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ARS Home » Plains Area » Lubbock, Texas » Cropping Systems Research Laboratory » Cotton Production and Processing Research » Research » Research Project #429210

Research Project: Enhancing the Profitability and Sustainability of Upland Cotton, Cottonseed, and Agricultural Byproducts through Improvements in Pre- and Post-Harvest Processing

Location: Cotton Production and Processing Research

2019 Annual Report

Objective 1: Enable, from a technological standpoint, new commercial equipment and processes for harvesting, storing, and pre-processing Upland cotton; resulting in (1) lower use of chemicals, and (2) enhanced cleanliness and quality of the seed cotton, cottonseed, and/or lint fiber. Subobjective 1A: Develop technology for chemical free cotton pre-harvest defoliation and desiccation treatments. Subobjective 1B: Develop sensing technology for monitoring/control of cotton during harvest operations. Subobjective 1C: Evaluate the accuracy of microwave sensor based cotton yield monitoring systems and investigate the relationships between yield measurement error and crop characteristics and environmental parameters. Subobjective 1D: Develop technology for improving the accuracy and reliability of cotton yield monitor data. Subobjective 1E: Develop technology for improving the cleanliness of harvested seed cotton and the efficiency and productivity of cotton harvest. Objective 2: Enable new commercial technologies and methods for post-harvest processing of stripper-harvested seed cotton, cottonseed, lint fiber and/or agricultural byproducts that preserve and/or enhance quality/value, storage, and utilization. Subobjective 2A: Develop sensing technology for identification and control of cotton gin moisture control systems. Subobjective 2B: Develop commercially viable means of delinting cottonseed, to produce planting quality (naked) seed, without the use of chemicals. Subobjective 2C: Develop and evaluate the use of cotton gin byproducts in the manufacture of composite materials. Subobjective 2D: Develop methods and technology for improving the quality and productivity of Southern High Plains cotton. Sub-objective 2E: Develop sensing technology for detection of contaminants in seed-cotton and cotton lint during post-harvest operations. Sub-objective 2F: Develop simulation models for use in enabling rapid development of cotton-gin based contamination removal machinery. Sub-objective 2G: Develop machinery for detection and removal of contaminants in seed-cotton during harvest operations. 3: Enhance the knowledge base pertaining to measurement, characterization, and estimation of non-combustion source particulate matter emitted from agricultural production and processing operations.

This five-year project plan addresses critical production, harvesting, and processing issues facing cotton producers and processors in the United States. Our plan of work is based on an interactive research approach which emphasizes the development of improved harvest preparation, mechanical harvesting, lint cleaning, cottonseed processing equipment, and in finding suitable uses for cotton byproducts and/or waste materials. The planned research targets two critical areas: 1) harvest, storing, and pre-processing technologies for Upland cotton, and 2) innovative post-harvest processing of seed cotton, cottonseed, lint fiber, and/or cotton byproducts and co-products. Commercial viability of the research is a key component of any problem solution.

Progress Report
Objective 1: Sub-objective 1A: Project was completed with the publication of a peer-reviewed journal article covering the development and results of experimental tests. Sub-objective 1B: Prototype plastic exclusion system was constructed and tested on commercial harvester in test plots that were grown under commercial practices. Results of testing was successful, but also highlighted the need for a second generation system that would have a faster response as well as be more immune to plugging from cotton stalks. Sub-objective 1C: Additional data on yield monitor error were collected in addition to data on cultivar specific seed size, seed cotton moisture during harvest, seed cotton foreign matter content, and fiber quality to investigate relationships with yield monitor error. Preliminary analysis of these data indicate that the yield measurement error in micmicrowave-based yield monitors is on the order of +/- 12% when calibrated for a single cultivar at the beginning of harvest each day. Preliminary results were reported to stake holders during professional society conferences and grower organization meetings. Sub-objective 1D: A system for calibrating cotton yield monitors onboard a basket-type cotton stripper was developed. When commanded by the operator, the system automatically positions the basket and measures the accumulated weight of cotton in the harvester basket. Under commercial in-field conditions, the system reported accumulated basket weights to within 2.3% of the reference scale. Additional measures were identified and documented that further reduce the error in weights reported by the system due to machine orientation, wind, and system operation. The on-harvester calibration system was integrated into the design of the first self-calibrating cotton yield monitor. Field testing of the self-calibrating yield monitor was conducted and additional testing on a larger scale is planned for the 2019 harvest season. Sub-objective 1E: Large scale field experiments to compare the performance of a new cotton stripper field cleaner to the production model field cleaner were conducted at four locations in Texas during 2018. In light of no significant increase in seed cotton loss, the new machine exhibited substantially improved cleaning efficiency relative to the production model machine (i.e. 68% vs 42%) which translated into improved lint turnout (39 vs. 36%). Considering all harvesting/ginning costs and lint/seed revenues, the new field cleaner increased net value by $4 per lint bale compared to the production model machine. Objective 2: Sub-objective 2A: Project was completed with the publication of a peer-reviewed journal article covering the development and results of experimental tests. Sub-objective 2B: A cottonseed preconditioning system was built to remove some of the linters from the cottonseed prior to the mechanical delinter in order to enhance efficiency. The preconditioning system was tested with results indicating 3% to 5% residual lint removal prior to the mechanical delinter. Sub-objective 2C: Testing was performed on a “biofoam”, made from 100% mycelium, to see how it performed as an acoustic absorber compared to other biomass substrate and mycelium bonded composites. The results of the testing were presented at two meetings, the Association for the Advancement of Industrial Crops and the International Conference on Natural Fibres. A peer-reviewed journal paper was written and published covering this work. Sub-objective 2D: Experiments were conducted to document the cleaning efficiency and seed cotton loss of the seed cotton cleaner/gin feeder designed for use in a new ginning system for processing small seed cotton lots. Improvements to the feeding system were integrated and allowed the system to process seed cotton lot sizes from 1 to 14 lbs. Results indicated cleaning efficiencies in excess of 73% for the seed cotton cleaner. Cleaning efficiency was influenced by cultivar based on initial foreign matter content level and also decreased slightly for slower processing rates. Additional experiments were conducted to evaluate and document the influence of seed cotton lot size and power roll insert size on ginning rate, seed residual lint content, lint turnout, and fiber quality. Analysis of these data is underway. The new ginning system was used by the cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) partner to process about 2000 samples during the 2018/19 harvest season. The design of the ginning system was transferred to a commercial gin manufacturer for commercial production and sale to public and private breeding and agronomic service programs. Sub-objective 2E: A commercial scale plastic detection system was constructed and deployed on the number 2 gin-stand in Meadow, Texas. As it was impractical to perform efficacy tests in the commercial gin; an identical cut-down version was constructed and tested for efficacy in the research unit’s cotton gin. Test results indicate detection-ejection rates for pink module wrap contamination was better than 90% and 78% for yellow wrap. Sub-objective 2F: Work was begun on the computational fluid dynamics code that would allow for simulation of particle laden flows using large-eddy simulation turbulence model and then extending this model to include the additional force due to electro-static attraction using high-voltage charging of particles. Sub-objective 2G: A system was designed, fabricated, and tested for use on a cotton harvester header that prevents contaminants from entering the harvesting units. Under field testing, the system exhibited 85% efficacy in preventing canopy sourced plastic material from entering the harvesting unit of a cotton stripper. Additional work to integrate machine vision detection allowing full system automation is under way. Objective 3: Samples of cotton gin trash from the bur piles at 7 Texas gins were obtained during the 2018 ginning season for particulate matter content analysis. Approximately 5 samples were collected from each gin with the sampling date for each sample separated by 2 to 3 weeks. The samples were sieved to remove all particulate matter less than 107 micrometers. Particle size distribution analysis of the particulate less than 107 microns from each sample is underway using Coulter Multi-sizer 3 and laser diffraction particle size instruments. The results of sieving and particle size distribution analyses will be used to develop “potential” particulate emissions data for cotton gin trash piles and used in dispersion modeling programs in the air permitting process for cotton gins.

