Submitted to: Journal of Agricultural Science and Technology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/16/2010
Publication Date: 2/15/2011
Citation: Delhom, C.D., Byler, R.K. 2011. Performance of a microwave bale moisture content meter. Journal of Agricultural Science and Technology. 5(2):181-187. Interpretive Summary: The moisture content of cotton bales is an important issue due to the commodity being sold on a weight basis and the fact that cotton quality is adversely affected by high moisture content. In 2006, the Farm Service Agency issued a ruling preventing bales with moisture content exceeding 7.5% wet basis from being used as collateral in the Commodity Credit Corporation loan program. The measurement of moisture content of cotton is not a simple task and is needed for quality control during the ginning process, as well as to ensure compliance with the FSA directive. A variety of moisture measurement technologies exist, with one of the most recent developments being the Vomax bale moisture meter, which uses microwave technology to assess the moisture content of a cotton bale at the cotton gin. Prior to this study, no data was available to validate the Vomax meter’s performance. A laboratory and commercial gin study were conducted to determine if the Vomax meter was effective. Bales of various moisture content were produced in a controlled ginning environment and real world bales were sampled from a commercial gin. The microwave bale moisture meter was found to have good correlation with the oven reference method for measuring moisture content. Bale orientation, weight, and packaging were found to have no discernible effect on the meter’s measurement of moisture content.
Technical Abstract: Measuring the moisture content of cotton bales has been a topic of intense interest in the last few years. A non-contact microwave-based bale moisture meter, Vomax 851-B (Vomax Instrumentation through Samuel Jackson, Lubbock, TX) has been commercially available but independent verification of these measurements has not been available. Holly Ridge Gin Company (Holly Ridge, MS) provided access to the commercial meter installed in their facility. The study was conducted in two parts, a laboratory phase and a commercial phase. In the laboratory phase, bales were prepared by the Cotton Ginning Research Unit for measurement on the commercial instrument, as well as by the oven reference method; the potential effects of bale orientation and bale packaging were also studied with these samples. The commercial phase involved collecting lint samples from 50 bales, over 5 days, during the 2007 ginning season. The collected bale samples were tested by the oven reference method for moisture content and those readings were compared to the microwave-based meter readings for moisture content. Moisture content ranged from 4.2% to 7.2%, wet basis for the samples tested. The Vomax measurements tracked variation in bale moisture content; however, the measurements showed higher moisture content than determined by the oven method. The Vomax 851-B shows potential to provide a reliable cotton bale moisture content for use by cotton gins.