1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The objective of this research is to identify improved harvesting methods that help to maintain fiber quality, decrease seed cotton/lint foreign matter content, and improve producer profitability.
1b. Approach (from AD-416):
The main objective will be accomplished by work in four areas: In cooperation with Texas AgriLife Research Service personnel, cotton grown at two locations in the Texas High Plains under various fertility/irrigation levels will be harvested with a picker and a stripper and ginned accordingly at the USDA ARS Cotton Production and Processing Research Unit at Lubbock, TX. Analysis of yield and fiber quality data for treatment effects will be conducted. This work will evaluate the quantity and nature of foreign matter components as well as HVI and AFIS fiber quality for seed cotton gathered from several sequential points on a stripper harvester. Collection points may include 1) after the stripping rolls, 2) after the row unit augers, 3) after the cross auger conveyor, 4) prior to the field cleaner, and 5) after the field cleaner. The information gained from this work will help to identify potential areas for design improvement on the stripper. Time-in-motion data on a custom fabricated cotton harvesting system will be gathered in cooperation with a producer near Muleshoe, TX. Comparisons between the custom built system and a conventional stripper based harvest system will be conducted. Measurements of total biomass yield for modern cotton varieties will be made at several locations across the Texas High Plains region. This data will be used to update the literature on total and non-lint/seed biomass available for biofuel production or value added processing.
3. Progress Report:
A multi-year study, in cooperation with Texas AgriLife Research and Extension personnel, was established in 2010 and continued in 2011 to evaluate the influence of sub-surface drip irrigation level, nitrogen application rate, and harvest method on cotton yield and quality. The 2011 study was conducted at two locations in the High Plains, Helms Farm (Halfway, TX) and AGCARES (Lamesa, TX). Severe drought conditions, coupled with prolonged periods with high winds and daytime temperatures over 38C, were encountered at both locations. Minimal differences among treatments were observed in yield and quality data at the AGCARES location. At the Helms Farm location, yields for two varieties were improved by increasing irrigation rate and by increasing the amount of applied nitrogen for one variety. Harvest method had no influence on lint yield or value for either variety at the Helms Farm location. Harvest method and irrigation level had a significant influence on fiber length and strength characteristics. A third year of work on this project is planned for the 2012 harvest season. Research was conducted during the 2011 harvest season to document the influence of harvesting and conveying systems used on stripper harvesters on fiber quality and seed cotton foreign matter content. Seed cotton samples were collected by hand from the plants in the field and at five sequential locations on a stripper from the point of harvest through the field cleaner. Results show that the majority of foreign matter cleaned from the seed cotton is removed by the row unit augers and field cleaner. Advanced Fiber Information System (AFIS) and High Volume Instrument (HVI) results indicate that the harvesting and conveying systems on the stripper have a minimal effect on fiber length characteristics and the formation and size of fiber entanglements (neps). The results of this work indicate that the cross auger and pneumatic conveying systems on stripper harvesters could be redesigned to help improve seed cotton cleanliness while helping to preserve fiber quality. Additional work on this project is planned for the 2012 harvest season. Interest in the use of cotton crop by-products for the production of biofuels and value-added products is increasing. Research documenting the availability of cotton crop by-products after machine harvest is needed. A study was conducted to document the total above-ground biomass production for modern cotton cultivars under irrigated conditions and document the production of lint, seed, and foreign matter for modern cultivars. The results of this work indicate that approximately half of the total biomass produced by two modern cultivars under irrigated conditions remained in the field after machine harvest. Lint turnout for cotton harvested using a picker, stripper with field cleaner, and stripper without field cleaner averaged 35%, 30%, and 25%, respectively, for seven recent cotton harvesting and ginning studies. These turnout values were measured for modern cotton cultivars grown under production conditions typical to the Southern High Plains of the US and follow closely with turnout values reported in earlier publications. A time-in-motion study to quantify the field efficiency of a producer-fabricated harvesting system was planned for the 2011 harvesting season. The producer-built system consists of a commercially available 8-row cotton stripper header attached to the front hitch of a 250-hp row-crop tractor. Harvested seed cotton is conveyed by a belt to the pickup rolls of a large square baler (pulled by the tractor) where it is compressed into bales weighing approximately 2000 lb. Equipment malfunction issues prior to the 2011 harvest season prevented the execution of the time in motion study. However, the time-in-motion study is planned for the 2012 harvest season.