1. New ginning system developed for breeder scale applications. In collaboration with a cooperating cotton seed company, ARS researchers in Lubbock, Texas, developed a new ginning system for batch processing small seed cotton samples with minimal human intervention. The new system design is of significant interest to cotton breeders, agronomists, and U.S. cotton growers as it provides significant advancements in regard to sample processing speed, processing consistency, cultivar performance data reliability, and operator safety/ergonomics. The automated system design allows an operator to place an un-ginned sample of seed cotton in the conveying system, initiate the ginning system, and remove the ginned lint and seed from their respective collection boxes once the process is complete. Thus, operator safety and consistency in cultivar performance data are substantially improved over conventional small-scale ginning systems that require the operator to manipulate the sample inside the gin stand roll box while in operation. Cotton growers will benefit economically from the improvement in cultivar performance data quality/reliability as it has been estimated that the average cost of selecting the wrong cultivar for commercial production is in the range of $13 - $85 per acre; this equates to between $19,500 and $127,500 in lost farm revenue for a producer growing 1500 acres of cotton per year.

Review Publications
Li, H., Wanjura, J.D., Faulkner, W.B., Lacey, R. 2019. Evaluation of filter media options for high volume PM2.5 sampling. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 35(2): 205-209.
van der Sluijs, M.H.J., Delhom, C.D., Wanjura, J.D., Holt, G.A. 2019. A preliminary investigation into the feasibility of gin blending. Journal of Cotton Science. 23:97-108.
Yao, Q., Yang, Z., Li, H., Buser, M., Wanjura, J.D., Downey, P.M., Zheng, C., Craige, C., Torrents, A., Mcconnell, L., Holt, G., Hapeman, C.J. 2018. Assessment of particulate matter and ammonia emissions and respective plume profiles from a commercial poultry house. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 238:10-16.
Funk, P.A., Terrazas, A.A., Yeater, K.M., Hardin IV, R.G., Armijo, C.B., Whitelock, D.P., Pelletier, M.G., Wanjura, J.D., Holt, G.A., Delhom, C.D. 2018. Procedures for moisture analytical tests used in cotton ginning research. Transactions of the ASABE. 61(6):1985-1995.
Wanjura, J.D., Armijo, C.B., Delhom, C.D., Boman, R.K., Faulkner, W.B., Holt, G.A., Pelletier, M.G. 2019. Effects of harvesting and ginning practices on southern high plains cotton - fiber quality. Textile Research Journal. 89(23-24)4938-4958.
Pelletier, M.G. 2018. Welcome to agriengineering—a new open-access, open-source, open-hardware journal for the growing multidisciplinary scientific and engineering agricultural research community. AgriEngineering. 1(1), 1-3. 10.3390/agriengineering1010001.
Witt, T.W., Ulloa, M., Pelletier, M.G., Mendu, V., Ritchie, G.L. 2018. Irrigation’s effect and applied selection on the fiber quality of ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS) treated upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.). Journal of Cotton Research. 1:17.