This Year's Cottonseed Meal Experiments Summary

captaincompostal(z7 AL Bham)December 5, 2005

I'm been experimenting this summer and fall, with using 50 lb bags of cottonseed meal and fish meal in all my soil building, composting, and tea brewing experiments. The local farm supply stores tell me that the main use of cottonseed meal to their customers is for feeding extra protein to their cattle and horse customers. The fish meal is sold as catfish food products.

I have used the catfish food products a lot, but the smell is pretty funky (if not covered or mulched correctly), when it goes anaerobic on the soil or in water, or not totally decomposed in a composting method.

I've also observed that the catfish feeds attract lots of pesty maggots to on the soil. However if I bury it under leaves or other mulches, it's ok. Of course in a compost pile, it is never smelly nor does it ever attract pesty maggots.

Cottonseed meal has no smell at all, nor does it attract maggots. Far as available protein level, I don't know if cottonseed meal is "better" than the catfish feeds.

I know some ultra-organic folks hate regular animal feed grade cottonseed meals because of the high pesticides and herbicides residuals in the product. However since I'm a big ACT brewing, and dry molasses fanatic, I've never noticed any serious anti-microbial or earthworm-killing effects from using lots of cottonseed meal this summer and fall.

What is your input about using regular animal-feed grade cottonseed meal products vs. fish meal products in these type of sustainable gardening experiments?

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I think that it would take some laboratory testing to determine pesticide and / or herbicide residues left in cottonseed meal. I would think that it would be minimal, but it would just be my reasoning. The large farms spray a product to defoliate the cotton plants to avoid a lot of leaves and debris when the cotton pickin machines gather it. Many probably use some early when the plants are small to inhibit unwanted weed and grass growth, which a group of field hands used to do with a hoe.
I think that the main insect pest that bothers cotton is the boll wevil and some pesticides may be needed to hope to get some of the cotton (Remember that ol Tex Ritter song called the Boll Wevil song ? I found it and downloaded it the other day.)
How much, if any of those products, if used, could wind up in the seed and the meal, I do not know.
I remember many years ago, being raised up on a farm, we fed it to our animals, including cows, horses and hogs with no apparent ill effects. In fact, my brother and I have been known to eat a few handfulls of it ourselves. Just put a pinch between the cheek and gum. ":^) No ill effects, we both have lived quite a long time, he is three years older than I.
I realize how things change, technology advances and the big corporate farms do things differently and that is why I say that it would probably take some lab tests to be sure. Just my thoughts and recollections. Personally, I think that cottonseed meal and alfalfa meal are both good as fertilizers and ammending the soil or compost.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 12:29PM
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captaincompostal(z7 AL Bham)

I know most soil experts consider cottonseed meal to be a very acidic fertilizer/soil amendment.

However since compost buffers soil pH, if you use lots of mature compost in your soil, or lots of undone compost as a thick mulch on your soil, isn't the acidic effects of cottonseed meal just bogus to totally sustainable farmers?

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 1:50PM
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captaincompostal(z7 AL Bham)

Thanks for your comments, GoneFishin!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 1:52PM
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Since you specifically mention sustainable I would look into the source of your fishmeal. Apparently a lot of it is not just a by-product of the fishing industry but is made from a small fish which is an important part of the ocean food chain. Like almost all other economically important species, it is being greatly overfished. I can't remember the name of the fish but there is a good article in the new (winter) issue of Earth Island Journal. As for cottonmeal you apparently know plenty about King Cotton. I agree most pesticide residues probably break down during composting and any remaining are further diluted. It is, I believe, just a by-product of cotton growing. The most sustainable sources however would be those removed from the waste stream. Not always easy or convenient though.

David B.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 7:18PM
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captaincompostal(z7 AL Bham)

The endangered fish in question used in most fish fertilizer or fish meal products is the "menhedan fish". It is a relative of the herring fish family.

DavidBooth65 you make a lot of good sensible points in using the cottonseed meal over the fish meal in my sustainable gardening methods.


