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
This is the first annual report for project 6208-21410-007-00D. Progress was made on all three main objectives and their associated sub-objectives. Field experiments were conducted to assess cotton yield, fiber quality, and value associated with different harvesting treatments. The findings of this work will be used in the development of new harvesting technology for separating cotton by fiber quality and maturity. Experiments were conducted with the CRADA partner to optimize the cleaning performance and seed cotton loss of a field cleaner used on a cotton stripper harvester. Through this work, machine configuration and operating parameters were identified that increased cleaning efficiency by 10 – 15% with a minimal increase in seed cotton loss. A study was established to evaluate the influence of harvest method (picker and stripper) and ginning method (high speed roller and saw) on fiber quality for high quality cultivars produced in the Texas High Plains region. Initial results show substantial improvements to length uniformity for both picker and stripper harvested cotton. Additional testing is planned for the 2011 cotton harvest season. A prototype lint cleaner was field tested over the 2010-2011 ginning season in a commercial gin near Lubbock, TX. Results showed increased bale value from the new lint cleaner resulting in cooperators wanting a second year of field testing at another cotton gin. Experiments were conducted on new antenna designs that provide a suitable frequency range to allow for microwave moisture instruments use in sensing of seedcotton moisture in modeling systems as well as for use with standard seedcotton modules. A feasibility study utilizing these new antenna designs is underway. To solve issues with wet layers in cotton bales, a system was constructed and is under evaluation to dynamically identify the high moisture areas in the bales prior to bagging. Studies were completed in selecting the best recipe(s) for the cotton-based hydromulch to be tested in accordance with Texas Department of Transportation requirements. Products passed testing and are approved for use in 13 states. New biomass materials were processed, blended, and evaluated with cotton gin byproduct materials in the manufacture of thermoplastic, pressboard, and fungal mycelium composites. Additional materials consisted of kenaf, flax shive, unretted flax, and switchgrass. The fungal mycelium/cotton byproduct packaging material was picked up by a Fortune 50 company for use in shipping their computer servers.
1. Resolving the problem of metal strapping in microwave bale moisture sensing. Controlling cotton bale moisture is critical to maintaining the quality of cotton fiber in long-term storage. With recent advances in microwave technology it is now possible to detect previously hidden internal moisture spots, but about half of the U.S. cotton gins cannot use this technology because of metal strapping used to tie cotton bales. Engineers at the Cotton Production and Processing Research Unit, Lubbock, TX, have developed an adaptation that eliminates the impact that metal ties have on microwave moisture measurements. This new development enables 100% of all U.S. cotton gins to take advantage of microwave bale moisture sensing technology and keep cotton bales with damaging levels of internal bale moisture out of the market place. This technology will help to ensure the fiber quality reputation of U.S. cotton in the global market place.
2. Commercial evaluation of modern cotton harvest systems. On the Texas High Plains, both picker- and stripper-based cotton harvest systems are routinely used, but is one economically better than the other? Scientists at the Cotton Production and Processing Research Unit, Lubbock, TX, working in cooperation with Texas AgriLife Extension personnel, conducted commercial-scale experiments to compare the harvesting performance, fiber quality, and production economics for the two systems. Seven producer-owned irrigated fields were used in the project, and the harvested modules were ginned by cooperating commercial gins according to harvest method. Fiber quality comparisons indicate that picker-harvested cotton has improved maturity, strength, and length properties with less foreign matter (40% reduction of bark contamination) and fiber entaglements compared with stripper-harvested cotton. However, on average, the picker harvester left 96 pounds of lint per acre more in the field compared with the stripper harvester. Economic comparisons indicate that stripper-based harvest systems return $27 more per acre to the producer compared with picker-based systems. This should be a consideration when deciding what cotton harvesting equipment to purchase.
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