Adding value to hulls and other waste material could change the way cotton farmers manage harvest, he said. “Various materials can be separated for different applications. Farmers may turn off field cleaners so more of the cotton by-products are brought to the gin for segregation instead of being left in the field.”

Holt believes some material may be segregated and stored in the field. “If the product is valuable enough, it will be worth taking a little more trouble to separate it,” he said.

The amount of gin waste available varies with the crop and the harvest system. With picked cotton, farmers could collect 75 to 125 pounds of waste material per bale at the gin. With a stripper, that could jump to 300 to 700 pounds per bale, depending on whether or not the machine uses a field cleaner. “With field cleaners on the machinery pushes the burrs out, leaving 300 to 450 pounds per bale. Without field cleaners, gin waste could be 700 pounds per bale.”

Holt said the shape, size, rigidity and light density of cotton burrs make them unique. Adding other by-products—stems, etc.—can make the blend more dense.

Even without the potential for packaging material, Holt said markets for gin waste have been promising. “The livestock feed market (roughage) has been growing and now we have interest from manufacturing.

“Even minor uses help. A small percentage of gin waste included in a product adds value,” he said. “It makes a difference. We have to let people know the value of the product.  We have not approached the potential and a lot of things we haven’t even looked at yet.”

Most of the operations so far have been mechanical manufacturing processes. “We haven’t researched chemical applications,” Holt said. “We want to help producers get everything they can out of the crop.”