Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Cotton Ginning Research » Research » Research Project #438000

Research Project: Improving the Production and Processing of Western and Long-Staple Cotton and Companion Crops to Enhance Quality, Value, and Sustainability

Location: Cotton Ginning Research

2022 Annual Report

Objective 1: Integrate new information and technologies for new cultivars, and production/handling practices to enhance quality and utility of Western and long-staple cotton for ginning. Subobjective 1: Improve or enhance cotton fiber ginnability, textile utility, and cottonseed end-use value of new germplasm releases of both Upland and Pima cottons. Objective 2: Develop and integrate new or improved ginning technologies, methods, and processes to enhance product quality and value, increase process efficiencies, and reduce environmental risk of Western and other long-staple cottons. Subobjective 2A: Improve seed cotton conditioning and foreign matter and contamination extraction. Subobjective 2B: Develop improved ginning technologies to increase efficiency and productivity and enhance fiber quality. Subobjective 2C: Improve or enhance fiber quality and end use. Objective 3: Enable commercial technologies that support processing of cotton companion crops. Subobjective 3: Assist tree nut industries in improving process efficiency and reducing environmental risk.

The Southwestern Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory (SWCGRL) mission is to develop technologies that solve problems directly affecting, or being affected by, the cotton ginning industry to maximize the economic viability and competitiveness and minimize the environmental impact of the U.S. cotton production and processing system. To carry out this mission, our core problem is to address critical cotton and related companion crop production, ginning or processing, textile processing, and regulatory compliance issues - especially those pertaining to Western irrigated cottons. The cotton production and processing chain is an integrated system that starts with plant breeders selecting cultivars for yield and other factors. It includes cultural practices and harvesting, seed-cotton drying and cleaning, ginning, lint cleaning, bale packaging, shipping, storage, marketing, spinning, weaving, finishing, and garment making. U.S. agriculture, including cotton, has increasingly become more integrated where companion and rotation crop systems rely on and influence one another. Similarly, environmental impact and compliance plays a significant role in agricultural production and processing. In this 5-year research cycle, our group will use engineering, understanding of ginning systems and agricultural processing, and knowledge of the factors that affect cotton quality to assist cotton breeders in developing easier-ginning higher-quality cultivars; to develop ginning solutions for superior foreign matter removal, more efficient and lower cost operations, and less fiber and cottonseed damage; to assist agricultural industries in reducing environmental footprints and complying with regulations; and to develop information and technologies that increase process efficiencies and enhance economic viability of cotton companion crops.

Progress Report
To address the three main objectives, progress focused on cotton production, ginning, and companion crop processing. Objective 1- ARS researchers in Las Cruces, New Mexico, cooperated with Western cotton breeders, including Texas Agrilife Extension, that were conducting El Paso County Cotton Variety Trials and New Mexico State University (NMSU) cotton breeding program that was producing new cotton germplasm lines with improved Fusarium Wilt (FOV-4) resistance. ARS provided ginning expertise and ginned experimental cottons to produce pure seed for future planting and cotton lint samples for quality analyses. Work continued on a project to investigate cotton fiber properties produced by model-sized gin stands used by breeders to predict properties for cotton that will be machine-harvested and processed in a commercial ginning environment. Ginning tests were started to compare fiber properties from these saw- and roller-breeder gins, from conventional saw- and roller-gin stands used in modern cotton gins, and from a reciprocating-knife roller gin stand used in countries other than the U.S. Fiber samples taken during the ginning test will also be used to determine the spinning performance and yarn quality among the varying types of gin stands. Objective 2- Fiber testing was completed, and data analysis began to compare fiber properties among conventional and experimental lint cleaners that use different methods of placing ginned fiber on the machine’s cleaning cylinder to remove foreign matter. Fiber samples taken during the ginning test will also be used to determine the spinning performance and yarn quality among the varying types of lint cleaners. The goal of the project is to improve fiber length uniformity of ginned cotton, which should help U.S. cotton compete with man-made fibers. Collaborative work with researchers at NMSU to determine ginning costs of saw and roller ginneries in the Far West was continued. Information from previously obtained gin financial audit reports were used to develop statistical models that measure the impact of economies of scale, time trends, and ginning technologies on total ginning costs. Because a larger data set of gin economic information is needed, other ginneries were asked to submit current and past audit reports to improve the analysis. Work continued on an industry requested document that compiles past and current research on how seed coat fragments are created, the damage that they do during processing of textile products, and methods to alleviate them in the ginnery. ARS is leading this effort that will help direct future research and funding to address the long-standing problem of seed coat fragments in ginned cotton. Construction of a prototype passive thermal plastic extraction apparatus was completed. The goal of the industry supported project is to develop a new technology to separate contaminating plastic from seed cotton by exploiting the difference in melting point. Sample plastic types and sizes for testing were prepared, an experiment design was developed, and preliminary testing and adjustments to optimize flow and performance of the prototype were begun. Testing of modifications to a cotton plastic contamination cleaner developed by a Chinese gin machinery company to improve its performance were completed and reported to industry stakeholders. Results showed the modifications did not improve performance and that usefulness of the machine as an off-the-shelf option for U.S. cotton gins would be limited. Further investigations were planned to explore machinery concepts that exploit differences in physical properties between cotton and plastics. Techniques of particular interest are air classification which uses air currents to separate materials by a combination of size, shape, and density, and the sling-off action of some current cotton gin machines. The third and final year of a cooperative test at a commercial gin in Texas evaluating the effect of deep cryogenic treatment on gin saw wear was completed. Collected field data and before and after physical properties measurements of more than 2,800 saws are being analyzed. NMSU is assisting with processing before and after images of the saws to measure changes in saw tooth profile areas due to wear. A related study comparing gin saw thickness and its impact on fiber and seed value was completed. Data collected from previous tests on experimental, high-capacity cotton gin reclaimer systems was used for modeling and optimization. Non-linear regression models were developed incorporating the roller ginning rate and reclaimer component speed. Results were utilized to understand the interaction effect of the ginning rate and reclaimer speed on the seed and lint loss. Further optimization using a hybrid genetic algorithm identified process variables that need further testing to better understand their impact on lint and seed loss. The new experimental data will be further used to develop models and optimize the reclaimer systems. A new study to investigate the suitability of cotton gin waste material (leaf, hulls, sticks, and motes) for various biobased applications such as fuels and biobased materials was initiated. Plans were developed to fractionate the cotton gin wastes generated during ongoing ginning tests into various fractions based on size and density and further analyze the wastes for their physical properties and chemical composition. Equipment for a pilot laboratory to convert the waste into a novel commodity-type products with the desired physical properties and chemical composition for biobased applications was identified and sources found. Studies using an air fractionator for lint cleaning were revived. Tests designed to understand how the lint moisture, residence time, and air pressure impact the lint properties and foreign matter removal were planned. The impact of moisture on the lint cleaning process in an air fractionator has never been studied. Exploratory tests were conducted to determine how accurately moisture could be added to lint to achieve a design moisture content and what fraction of the lint samples was needed for quality analyses. Samples of Pima and Upland cotton lint ginned using different ginning methods were collected for the air fractionation studies. Objective 3- The first year of testing for a study aimed at reducing the energy footprint of walnut hulling operations was completed. Novel walnut sampling and moisture analysis procedures were developed for the tests and devices to sample walnuts at multiple levels and times from drying bins were designed and built in-house. Also, a mobile laboratory for moisture analysis in the field was constructed and outfitted. Field data collection, including testing an innovative grain drying technology that was adapted for walnut drying, was conducted at a commercial California walnut hulling facility. Design and fabrication of a new fan/motor/variable frequency drive system for a particulate abatement device test stand was completed. The new system will allow for better control of particulate loading and airflow rates to the devices during testing and will be used for evaluating two model devices designed to reduce tree nut harvest dust emissions.

