modern biotechnology has now provided us with the ability to block the production of gossypol in the seed only. Cotton is actually a perennial oilseed plant that produces a seed with nutritional properties similar to a tree nut. If gossypol could be eliminated from all the cottonseed grown on the planet every year, there would be enough protein produced to meet the daily protein needs of 500 million people a year, every year. In the future, farm raised fish are expected to be the primary source of animal protein. The expansion of the aquaculture industry is limited by its dependence on fish meal, which is currently not a sustainable resource. Recent research has effectively replaced some or all of the fish meal with cottonseed protein in diets fed to shrimp, flounder, black sea bass, pompano and hybrid striped bass. Efforts are underway to explore the use of cotton protein in bio-based adhesives that have superior physical properties, compared to other plant based adhesives. Also, being a woody plant, cotton biomass is being used as an alternative to wood in composites, building materials, Styrofoam substitutes, erosion control products and a wide range of cellulose derivatives. The cotton plant truly is the miracle plant for the 21st century.