Location: Cotton Structure and Quality Research2019 Annual Report
Objective 1: Enable, from a technological standpoint, new rapid and accurate commercial methods to assess cotton fiber quality. Objective 2: Enable economical, accurate and real-time methods to assess product quality and process efficiencies in pre-mill operations. Objective 3: Enable new commercial methods to detect, quantify and remove undesirable non-lint materials such as various sugars, seed coat fragments, non-leaf plant trash, etc. from cotton. Objective 4: In collaboration with industry partners, determine the impact of fiber quality and fiber processing practices on yarn and fabric quality and processing efficiencies. Objective 5: In collaboration with industry partners, determine the expected impact of new germplasms, agronomic practices, and ginning practices upon fiber quality, textile processing efficiency, and final product quality.
The U.S. cotton and textile industries agree on the need to increase U.S. cotton’s value and global competitiveness. It is proposed that this need be met by enabling new technologies and methods for accurately assessing the quality and processing efficiencies of cotton fiber at various processing stages from field to fabric. The first objective addresses the need for new rapid and accurate fiber quality assessments in the laboratory. Comprehensive evaluations will be conducted to broaden the technical and commercial attractiveness of image analysis, spectroscopy, microscopy, and color technologies to discern new measurements, with initial emphasis on 3-dimensional color, maturity, fineness, fiber diameter, fiber structure, and the relationship of these properties to key fiber quality properties. The second objective addresses the need for economical, accurate and real-time methods to assess product quality and process efficiencies outside of the laboratory in pre-mill operations. Comprehensive evaluations with state of the art spectroscopy and imaging instrumentation will be conducted to develop new quality measurement and monitoring methods for pre-harvest and post-harvest applications and operations. The third objective addresses the need for new assessments of non-lint materials and contaminants to provide improved tools for measuring, controlling and removing these non-lint materials. The development of rapid, accurate and non-destructive image scanning of seed coat fragments (SCF) and seed coat neps (SCN) will be developed, and these techniques will be used to understand what the AFIS is sensing when measuring SCN in fiber. Comprehensive evaluations with advanced chemical imaging spectroscopy technologies will be conducted to establish rapid detection and trash type identification protocols. State-of-the-art elemental analysis, chromatography, and spectroscopy technologies will be used to develop chemical measurements of fiber surface species, to include metal ions, sugars, amino acids/proteins, pectins, and waxes. These properties will be correlated to properties impacting fiber processing efficiency (i.e., stickiness and fiber friction). The fourth objective addresses the need for determining fiber quality-processing practices relationships and their impacts on product quality and processing efficiencies. In-house traditional and non-traditional quality measurements and textile processing will be used to determine the efficacy of these tests to predict processing efficiency and yarn/fabric quality and to understand the impact of fiber properties and processing on textile quality and efficiencies. The fifth objective addresses the need for determining the fiber quality-processing efficiency-product quality relationships. Comprehensive evaluations will be conducted on new germplasms using fiber quality and miniature-scale ring spinning. Advanced spectroscopic technologies will be used to characterize developing cotton fibers and their fine structure, their cell walls and physical properties.
Progress was made on the five current objectives, all of which fall under National Program 306, Component 2, Non-Food Product Quality and New Uses. Significant progress has been made on developing new post-harvest technologies in partnership with industrial partners on topics including measurement of fiber properties such as color, maturity, fineness, and frictional characteristics. Significant progress has also been made in collaboration with industry partners on applying spectroscopic measurement techniques outside the laboratory. The needs of the textile industry have been central in guiding the work to ensure U.S. cotton remains the world’s first choice in cotton. Color variation in finished cotton goods is one of the leading causes of financial claims made against cotton spinning mills. As part of Objective 1, a study was conducted on the inter-sample color variation and the relationship between color variance and other fiber properties. Similarly, other studies were conducted on the relationship between fiber physical properties and the color of dyed textile goods. A strong relationship was found between fiber maturity, fineness, and micronaire with the final color of dyed goods but not raw cotton. Work is continuing to better understand the relationship between the color variation of dyed goods and fiber fineness and maturity. Infrared spectroscopy measurements are part of several objectives. Within Objective 1, infrared spectra were collected and used to calculate fiber maturity ratios and evaluate the distribution of maturity within a sample. Under Objective 2, this technique was deployed into a commercial cotton gin to gather spectral data on several thousand bales of cotton for a third ginning season. Prediction models are being built using the spectral data and physical testing results, which should allow the identification of bale micronaire values in position during ginning. This third year of study incorporates information gathered in previous years to address multiple sources of error. Several commercial gins have expressed interest in the technology and are being evaluated as additional testing locations to assess fiber quality during ginning. Spectroscopy work has continued in efforts to monitor and measure cotton fiber cell wall development and surface chemical composition (Objectives 1, 3, and 5). The methods developed are being utilized by ARS researchers in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Florence, South Carolina, to assist in monitoring cotton fiber maturity and understanding the distribution of both natural and added chemical compounds within and on cotton fibers. Cotton stickiness, due