1. High-capacity reclaimers for high-speed roller ginning. High speed roller-ginning technology, developed in 2005, was largely adopted by the U.S cotton industry for roller ginning both Pima and Upland cotton. Operation of high-speed roller-gin stands produces a much larger amount of carryover (a mixture of unginned seed cotton and ginned cottonseed that is expelled from the roller-gin stand during operation) than is normal for conventional roller-gin stands. Existing conventional seed-cotton reclaimers cannot adequately handle the increased carryover and either become a bottleneck for production or do not adequately separate the unginned seed cotton from the ginned seed, resulting in excessive lint and seed loss. ARS researchers in Las Cruces, New Mexico, conducted research to develop and test experimental high-capacity reclaimers for the growing high-speed roller-ginning industry. The experimental reclaimers minimized the amount of seed-cotton loss, but they had more seed loss than a conventional reclaimer. Estimates of the value of the losses revealed that a conventional reclaimer had the lowest combined seed and lint loss of $3.56 per cotton bale when processing Pima cotton, while an experimental reclaimer based on a current cotton gin machine had the lowest combined loss when processing Upland cotton, nearly $10 per cotton bale less than the conventional reclaimer. That could be a significant savings considering that approximately 40,000 bales of Upland are roller ginned each year. These data were used to model and optimize the experimental reclaimer performance and led to further testing to validate their performance. Western cotton producers could realize significant economic benefits from the adoption of this technology.

Review Publications
Walker, S.J., Funk, P.A., Joukhadar, I., Place, T., Havlik, C., Tonnessen, B. 2021. 'NuMex Odyssey', a New Mexico-type green chile pepper for mechanical harvest. HortScience.
Funk, P.A., Thomas, J.W., Yeater, K.M., Armijo, C.B., Whitelock, D.P., Wanjura, J.D., Delhom, C.D. 2022. Saw thickness impact on cotton gin energy consumption. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 38(1):15-21. https:///
Zhang, J., Zhu, Y., Elkins-Arce, H., Wheeler, T., Dever, J., Whitelock, D.P., Hake, K., Wedegaertner, T. 2022. Studies of evaluation parameters for resistance to Fusarium wilt in cotton caused by Fusarium wilt race 4 (Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. vasinfectum). Crop Science. 62(3):1115-1132.
Armijo, C.B., Bechere, E., Whitelock, D.P., Funk, P.A. 2022. Cotton genotype differences in seed coat fragments related to seed fragility and fiber-seed attachment force. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 38(3):517-522.
Yang, Z., Evans, M.D., Buser, M.D., Hapeman, C.J., Torrents, A., Whitelock, D.P. 2022. Improving modeling of low-altitude particulate matter emission and dispersion: A cotton gin case study. Journal of Environmental Science.
Blake, C.D., Whitelock, D.P., Buser, M.D., Funk, P.A., Armijo, C.B. 2022. The impact of ginning rate on fiber and seed quality. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 38(1):9-14.
Pelletier, M.G., Armijo, C.B., Funk, P.A., Fabian, J.C., Hardin Iv, R.G. 2020. Gin process control. Journal of Cotton Science. 24(2):81-86. Available: