The Cotton Seed Loop, Part I

As the market leader in on-site GMO testing, EnviroLogix has supported many uses for its GMO detection tests.

Some folks use our tests to screen commodities and feed ingredients to ensure they do not contain GMOs – this allows them to serve special sectors including export and Non-GMO certified markets.

Others use our tests to confirm that a trait that is supposed to be expressing in a leaf or seed sample is performing as intended.

Such is the case with the cotton, a unique industry that we have had the privilege to serve for nearly 20 years. It is an interesting loop system that we thought you might like to learn more about.

Here is a graphic that illustrates the steps in the process.

the cotton seed loop
Starting from the top: DID YOU KNOW?
Seed is loaded into tractors and planted 98% of cotton planted in the US is genetically modified to resist pests and herbicides
Cotton seeds sprout and grow Cotton blossoms are beautiful but short-lived; the petals fall within 3 days, and the remaining portion is where the cotton grows
Once the plant is mature, it is harvested Most bolls contain 4 sections, called locks; 5-lock bolls bode well for a bountiful harvest
The modules enter the gin and cotton is separated from seed, stems, etc. The term “gin” was simply a shortening of the word “engine”
The seed is retrieved and tested Testers can do thousands of assays in a day!
Most seeds get treated to enhance shelf life and enhance next year’s viability Seed treatments give farmers an extra layer of risk management to protect seedlings

Then the cycle starts again; farmers and ginners working in tandem to produce amazing and wonderful cotton, the world’s most favorite fabric!

When we follow the seeds as they come out of the gin, the ones destined for planting are tested in numerous ways before being prepped for the subsequent season.  For GMOs in particular, the traits that are expected to be present need to be confirmed before being bagged and sold as the traited seed desired by the farmer.

But that only represents about 5% of the seed produced by ginning.  Seed that is not destined for planting is further processed at cottonseed crushing mills.  The seed is delinted and that fiber (“linters”) is used in a variety of paper, batting, and other specialty products (including photographic film!).  Delinted seed is de-hulled and those hulls are used to supplement animal feed and also in industrial products.

The two most valuable by-products are produced at this point.  The kernels are crushed to extract cottonseed oil (#1); and the product left after pressing, cottonseed meal; high in protein, it is a prized feed component for livestock and poultry.

We have followed the path of the cotton seed itself, but how the cotton fiber is produced by the plant and what happens when it comes out of the gin is an amazing story in itself—look for Part II, coming in the next newsletter.

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