We mostly focus on cotton as a fibre crop, but did you know it's also an important food crop?
Cotton seed makes up around half the weight of the picked cotton, and is mostly used to make cotton seed oil. One tonne of cotton seed yields approximately 200kg of oil, 500kg of cotton seed meal and 300kg of hulls.
More than 50 million tonnes of cotton seed are produced globally each year, but less than 1% of that total is actually used to plant cotton. Much of it is crushed to extract oil. Cotton seed oil is trans-fat-free free, high in polyunsaturated fats and contains high levels of anti-oxidants (vitamin E) which contribute to its long shelf life. It can be used for deep frying, and for some margarines and salad dressings. Another valuable characteristic of cotton seed oil, especially for chefs and bakers: It does not impart its own flavour to food.
Cotton seed oil is also used to make products such as soap, emulsifiers, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, rubber, paint, water proofing agents and candles.
The by-product of the oil-extraction process is meal, which is used as stock feed. Cotton seed meal is a high protein meal that can be fed to most animals. Cotton seed hulls are also a valuable feed source for livestock.
Global cotton seed production can potentially provide protein requirements for half a billion people and many billions of other animals.