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ARS Home » Plains Area » Lubbock, Texas » Cropping Systems Research Laboratory » Cotton Production and Processing Research » Research » Research Project #437975

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

Location: Cotton Production and Processing Research

2020 Annual Report

OBJECTIVE 1: Develop commercially viable methods and technologies for use before ginning that reduce harvest costs, preserve fiber/seed quality, enhance the utilization of production/harvest/gin data, and prevent/minimize contamination of upland cotton. Subobjective 1A: Assessing the influence of seed cotton storage in round modules on lint and seed quality. Subobjective 1B: Improving the cleanliness and quality of stripper-harvested cotton through improved field cleaning systems. Subobjective 1C: Development of equipment to detect and remove contaminants from cotton during the harvesting process. OBJECTIVE 2: Enable commercially preferred technologies/methods/strategies for use in ginning upland cotton that improve cleanliness of seed cotton and lint, detect/remove contamination, preserve fiber quality, and reduce financial costs. Subobjective 2A: Development of equipment to detect and remove contaminants from cotton in the harvest and ginning processes. Subobjective 2B: Improving cotton fiber length distribution through novel lint cleaner design. OBJECTIVE 3: Develop commercially viable post-ginning technologies/techniques that enhance the storage and utilization of upland cotton products/coproducts/byproducts and reduce the environmental footprint of cotton production/processing. Subobjective 3A: Development of a commercially viable mechanical cottonseed delinting system to remove cotton linters and produce planting quality seed, without the use of chemicals. Subobjective 3B: Reducing particulate emissions from cotton ginning through improved pollution abatement device design using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and laboratory testing. Subobjective 3C: Develop and evaluate the use of cotton plant constituents and other natural fibers in the manufacture of composite materials.

This five-year project plan addresses critical pre-ginning, ginning and post-ginning issues facing cotton producers and processors in the United States. Our plan of work is based on an interactive research approach which is focused on the development of processes and systems for preserving cotton quality during infield storage and ginning, removing foreign material and contaminants from seed cotton during harvesting and ginning, reducing particulate emissions from ag operations, reducing the environmental impact of acid cottonseed delinting, and increasing the value of cotton byproducts though composite materials. The research plan detailed herein addresses the development of new technologies, methods, and strategies for reducing the economic and environmental costs of cotton harvest, ginning, and post-gin processing of upland cotton and cotton by-products. Commercial viability of the research is a key component of any problem solution.

Progress Report
Objective 1, Subobjective 1A: New chemical free methods of defoliating cotton were investigated under laboratory and field conditions. The most effective non-chemical method for cotton defoliation was the use of directed propane flames to heat the base of cotton plants to the point where the water/nutrient transport process is disrupted. This method provided both defoliation and regrowth control. Findings of this work were documented in a peer-reviewed journal article. Subobjective 1B: Technology for identifying contaminants for use both in the field and in the ginning process was developed. Efforts to integrate this technology to control a system for preventing contaminant entry into row units on cotton harvesters is underway. Subobjective 1C: Field testing to evaluate microwave-based yield monitor errors as a function of crop characteristics was completed. Data analysis is complete. Subobjective 1D: A novel system for measuring the weight of harvested seed cotton in basket type cotton harvesters was developed and tested. Field testing of the system is complete. Additional work using this system was conducted in cooperation with Texas A&M University to integrate the weight measurement system into the first self-calibrating cotton yield monitor. Data from the prototype self-calibrating yield monitor was collected and results were reported to stakeholders. Subobjective 1E: Additional data were collected comparing the cleaning efficiency and seed cotton loss between a production model field cleaner and a prototype field cleaner with improved cleaning and processing capacity. The new data confirm earlier findings that showed substantial improvements in seed cotton cleanliness from the prototype machine compared to the production model field cleaner. The cleaning efficiency improved from 27% with the production model machine to over 48% with the prototype field cleaner. Lint turnout increased from 28.9% to 31.8% for the production model and prototype field cleaners, respectively. Data from the large-scale field trials were summarized and presented to an industry partner. Objective 2, Subobjective 2A: A field feasibility study was conducted to evaluate the potential for utilization of the unit’s previously developed swept-frequency microwave-moisture sensing methodologies. The project was completed with the publication of a peer-reviewed journal article covering the development and results of experimental tests. Subobjective 2B: A prototype delinting system was designed and built for installation and testing in a commercial cottonseed delinting facility but due to COVID-19, installation and testing have been postponed for a year. Subobjective 2C: Testing was performed using cotton cellulosic materials to produce cellulosic nanocrystals (CNC’s). Subobjective 2D: Testing was conducted to document ginning rate, seed residual lint, lint turnout, and fiber quality as a function of powered roll insert size and seed cotton lot size. Data analysis is complete, and the results have been communicated to the industry partner. The design of the ginning system was transferred to a commercial gin machinery manufacturer for production and sale to public and private breeding programs and agronomic service companies. Subobjective 2E: A machine vision system was developed to identify colored plastic contaminants in flowing seed cotton. The system was tested with pink and yellow plastic material which are the most common colors commercially to protect round cotton modules. The system also detects black plastic material commonly used as bed covering material in vegetable production. The finding of this work were reported to industry stakeholders and the technology has been transferred. Subobjective 2F: Experimental tests were conducted on removal of plastic utilizing high-voltage electro-static attraction. Results of these tests provided evidence that the approach wasn’t practical, leading researchers to investigate alternative methods. Subobjective 2G: A system was designed and installed on a cotton stripper harvester that prevents contaminants from entering the harvesting units of the machine. The system was field tested using manual control and results indicate that the system prevented approximately 85% of the plastic contaminants placed in the field from entering the harvester. These findings were summarized in a report to stakeholders and additional work is underway to integrate machine vision techniques into an automated control system. Objective 3: The trash piles from seven Texas cotton gins were sampled to measure the mass of particulate matter (PM) per ton of trash pile material. Each sample was subjected to a sieving analysis to collect the PM less than 106 micrometers. Subsequently, particle size distribution analyses were conducted on the PM less than 106 micrometers with particle analyzer systems. Particle density analysis was also conducted on each sample. The data were used to calculate PM content estimates for the trash piles at each gin location in terms of total PM, PM10 (particulate matter less than 10 micrometers in aerodynamic diameter), and PM2.5 (particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in aerodynamic diameter). Trash pile emission factor estimates have been developed and reported to stakeholders.