Cotton: Getting It Just Right
By Luis Pons
May 21, 2002
Maintaining proper moisture in cotton
bales is critical for successful textile processing. Too little moisture makes
cotton susceptible to damage, while too much makes it stick to machinery
That is why Agricultural Research
Service scientists are working with a Tennessee-based company to find
easier ways to regulate moisture throughout processing.
The work at the
Quality Research Unit in Clemson, S.C., is part of a three-year cooperative
research and development agreement with Cotton Conditioners, Inc., of
Knoxville, Tenn. The goal is to see how various approaches tried in the lab
hold up in a real-world setting. Researchers also want to develop, evaluate and
commercialize an effective automated system to control moisture in cotton
during processing in textile mills.
In the laboratory tests, ARS scientists led by textile technologist David D.
McAlister sought to determine precise amounts of moisture needed to best
maintain fiber properties, improve processing and increase yarn quality. The
amount of moisture added will vary from process to process, based upon factors
such as the cottons variety, surface wax and cleanability.
The scientists used various methods to condition samples taken from bales of
cotton. Some samples were left in ambient room conditions, while others were
sprayed with water, both with and without a wetting agent to improve
absorption. The team then measured fiber properties and yarn tensile strength
of each sample to see which moisture level most improved the cotton
fibers ability to be processed.
Cotton is the worlds most widely used textile fiber, with U.S. growers
providing 20 percent of the worlds output.
Read more about this research in the
issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.