    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 7:28PM
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If these fish meals are a "byproduct" of the fishing industry
then might as well recycle them. Would the smelliness of the
fish meal mean it's a very high nitrogen addition to soil/or
compost? I've been using alfalfa meal this year in garden and mixed
it in the compost. Plants seem to like it.Thanks Captain keep us posted on your


    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 8:59PM
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I wouldn't hesitate to use cottonseed meal for composting or acid loving plants, if the cottonseed meal now available wasn't from genteticallly modified cotton plants. Around 75% (don't quote me on that number) of the domestic cotton crop is gm. It almost impossible to find non-gm cotton seed/meal. Three years ago I looked for a source of organic, by definition non-gm cottonseed meal. I found one source who said I could get as much as I wanted at a good price if I could drive a truck to California and pick it up.

The same problem exists for other seed meals, specifically corn and soy. Corn meal intended for human consumption, although more expensive than feed store corn meal, is at least widely availabe organically grown.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 7:17AM
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As an organic master gardener for the past 6 years I have used cottonseed meal as my primary fertilizer and cannot see any ill effects of the pesticides used on cotton but who knows, and I would bet that the majority of organic fertilizers do not come from ingredients grown organically,like alfalfa. I use cottonseed meal as an all-purpose fertilizer,vegetable garden, lawn, shrubs what ever, and as a compost starter the micros like it , I have the best St. Augustine lawn in the neighborhood and I just found a supplier that sells it for 6.50 a 50 lb bag. I still wonder about the pesticide, herbicide effect though hope someone else has some experience to relate

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 10:38AM
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captaincompostal(z7 AL Bham)

Thanks for all the comments and inputs from everybody!

I think I'm going to continue buying and using the animal-grade cottonseed meal feed that I get from the farm feed supply store.

Happy Holidays everybody!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 2:16PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

What's the pH of cottonseed meal? I've used it but not long enough to see any differences.

I've also used alfalfa meal and regular corn meal. Corn gluten meal is too expensive to be using on regular basis. If I have bad weed problems, I might use corn gluten meal but it would have to be pretty bad to justify the cost of using them. Next spring, I'm going to experiment with alfala tea in march and use on everything to give them a boost and apply corn meal (fungus control)in feburary and cottonseed meal in march or april.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2005 at 12:01PM
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AngelTrumpeteer(8 NC)

First, I'm a newbie to this forum....Hope it's ok to jump into this discussion...

I love what I call 'cotton gin trash'. I live about a mile from a cotton gin.
The 'trash' is all the things left over from the ginning process that can't be sold - the stems and leaves.
The gin owners pile it into 'mountains'. They leave it there to compost.
In our late summers and falls, when we have a period of no rain, those 'mountains' can spontaneously combust. They have to call the fire dept. to put it out!!! LOL!!!

My family has been amending our soil with the oldest of the stuff from the gin...I build new flower beds with it.
We've been known to amend vegetable areas with it, with some amazing results.

For the flower beds, I don't even till it to mix it with dirt. For the vegetable beds, we do till.

As a farmer's daughter, chemicals were always a part of farm life...with the cotton trash, IMHO, after several years of sitting in that pile, with rain and the occaisional burn cycle, I think that there are few residual chemicals left...

Roses love the stuff...I actually have a rose friend who lives 2 hours away that I haul to her...and several other people that she knows that are rose growers.

I am intersted in others results with this material.


    Bookmark   December 10, 2005 at 8:29AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Angeltrumpeteer, I've seen those mountains of cotton gin trash in the Texas Panhandle and they can be huge! The biggest one I saw was probably 50 feet high and 600 feet long.

What you describe is basically a pile of browns (compostwise). I wonder if there is some cottonseed (a strong green) mixed in with the leaves and stems??? If not I would suggest that adding cottonseed (if you can get it) at a rate of one handful per month scattered under each plant would further amaze you.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 10:10AM
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AngelTrumpeteer(8 NC)

Thanks Dchall...I'll look for the cottonseeds, too.


    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 6:37AM
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dereckbc(7a TX)

Just curious if cotton seed meal might be troublesome, why not use soybean meal? Not quite as high as cotton seed meal, but close enough.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2005 at 11:19PM
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captaincompostal(z7 AL Bham)

In my location soybean meal is a little more expensive per 50 lb bag, than cottonseed meal.

