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ARS Home » Plains Area » Lubbock, Texas » Cropping Systems Research Laboratory » Cotton Production and Processing Research » Research » Research Project #445275

Research Project: Pre-cleaning System Design and Evaluation for Whole-plant Harvested Cotton for Improved Logistics and Residue Utilization

Location: Cotton Production and Processing Research

Project Number: 3096-21410-009-019-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Apr 15, 2023
End Date: Apr 14, 2025

The objective of this project is to evaluate the performance of a prototype whole-plant cotton pre-cleaning system to clean whole-plant harvested cotton prior to ginning and to upgrade cotton residues (primarily stalk material) and ginning trash to fuel pellets.

The current cotton harvesting system utilized in the U.S. employs either cotton strippers or cotton pickers to harvest seed cotton from the plants before it is processed by a cotton gin into lint fiber, seed, and various by-product materials. These harvesters are costly, dedicated machines that have no utility to producers outside of cotton harvest. Moreover, much of the vegetative material produced by a cotton crop is left in the field after the seed cotton is harvested, eliminating the potential for gleaning additional value from this portion of the crop through thermo-chemical conversion processes to generate value-added feed-stock materials and energy. A new whole-plant harvesting system has been developed and tested in corn through two prior USDA Foundational projects. In addition, preliminary evaluation of the system for cotton is being done with a project funded through Cotton Incorporated. We are evaluating the performance of the alternative whole-plant cotton harvesting system to form rectangular bales in a single pass in terms of harvest productivity, fuel use, cotton quality, post-harvest logistical efficiency, and economic and environmental benefits. While the technology to harvest has been developed, there is a need to develop a pre-cleaning system that would be able to separate the whole-plant cotton material into cotton residue and seed cotton so that the material can be ginned using the existing ginning infrastructure. The main objective of this work will be accomplished through completion of the following four sub-objectives: 1) Develop a prototype pre-cleaning system for whole-plant cotton, 2) Evaluate the performance of the whole-plant harvested cotton in terms of separation using the prototype pre-cleaner, and quality of the lint and seed, 3) Optimize formulations for upgrading pre-cleaned woody residues (primarily stalk material) to high quality fuel pellets, and 4) Systems-level techno-economic analysis (TEA) & life cycle assessment (LCA).