Cottonseed Burr compost

sunnyside1(z6/SW Mo.)April 26, 2008

Just lucked in to a 3 cu ft bag of cotton burr compost and brought it home. I am planning to use this as one of my green layers for the lasagne (no till) garden, then a 4 inch layer of shredded leaves on top, and etc. until the bed is high enough. Is there any reason using this by-product wouldn't be a good idea?? Landscapers around here are buying it like mad and it sure looks good. Has a rather weird smell, though. I remember using cottonseed meal on strawberries a long time ago and I had to be careful not to burn them.

Thanks for your help!


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blutranes(z8 Mid Ga)

"Has a rather weird smell, though."

That smell is all the different chemical residues still on the product. Cotton gins around here can't give that stuff away, nobody wants it. I wouldn't suggest anyone use it on a lasagna bed meant to grow food on...


    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 2:43PM
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I've seen several sources of this material in my area. Even though we aren't that far from cotton producing areas, it used to be fairly rare that the compost was offered for sale. As more and more farmers are moving to a low herbicide/chemical production system, I suspect that this material will become even more available. At least in our area, the cotton burr compost does NOT come from the herbicide treated fields. It comes from fields that are using organinc, or transitional farming methods to move to organic. You might look on the label of your material for more info. There is a large bulk of this material produced. Some goes back on the fields, but more is available for sale, and, at least at present, at a fairly reasonable price for purchased compost. Home Depot has the stuff there, and I think I also saw some at WalMart.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 6:56AM
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sunnyside1(z6/SW Mo.)

Well, thank you for your information. My raised vegetable beds are finished and I sure don't plan to use the cotton burr stuff on them! However, I'll put it in the perinneal beds and then probably not use it again. I really prefer making my own compost -- and I know all the good stuff that is in it. Probably won't have another bag of burrs, as I'm "geting up there" in years and that 3 ct ft bag was a bear for me to get out of the car!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 6:12PM
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There is an inherent nature of cottonseed bi-product compost in that it stinks to high-heaven when you're composting it, unless you're really, really good and have all the necessary brown / other ingredients and a sealed reactor or something. Whiffy, to put it mildly. The only thing worse than burr is composting cotton seed meal. Lordy.

So my guess is thats what you're smelling. Distinctive, sorta like Deer Off, without the rotten egg.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 8:01PM
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Just a heads up on cotton seed burr for the archives. I grew up in cotton growing country in West Texas. Cotton Seed Burr is okay to use for your lawn, but do not ever use it in your vegetable garden. Besides there are all types of chemicals and pesticides used on cotton. Arsenic is one of the big things that seems to really be used. Not sure if it is as a pesticide(would make the most sense), but there are also defoliants used at harvest time. Since cotton is not edible, they use chemicals on it that would never be used on grains and other edibles. The arsenic has been used so much that now it has leached into the water tables in West Texas and become a problem that might take centuries to rectify. Just my 2 cents.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 1:14PM
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I've used a little cotton burr compost and it was nice stuff. I certainly believe there are pesticides used on cotton, but how much of that ends up in the compost is anyone's guess. I have not heard of any detrimental effects (such as persistent herbicides damaging gardens).

I do know that my tests of 20 or so bagged compost products available locally, showed that the cotton burr compost (mine was probably from SE MO) scored very high in organic content and nutrient content.

As far as using it for a 'green layer', compost can't be a green or brown since it's already composted. It shouldn't burn plants either. Perhaps there is some confusion between cotton burr compost and cottonseed meal? These are different products.

I'll have to check into the arsenic angle, I thought all arsenic pesticides were off the market long ago due to the basically permanent persistance of arsenic (being a metal).

This post was edited by toxcrusadr on Fri, Apr 4, 14 at 12:34

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 2:52PM
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Well, I'll be darned. MMA (monomethylarsonic acid) and DMA (dimethylarsinic acid) are still approved for weedcontrol on cotton and other non-food crops. I'm not real fond of the idea of using toxic metals just on the face of it. :-[

If one knew the application rate, it would not be too hard to estimate how much ends up in the compost, and how long it would take to raise the natural background level in soil significantly. I suspect it would take quite a bit of compost to do that.

