Cotton growers and ginners are asking seed companies and their cotton breeders to assist in commercialization of ultra-low gossypol cottonseed, and to work toward increasing seed size in new cotton varieties — both goals aimed at increasing the value of cottonseed to growers and ginners.
The Delta Council, in a resolution approved at the recent joint meeting of the organization’s Ginning and Cotton Quality Improvement Committee and the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, noted that U.S. cotton growers “have invested over $5 million and 20 years of research in creating ultra-low gossypol cottonseed (ULGCS) and advancing it to full U.S. deregulation, which means it can now be planted, grown, processed, and consumed by people and animals in the U.S. without any restrictions.”
Livestock and human food uses of cottonseed had been previously limited because gossypol, a toxic substance that helps protect the cotton plant from pests, limited the use of cottonseed, a highly rich protein source. Dr. Keerti S. Rathore, professor at the Texas A&M Institute for Plant Genomics and BiotechnologyTexas A&M, who has worked more than two decades to improve the nutritional qualities of cottonseed, used gene silencing technology to develop varieties in which gossypol is silenced in the seed, but remains active in the rest of the plant.
“In order to commercialize ULGCS in the U.S.,” the Delta Council resolution says, “licenses to certain patents owned or controlled by one or more of the major seed companies are required. We encourage these seed companies to provide Cotton Incorporated the required licenses so the market value and utilization of U.S. cottonseed can be greatly expanded through commercialization of ULGCS.”
Jason Colquette, from left, Crossroads Gin, Schlater, Miss.; Patrick Johnson, Tunica, Miss., producer; Richy Bibb, Tunica Gin and Norfolk Gin at Tunica; and Haywood Wilson, Cowart Gin, Charleston, Miss., were among those attending the annual joint meeting of the Delta Council Ginning and Cotton Quality Improvement Committee and the Southern Cotton Ginners Association.
Cottonseed has long been a major economic component to ginners and growers. “It is an important co-product of fiber production, whose value and utilization have been limited by the presence of the naturally-occurring plant toxin gossypol,” the resolution notes, pointing out that “modern biology tools can be used to block production of the toxin solely in the seed, thereby creating a highly nutritious food and feed, while creating substantial value for growers, ginners, and consumers.”
“ULGCS will dramatically improve the sustainability of cotton production, since land used to grow cotton fiber will yield abundant food without additional water or other inputs,” the statement notes.
Dr. Rathore at Texas A&M has estimated that the scores of millions of tons of cottonseed produced worldwide each year could provide improved nutrition for as many as 500 million to 600 million people.
In the Delta Council/SCGA discussion of the resolution, Tim Price, SCGA executive vice president, asked that language be inserted to reflect concerns of the ginning industry about significantly smaller seed size in many newer cotton varieties.
“The Southern Cotton Ginners Association recognizes the tremendous gains made by our breeders and seed companies in terms of lint quality, yield, and turnout.,” the statement says. “However, these gains have come at the expense of seed size, which has caused equipment issues as well as loss of seed in the ginning process.
“In addition, the resulting decrease in revenue from cottonseed has had a detrimental effect on both producers and gins. It is hereby resolved that the Southern Cotton Ginners Association should work with the National Cotton Ginners Association in contacting seed breeders and seed companies, and should encourage that increased seed size and ginning considerations be a top priority when selecting and developing cotton varieties.”