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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Cotton Production and Processing Research

2012 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The focus of this project plan is to establish a highly interactive research program that addresses agricultural quality related issues, with an emphasis on pre-harvesting with regards to operations that have a direct impact on quality of the harvested product, harvesting and post-harvest production and processing of cotton lint, cottonseed, and cotton byproducts. The specific objectives are: 1) Develop commercially preferred technologies for harvesting and processing of upland cotton that minimize energy requirements and improve cleanliness and quality of the seed cotton, cottonseed, and/or lint fiber; 1A. Develop new harvesting systems that improve seed cotton cleanliness and maximize fiber quality; 1B. Develop optimum harvesting and ginning techniques for upland cotton grown in the Texas High Plains region to maximize fiber quality and producer return; 1C. Develop and evaluate different processes or technologies to clean lint in the ginning process; 2) Develop commercially viable sensing systems for preservation and/or enhancement of the quality of seed cotton, cottonseed, and/or lint fiber; 2A. Develop sensing technology for monitoring/control of cotton harvesters; 2B. Develop sensing technology for control of cotton gin moisture restoration systems; 2C. Develop sensing technology for rapid fiber quality measurements; 3) Identify, assess, and develop new commercially preferred techniques for enhancing the value and utility of byproducts and co-products from cotton and cottonseed processing facilities; 3A. Develop commercially viable erosion control and/or grass seed establishment products utilizing cotton gin byproducts; 3B. Develop and evaluate the use of cotton gin byproducts for various composite materials; 3C. Evaluate processes that best sort, size, and package cotton gin byproducts for optimal utilization into value-added processes.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Cotton harvesting, processing, and byproduct-biomass utilization research will develop real-world solutions that contribute to global competitiveness of U.S. cotton producers by improving quality assessment and process control, enhancing raw material and end-product quality, and developing commercially viable products and techniques that promote byproduct utilization. This plan of work will: 1) yield new or improved equipment and processes that effectively and efficiently harvest and process agricultural fibers and byproducts; 2) identify and quantify sources of fiber quality variation; 3) result in new or improved quality measurement methods, standards, and instrumentation; 4) introduce innovative methods that mitigate fiber quality deterioration during handling and storage; and 5) improve feedstock derived from cotton and cotton byproducts. Specific products of the research effort will include: 1) an onboard field cleaning system for 6- and 8-row cotton stripper harvesters; 2) an energy efficient onboard conveyance system for cotton stripper harvesters; 3) selective harvesting methodologies designed to preserve cotton fiber quality for use with spindle picker harvesters in the Southern High Plains; 4) an onboard moisture sensing system for cotton stripper harvesters; 5) moisture sensing systems for the non-invasive examination of moisture content in baled cotton; 6) improved hydromulch containing various blends of agricultural processing byproducts; 7) improved process technology for utilizing cotton-based biomasses in building materials; and 8) improved methods for separation of residual fibers from cotton processing waste streams.

3. Progress Report:
Laboratory and field tests were conducted on cleaning machines used to clean cotton onboard harvesting machines to evaluate the influence of design modifications on cleaning performance and throughput capacity. Test results indicated that the field cleaner design modifications improved cleaning performance while throughput capacity was maintained. A collaborative research effort was conducted to evaluate fiber quality and lint value differences between saw and high-speed roller ginned cotton produced on the Southern High Plains. Preliminary results indicate that the high-speed roller ginned cotton has substantially improved length distribution characteristics inferring increased lint value from the perspective of ring spinning mills. A multi-stage flow-through lint cleaner was designed to aid in the development process of commercial cotton cultivars. Work was performed to ensure the microwave bale moisture imaging sensor is ready for commercialization by completing an assessment to ensure compliance with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations. The work established a set of specifications that dictated a redesign to the system. The redesign was completed and is currently being evaluated in a commercial field trial. Experiments were conducted on a new antenna design to extend the frequency range, enhancing the ability of the microwave imaging system to monitor extremely wet bales. A feasibility study utilizing the new antenna design is underway, and the preliminary laboratory testing suggests the new antennas provide a significantly improved platform for imaging cotton bale moisture. Experiments on conditioned cotton lint were conducted to assess the ability of microwave frequencies to provide an indirect measure for cotton maturity. The experiments indicated that the signal provided by the microwave sensor was too low to offset other confounding factors and are unlikely to provide a suitable sensing basis for use in fiber quality measurements. Thus, the research will be redirected to an alternative technology as outlined in the contingency plan. Testing was conducted to evaluate a newly developed "high-end" cotton-based hydromulch product compared to the top performing wood hydromulch product on the market and a competing cotton-based hydromulch product. Hydromulches were tested on a sandy loam soil at a 2:1 slope and subjected to a 6-in/h simulated rain. The new "high-end" product performed significantly better at reducing soil runoff and maintaining hydromulch coverage than the other two hydromulches. Several tests were conducted in the evaluation of cotton gin byproducts (CGB) as a raw material in composites such as particle board, thermoplastic composites board, and biodegradable packaging material. Results revealed successful implementation of CGB is possible, depending on physical characteristics and properties required from the composites. The use of CGB, along with wood, did result in improved physical properties of some composites over using 100% wood.

4. Accomplishments

Review Publications
Faulkner, W.B., Hequet, E.F., Wanjura, J.D., Boman, R.K. 2012. Relationships of cotton fiber properties to ring-spun yarn quality on selected High Plains cottons. Textile Research Journal. 82(4):400-414.

Holt, G.A., Chow, P., Wanjura, J.D., Pelletier, M.G., Coffelt, T.A., Nakayama, F.S. 2012. Termite resistance of biobased composition boards made from cotton byproducts and guayule bagasse. Industrial Crops and Products. 36:508-512.

Pelletier, M.G., Karthikeyan, S., Green, T.R., Schwartz, R.C., Wanjura, J.D., Holt, G.A. 2012. Soil moisture sensing via swept frequency based microwave sensors. Sensors. 12(1):753-767.

Last Modified: 10/17/2017
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