New Mexico cotton producers, New Mexico State University (NMSU) and Cotton Incorporated are taking a huge step to focus their efforts in the development of a cycle of use for glandless or gossypol-free cotton.
In September, producers chose to devote their share of funding from Cotton Incorporated’s State Support program solely to variety testing for gossypol-free cotton.
That same evening, producers, researchers and educators were treated to a shrimp dinner focused on NMSU’s efforts to devote its resources to using cotton meal derived from the glandless varieties to feeding university-raised shrimp.
A Collaborative Effort
The plan is to grow the cotton, cold press the oil from the cottonseed, process the leftover cottonseed meal into shrimp/fish food, grow shrimp on the meal, use the oil to cook food on campus and send the oil back to the farm in the form of biodiesel to power the university farm’s irrigation pumps and tractors.
The effort has generated great enthusiasm in the Mesilla and Pecos Valleys of New Mexico.
According to Tracey Carrillo, assistant director of campus farm operations and superintendent of NMSU’s Leyendecker Plant Science Center and Fabian Garcia Research Center, the project includes many different university specializations and has generated unprecedented cooperation.
“So many industries are involved,” says Carrillo, “including farmers, fish and processing.”
Glandless Cotton History
Gossypol is toxic to most animals, except for ruminants, and is found in most commercial varieties of cotton. Through selective breeding, the glands that produce gossypol can be bred out of the plant.
There have been several iterations of glandless cotton breeding programs.
In the early 1900s, Gossypium hopi, a variety with variable density of glands, was used in USDA breeding programs. The variety’s early maturity and drought tolerance were the key characteristics breeders sought, but the variety carried with it the potential for a glandless heir.
In the late 1950s, S.C. McMichael bred a variety of glandless Acala cotton in California. As a result, the industry became interested in cottonseed as a food source for human consumption.
As the success of insect eradication efforts became evident in the West, older varieties were pulled out of hibernation and tested. Acala-GLS was one of those varieties. And, it has shown good potential in the Mesilla and Pecos Valleys of New Mexico.
Dwight Menefee of Lake Arthur, N.M., likes the variety and its performance on his farm. He is tired of paying tech-seed fees on transgenic varieties and believes that the Acala-GLS works better than New Mexico’s traditional variety – Acala-1517 – for his particular operation.
“I’m more excited about conventional GLS,” says Menegee. “I think it has potential here.”
Cotton Incorporated is working with the Food Innovation Center in Portland, Ore., to develop food products from the glandless cottonseed. New Mexico producers have sampled a replacement for peanut butter and snack foods made with rolled cottonseed kernels.
Tom Wedegaertner, Director of Cottonseed Research and Marketing at Cotton Incorporated, is hoping to bump up the price of seed for additional value for producers of glandless cotton through development of other products, including a milk replacement product, cottonseed flour and even a vegetarian jerky stick.
The bottom line, as in all projects developed through Cotton Incorporated, is increased profitability for the producer. And, in New Mexico, producers, educators and researchers agree that the potential is in a cotton plant with no gossypol.
Brent Murphree is the Cotton Board’s Regional Communication Manager for the West. He resides in Maricopa, Ariz.