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:
Work was conducted to compare fiber quality and lint turnout for Southern High Plains cotton ginned on a conventional saw gin versus a high-speed roller gin. Substantial improvements in fiber length characteristics were observed for both machine-stripped and machine-picked cotton ginned on the high-speed roller gin. Planning is underway for experiments to evaluate yarn quality impacts of the ginning treatments. A multi-stage air-type lint cleaner was developed for use in the development process for commercial cotton cultivars. Tests were conducted to evaluate the performance of the new cleaner under several configurations. Results indicate that the new cleaner performed similarly to a conventional saw type lint cleaner with virtually no damage to fiber quality. Cleaning performance of two seed cotton cleaners used on cotton stripper harvesters was evaluated in laboratory and field studies. The prototype cleaner designed by USDA engineers in Lubbock exhibited an average 10% gain (e.g., 60% vs. 50%) in cleaning efficiency over the range of material flow rates tested compared to the commercial cleaner tested. A new mechanical cottonseed delinter was built and testing initiated. The new delinter is intended to replace chemical delinting commonly used in the industry today. The new delinter uses a novel process that does not include saws and has produced nearly naked seed during initial testing. Currently, various abrasive materials are being evaluated and a bench-scale model is being built for cotton breeders. Work continued to ensure the microwave bale moisture imaging sensor was ready for commercialization. Due to the recent surge in cell phone usage, their presence in the cotton gins represents a new potential interference to the microwave bale imaging sensor. Research was conducted to verify cell phone interference, and a hardware solution was developed and successfully tested in the laboratory. With the new improvements, the system has been deployed into two South Texas commercial cotton gins for field trials that will commence 2013-2014 cotton ginning season. Research was performed to develop a rapid test for fiber maturity and fineness. This research has identified a recently developed key technology that is expected to be adaptable for use in rapid sensing of fiber maturity. Work on the initial design of the sensor has begun and is expected to be ready for experimental testing in FY 2014. Development of a new low-cost antenna design, suitable for mass production, was carried over from the previous year. Work entailed packaging of the antenna for commercial deployment along with extensive laboratory testing to verify repeatability and accuracy. Tests revealed the antenna provided significant improvements over previous designs. A commercial field trial is underway to study the effectiveness of the new antenna design for imaging cotton bale moisture in commercial settings.