Cotton is a major local crop in Alabama.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2005 at 9:14AM
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Glad to see all of the talk about cottonseed meal, it has been around forever, younger generations are finding out with good detailed research that csm does not have any chemical residue.
Products sprayed on cotton are very enviroment friendly(thanks to the EPA), on top of that less spraying is done than in years past.
How do know all this? I grew up in the Mississippi Delta, we have some of the best soil in the world to grow cotton. I have been around it all my life(43 years) and look and feel normal, also my two girls have 10 toes and 10 fingers, my father of 72 years grew up on a cotton farm when chemicals were more dangerous than today, he is in great shape for a 72 year old.

Cottonseed meal does not have any chemical residue, the cotton oil mill I work for makes around 60,000 tons a year, we have every lot tested for all kinds of things and we have yet to have a problem with chemical residue.

Sorry to ramble on, but sometimes that whole story on products need to be told, keep using it!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 1:04PM
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captaincompostal(z7 AL Bham)

Thanks for the info!

I love cottonseed meal in my gardening and composting needs.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 2:04PM
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i've never used cottonseed meal. it's a source high in N? you spread it on or mix it into the soil in the spring? can you then plant, or is it too hot to plant in right away?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 2:24PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Just simply throw them on the ground at 20lbs per 1000 sqft...

    Bookmark   April 21, 2006 at 4:01PM
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I dont think I'd want to use cottonseed because it a) contributes to the disgusting cotton industry b) contributes to hemp being illegal and c) is bad for the environment because it requires so many pesticides

    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 11:18AM
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Well monkeyman, sorry you feel that way. If you had read my earlier post you would realize that cotton is no longer sprayed as much as it used to be. Thanks to better technology and friendlier products being sprayed the argument "cotton is ruining the enviroment" can no longer hold water.

Again, I am sorry you have the feelings you do, I hope this will help you realize that great strides have been made in agriculture.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 3:49PM
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Although cotton isn't sprayed the same way as it used to be, the majority of it is *not* grown organically.

Aside from that, the cotton plant itself is very intrusive to soil and the environment, so I really don't like contributing to cotton even if it isn't sprayed. If it were organically grown I'd have a little less of a problem, but I'd still be weary.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 5:34PM
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aberwacky_ar7b(Southern Ozarks, AR z7a)

Just curious, Monkeyman--what's your underwear made of? Your sheets? Socks? Jeans? T-shirts? Cotton balls? Do you not use any cotton products or is all of the cotton you use grown organically?


    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 5:11PM
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i wear hemp and organic cotton

if the cottonseed is organically grown, then i'd use it.

by the way - is the pH of cottonseed very acidic?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2006 at 8:07PM
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Happy Birthday Monkeyman!

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 2:23PM
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hitexplanter(8 a)

I am looking for a wholesale source for cotton seed meal. I already offer 50 lb bags of alfalfa pellets and want to add CSM for my gardeners around Canyon Lake (between San Antonio and Austin). I am a garden center manager and try to encourage less toxic approaches to my customers. Being in an area that is alkaline by nature, CSM would be a natural. I do have a source and already offer cotton boll compost. Thanks for any thoughts and ideas. I need to figure out some feed store wholesale sources that make economical sense for me to offer a product. My owners give me a lot of leeway as long as I can make them a profit they don't care how, but I do. I want to continue to be a part of the solution not a cause of the problems that continue to plague the home gardener.
Thanks and Happy Growing David

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 7:39AM
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Hayne, what is cotton-seed oil used for?

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 6:50AM
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Hello from newbie to this forum.

My local Agway orders 50# bags of soymeal and alfalfa meal for me now. I used to buy same of cottonseed meal, and several of my neighbors do now that they saw how it worked for me, so Agway still orders it. I stopped using it because I read so much about the pesticides, but I may reconsider if practices are really changing that much. So far though, soy meal is working just as well.

Don't use fish products as my hubby is vegetarian. However, I love kelp meal, it makes my soil tilth so yummy. It is expensive to buy in small bags. Do any of you know of wholesale sources? Thanks, and I love your discussion here.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 3:02PM
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I know 2 ways of buying kelp cheaper. 50 Pound bags.
One is from Ohio earth food, near Cleveland Ohio.
The other is from gardens alive using their 25 dollars coupon.
Perhaps other can share any other resources they know.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 11:43PM
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mennomom(z7 NC foothills)

What about the issue raised that 75% of cotton is genetically modified? Does that cause concern for anyone using cottonseed meal as fertilizer?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 10:55PM
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