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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Cotton Ginning Research

2011 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
1. Develop and/or improve technologies for cotton harvesting and processing that favorably impact energy use, raw fiber processing, fiber quality, and fiber end use. 1A. Improve or enhance fiber quality and end use of Upland Cotton and/or Pima cotton. 1B. Enhance harvesting and raw fiber processing. 1C. Reduce overall gin energy use to produce raw fiber. 2. Develop new and/or improved processing, sensing, and control technologies for superior fiber/seed separation, foreign matter identification and extraction, and accurate measurement and process control of on-line fiber properties to produce a better quality fiber with greater economic value and textile utility properties. 2A. Improve seed cotton foreign matter extraction and fiber/seed separation. 2B. Enhance extraction of non-fiber plant material from ginned lint. 2C. Improve foreign matter identification in ginned lint by use of image analysis techniques. 3. Develop new technologies and alternative uses for cotton ginning equipment, lint, cottonseed, and gin by-products that will increase the value of gin-related products. 3A. Improve value of cottonseed and gin-related co-products. 3B. Develop alternative uses of cotton ginning equipment. 4. Develop new information and/or improve technologies for environmental assessment and remediation to assist ginning and related agricultural industries to comply with safety and environmental regulations. 4A. Assist ginning industry in complying with regulatory standards. 4B. Develop and evaluate abatement technologies and/or management practices for controlling agricultural particulate matter emissions.

1b. Approach (from AD-416)
1: Advance roller ginning knowledge 1) by use of high-speed digital video camera to determine geometry of cottonseed and fiber with respect to the stationary knife, rotary knife, and ginning roller as fiber is pulled off the cottonseed at the ginning point with different designs of the stationary and rotary knife, the speed of the rotary knife and ginning roller, and fiber length of different cultivars; 2) investigate new roller covering materials to find frictional properties that allow fiber to stick to the roller surface and slip on the stationary knife surface and at the same time increase ginning rate; 3) as determined from earlier studies, at least 4 styles of experimental lint cleaner grid bars will be built/tested on full-size commercial lint cleaner for ability to remove seedcoat fragments and other lint impurities as well as their effect on fiber properties, 4) develop improved seed cotton reclaimer using an iterative process, 5) evaluate picker design changes relative to different spindle rotation speeds, spindle diameter and spindle shape, and their effect on picked fiber quality; 6) develop gin energy consumption model and gin design and operating recommendations based on actual gin operational variables using on-site survey and field electrical energy use data from existing commercial gin plants. 2: 1) verify seed cotton moisture prediction model over a range more inclusive of target seed-cotton moisture contents and dryer temperatures; 2) build/validate a system using Ion Mobility Spectrometer instrument to detect contaminating plastics in seed cotton in the lab and then at commercial gin; 3) conduct initial lab tests using microwave generator and seed cotton of varying moisture content and bulk density levels to see how well electromagnetic waves penetrate bulk seed cotton and remove moisture, also determine pattern of moisture removal; 4) lab test experimental gin saw tooth designs based on experimental observations for effect on ginned fiber quality; 5) design/test series of experimental saw lint cleaner grid bars as well as a pneumatic cleaner using no grid bars for their cleaning efficiency and effect on fiber quality; 5) identification of foreign matter in lint using imaging techniques developed by ARS will be evaluated by AMS relative to manual classing results on selected classing samples. 3: 1) Crush Pima cottonseed under controlled conditions, separate into meal and oil. Evaluate meal for its value as a dairy feed; oil will be evaluated by cooperators for its bioenergy properties; 2) an experimental machine based on a saw-type lint cleaner will be designed/tested for ability to process/reclaim waste fiberglass insulation. 4: 1) conduct large multi-year field testing program at cooperating gin sites to develop PM2.5 emission estimates, develop robust dataset for cotton gin emissions for use in air quality low-level dispersion models, and document errors associated with federal reference method PM10 and PM2.5 stack and ambient sampling methodologies when exposed to ag particulate matter; 2) experimentally apply gin emission control technology to other ag processes/applications, improve current gin abatement technology.