to excessive insect sugars primarily from silverleaf whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) and cotton aphid (Aphis gosypii) continues to be an intermittent problem for domestic cotton producers. Work in both Objectives 3 and 5 have been aimed at measuring the contaminant and developing processing methods to resolve the issue through changes in blending, processing speeds, and controlling the temperature of machine components. Trials of physical, chemical, and thermal test methods are continuing, and processing trials are under-development to provide guidance to textile mills on how to cope with the issue. Early detection of the potential problem will allow mills to appropriately respond to the issue instead of being surprised and having production issues. Several hundred additional commercial samples have been collected to aid in the research efforts. Additionally, an international round test, in conjunction with French and German collaborators, is underway to assess the variability of current physical and thermal detection methods. Textile processing trials were conducted as part of Objectives 4 and 5. These processing trials demonstrated the changes in fiber quality and textile processing efficiency due to changes in germplasm, agronomic practices, and ginning practices. Newly developed fiber testing and spinning trials were able to discern the impact of production methods and harvesting on yarn quality even when traditional fiber quality measurements were unable to detect differences. The focus has been on the application of fiber property distributions and the measurement of energy consumption during processing. Trials were conducted in collaboration with domestic textile industry partners, university researchers and ARS researchers at the Cropping Systems Research Laboratory (Lubbock, Texas). Over 600 samples from the National Cotton Variety Trials (NCVT) were subjected to fiber testing, and over 300 of those samples went on to processing trials in support of ARS researchers in Stoneville, Mississippi. Fiber length, strength, uniformity and micronaire as well as yarn strength measurements were provided to the NCVT committee for dissemination to the public for use in research and planting decisions. Some samples from the NCVT continue to be used as research materials for other parts of the project plan, including spectroscopy studies and chemical analyses of wax and metals content. Fiber elongation does not have an industry standard high-speed test. An international multi-laboratory test of a proposed elongation calibration method organized by ARS researchers in New Orleans, Louisiana, was completed. Laboratories across the United States and Australia, representing private, academic, and government interests, participated in the large-scale assessment of a proposed method to calibrate the industry-standard High Volume Instrument (HVI) for measuring cotton fiber elongation. The successful ability to include accurate and repeatable elongation measurements in high-speed fiber testing will allow breeders to improve the tensile strength of cotton by focusing on elongation as well as breaking strength. Understanding of both breaking strength and breaking elongation will allow for examining the entire tensile performance of cotton fibers. A joint United States–Australia cotton industry meeting was held to plan collaborative research on precision and digital agriculture in cotton. Key researchers and stakeholders from both countries discussed mutual areas of interest and created a roadmap to apply research from various sectors to enhance cotton production and quality. The fiber quality test methods for measuring fiber maturity and monitoring fiber development have a role, outside the laboratory, in providing feedback to producers to allow more efficient cotton production.
1. Computer controlled spinning frame for enhanced research capabilities. The textile industry is constantly moving towards faster yarn production rates, which pushes cotton fiber to its performance limits. In order for researchers to better assess cotton fiber processing performance, a novel ring spinning frame upgrade has been designed and implemented by ARS researchers in New Orleans, Louisiana. The custom computer controlled drive system allows for production speeds that exceed current industry capabilities. The electronic drive system also increases flexibility by eliminating gear changes and allowing a broader range of yarn diameters and twist-levels to be produced. This custom full-size ring spinning frame is the only one of its type in existence and will allow ARS researchers to better assess the quality and performance of U.S. cotton. The upgrade will also extend the life of the underlying spinning frame.
2. Real time fiber quality measurements at the cotton gin. Every bale of cotton ginned in the U.S. is tested for certain properties by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS); however, there is a several week delay between bales arriving at warehouses and test results being provided. This delay prevents cotton gins from knowing the quality of bales as they are produced and results in bales being haphazardly stored. A low cost automated cotton fiber property measurement system for cotton bales at the gin has been developed by ARS researchers in New Orleans, Louisiana. The robotic system was expanded to include computer vision allowing for color and non-lint content measurements and has been deployed in a commercial gin. This data was correlated with testing results from AMS with the goal of providing immediate feedback to the ginner and distributor. The system improves bale quality and reduces handling costs.
3. Blending seed cotton improves fiber quality. Cotton fiber is a highly variable natural material, and it is standard practice for textile mills to carefully blend cotton bales of various qualities to produce more consistent and less costly products. ARS researchers in New Orleans, Louisiana, in collaboration with ARS researchers in Lubbock, Texas, and collaborators in Australia, demonstrated that it is possible to achieve the same product uniformity by purposefully mixing seed cotton prior to ginning. The resultant bales had better property values and were of more consistent quality. Textile processing trials showed no harm to quality or efficiency when the blending rules used by textile mills were applied pre-ginning to seed cotton. This work will allow fiber producers to avoid discounts for poorer quality bales and realize greater economic return.
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