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Web Exclusive | January 2019

Toning up research & innovation in cotton

New research and innovations in cotton address the immediate needs of the industry. At a meeting in Lubbock organised by the Memphis-based The Cotton Board, about 65 people participated to discuss about the present and the future of cotton research and development.

Dryland cotton will be the future in the High Plains of Texas-the largest cotton growing patch in the United States of America. Ginning byproducts, cotton seed developments, clean cotton initiatives, developing functional cotton and quality aspects were deliberated in the meeting attended by cotton farmers and researchers.

Opening the meeting, Shelley Heinrich, Southern Plains Regional Communication Manager of The Cotton Board traced the history of the cotton research and promotion program that started in 1966 which is continuously supported by the cotton growers. Stating that the research and promotion budget managed by Cotton Incorporated for this year is $82 million, Heinrich added that the research programme has been a role model for other commodity industries.

With competition from other fibres and the need to increase the market share of cotton, particularly in burgeoning economies, researchers working of innovative projects met with area cotton producers to seek their input. The strength of the United States’ cotton sector has been the active involvement of producers in taking the industry to the next level in research and policy matters.

It was clear that the cotton sector was interested in promoting cotton seed as a nutritious meal. As its share in the seed crushers is nearly saturated, efforts are under way to take it beyond cattle feed and dairy industry. Recently, the United States’ Department of Agriculture has deregulated gossypol free cotton seed, which opens-up new opportunities for the seed. “We are waiting on the FDA approval of the gossypol free seed, which will lead to commercial use for feeding aquaculture, poultry, swine and even humans,” stated Kater Hake, Vice President of Agriculture and Environmental Research at Cary-based Cotton Incorporated.

Kristie Rhodes, Manager Product Development at Cotton Incorporated showcased several new fabrics that utilise new technologies such as dyeing cotton using sulfur dyes from cotton byproducts.

This scribe has been advocating for thinking beyond the yield and fiber quality issues and focus on functional aspects of fiber and textiles. A project funded by Cotton Incorporated in the Nonwovens and Advanced Materials Laboratory at Texas Tech University is focused on finding industrial applications for low micronaire cotton such as toxic and crude oil absorbent mats.

By: Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University, USA

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