As far as other non-arsenic pesticides, unless we know the speed of breakdown in the composting process, it's impossible to say whether the compost is a problem if used on food gardens. I'm not advocating it one way or the other, and the question is certainly valid given the high level of pesticides used on cotton. I just think there's a lot we don't know here.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 3:03PM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

I just haul 25 ton Gin Trash home I haul more but feed cows with it now dairy and beef cows. I've use it 17 years on sandy land to turn black sand full organic matter it good to put out with any mature litter it clean litter Gin trash pile up go quickly through heat that kill bad bacteria its self cleaning. They made building products out gin trash the glue was only thing had any problems. I've haul in 4,000 tons mix in soil deep as I could you Google gin trash to find out about several studies on Gin trash all are positive. Because bowl guard cotton less chemical now used then every before.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 7:18PM
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Is cottonseed meal tainted with arsenic or just the burrs? I've used it in compost for food growing beds.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 12:14AM
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I don't know the answer to that poaky, maybe gator does. I'm going to guess that the outer parts of the plant absorb more than the seed, but I don't know.

USGS says that background arsenic in PA soils is about 10 ppm, which is about the same as our MIssouri soils. So a 10x30 garden (for example) has about 37 grams of arsenic in the top 6" of soil already, just as a frame of reference. I think it would take a lot of material over a long period to make a difference in those tons of soil.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 11:13AM
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Cottonseed meal is one of the most heavily contaminated, by pesticide residue, of the products sold today. While there is some organic cottonseed meal being sold most of it is heavily contaminated and much of that has been Genetically Engineered to be resistant to glyphosates.

Here is a link that might be useful: contaminants of cottonseed meal

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 6:33AM
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Your link provides 'action levels' for various pesticides and contaminants in various products above which FDA may take action to try to remove products from the market. Unfortunately it does not give any information on actual contaminant concentrations, or whether the use of cottonseed meal with pesticide residues is harmful to the garden. Whether the seed was from Roundup resistant cotton seems irrelevant when using it as fertilizer.

I may sound like I'm poo-poohing the contaminants angle. I assure you I'm not, and if people want to avoid using cotton products in their gardens because a lot of pesticides are used on cotton, that's their choice to make. There aren't that many affordable alternatives to chemical fertilizers, though.

The cotton burr compost I used was so nice, and tested so well, that I wouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water.

As always, homemade compost is generally the best and you also know what goes into it. :-D

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 10:56AM
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The vegetative waste that we generate is enough to properly feed our soils. Spending money on synthetic fertilizersis not necessary.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 7:15AM
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That seems like a complete non-sequitor.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 11:14AM
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Other than my family's green waste, which doesn't add to much, and what I get at the local compost dump site, which is shredded wood in spring and summer. I don't take the grass clippings because chances are they have chemicals galore, the lawn services are who is dumping the grass clippings and surely they fertilize with chemicals. In fall I get many fall leaves, which is great. Most of the great stuff from there are browns. I do get Bunny poo from Ebay, but I bought the Cottonseed meal for some nitrogen. I just remembered ............ I bought most of my cottonseed meal from Ohio earth food. After looking in my new pamphlet from them it is Organic Program NOP compliant. Sorry, I didn't think to look before. I did however use some Espoma before. I am unsure if they are Cert. Organic though. I used to work in a nursing home, when I think of all the veg scraps I could've gotten, if I were an avid gardener and composter back then it makes me sick. I can't even get this stuff from a dumpster, they use the sink disposals to get rid of scraps.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 7:23PM
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cotton burr compost....for cotton arsenic was outlawed in early 90's and not only that but the EPA also requires any chemicals used on cotton must break down in two weeks...the stinking comes from not drying the burr compost enough before bagging, back to nature says dry to at least 35%....find the good stuff and use it, its the all around best compost you can find...look for organic grown cotton, which uses molasses to produce healthy crops...good luck...the indian

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 8:44AM
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Thanks for the info butch.

I'm a little confused because my earlier post from Feb. 2013 indicated two As containing compounds were still permitted for use on cotton. I'm not sure where I found that info at the time, but I must have considered it a reliable source.

That said, I still think a lot of the condemnation of cotton burr compost in this thread was over the top, and even if there are pesticide residues, you certainly wouldn't be able to smell them, so any odor has to be from the material and the composting process.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 12:45PM
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The burrs are the seed pod covers.

It's inherently stinky. Organically grown cotton produces the same smelly "gin trash" and oilseed cake as other cotton. Even my wild cotton plants have slightly smelly seed pods - I'd call it musty and oily and perhaps "chemical".

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 1:14PM
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The compost I've bought in a bag has a slightly different odor than other composts, but it's not strong or unpleasant.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 11:11AM
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