3. Progress Report
This project addressed issues across the cotton industry, including harvesting, ginning, textile processing, and companion crops and industries. Research cooperators included other ARS units, university researchers, industry partners, and state and federal agencies. In-field spindle speed tests to evaluate an experimental cotton harvester with independently controlled picking mechanism to reduce cotton fiber twists and entanglements were completed. Tests were conducted to improve fiber length of upland cotton by using a high-speed roller gin to differentiate between long and short fibers – one modification yielded significantly longer fiber. Research with lint cleaning machinery using high speed video showed that experimental grid bar designs had less lint loss and performance may be more sensitive to grid bar settings than previously thought. A prototype seed-cotton reclaimer, often the "bottleneck" limiting roller ginning capacity, that can process at rates compatible with high speed roller ginning production was built and tested. On-site energy use analyses of select gins were conducted, and basic electrical energy performance data for more than 100 active gins were collected to document gin energy usage and form the basis for a gin energy consumption model. Instrumentation was fabricated and installed in a MS gin to monitor air temperature and flow during the 2011 season to calibrate an experimental system for measuring seed-cotton moisture during ginning for improved foreign matter extraction. The ARS-developed Cotton Trash Imaging System was evaluated on its ability to identify bark/grass (termed extraneous matter) in cotton samples, enabling the AMS to develop specifications for a prototype cotton classing system for extraneous matter detection to be built and tested during the 2011 crop year. For a national, four-year project to quantify cotton gin particulate emissions, this lab worked with ARS and university researchers to stack sample process exhaust streams at gins in the Western and Southern cotton-growing regions and measure ambient dust concentrations surrounding the facilities. This laboratory cooperated with New Mexico State University to improve upland cotton quality, resulting in approval of two cotton cultivars for release and several cultivars showing drought and salt tolerance. Working with researchers from New Mexico State, an experimental green chile harvester was built and tested during the 2010 harvesting season. Applying ag engineering principles and gin machinery experience, a model device to separate fiberglass insulation from paper backing was developed to reduce waste in the fiberglass insulation manufacturing industry. Up-to-date information was disseminated and technology transferred through presentations at technical meetings, training schools, and gin association meetings. This laboratory increased awareness of US agriculture through laboratory tours, ginning demonstrations, and related agriculture and ginning talks for student groups and the general public. Laboratory personnel maintained contact with the industry to provide timely, science-based support to cotton and related agricultural industries.

4. Accomplishments
1. Finer than frog fuzz. The cotton ginning industry was turned upside down in 2006 when EPA mandated that the amount of PM2.5 emissions be reduced by nearly half. The offending PM2.5 emissions are particles less than 1/30th the thickness of a human hair, basically a very fine dust produced during the ginning process. With no real emissions data on this agricultural operation, state regulatory agencies have been scrambling to determine levels of these small particles other than best-guess, which could lead to overestimation and an unnecessary burden imposed on the industry, not to mention possible fines. In a collaborative effort, ARS researchers in Mesilla Park, NM; Stoneville, MS; and Lubbock, TX, and Oklahoma State University researchers in Stillwater, OK, are in the third year of a four-year industry-supported project to measure emissions from gins across the country. So earlier this year when California action agencies had to show EPA progress on implementing a regulatory program, everyone involved with the gin emissions study was able to agree upon and compile scientifically supported preliminary PM2.5 emissions information from four of the total seven gins to be sampled for the project. This information met the immediate need of the California regulators, and is a good example of how agriculture and state and federal regulators can work together with mutual trust to benefit everyone. At the end of the day these science-based data will aid regulatory agencies in doing their jobs and at the same time give US cotton gins a fair shake.

Review Publications
Funk, P.A., Walker, S.J., Herbon, R.P. 2011. A systems approach to chile harvest mechanization. International Journal of Vegetable Science. 17:296-309.

Funk, P.A., Walker, S.J. 2010. Evaluation of five green chile cultivars utilizing five different harvest mechanisms. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 26(6):955-964.

Funk, P.A. 2010. Thermal defoliation. In: Heldman, D.R., Moraru, C.I., editors. Encyclopedia of Agricultural, Food, and Biological Engineering. 2nd edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. p. 1671-1674.

Hughs, S.E., Parnell, C.B., Wakelyn, P.J. 2010. Chapter 10: Cotton harvesting and ginning in the 21st century. In: Wakelyn, P.J., Chaudhry, M.R., editors. Cotton: Technology for the 21st Century. International Cotton Advisory Committee. p. 227-250.

Zhang, J., Flynn, R., Hughs, S.E., Bajaj, S., Waddell, C., Jones, D.C. 2011. Registration of 'Acala 1517-08' Cotton. Journal of Plant Registrations. 5(2):156-163.

Hughs, S.E., Gamble, G.R., Armijo, C.B., Tristao, D.C. 2011. Long-term storage of polyethylene film wrapped cotton bales and effects on fiber and textile quality. Journal of Cotton Science. 15(2):127-136.

Baker, K.D., Hughs, S.E., Foulk, J. 2010. Cotton quality as affected by changes in spindle speed. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 26(3):363-369.

Armijo, C.B., Whitelock, D.P., Hughs, S.E., Barnes, E.M., Gillum, M.N. 2011. Charting the collision between a seed coat fragment and newly-designed lint cleaner grid bars. Journal of Cotton Science. 15:33-42.

Last Modified: 06/22/2017
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