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ARS Home » Plains Area » Lubbock, Texas » Cropping Systems Research Laboratory » Cotton Production and Processing Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #377138

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

Title: Prevention of plastic contamination when handling cotton modules

item Wanjura, John
item Pelletier, Mathew
item WARD, JASON - North Carolina State University
item HARDIN, BOBBY - Texas A&M University
item BARNES, EDWARD - Cotton, Inc

Submitted to: Agricultural Research Updates
Publication Type: Research Technical Update
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/15/2020
Publication Date: 8/20/2020
Citation: Wanjura, J.D., Pelletier, M.G., Ward, J., Hardin, B., Barnes, E. 2020. Prevention of plastic contamination when handling cotton modules. Agricultural Research Updates. 1-10.

Interpretive Summary: Plastic contamination in cotton bales is one of the largest threats to the US cotton industry today. According to USDA Classing Offices, most of the plastic found in lint samples originates from the wrap used on cylindrical or "round" modules. The increased presence of plastic contamination has resulted in decreased price premium for all U.S. grown cotton and merchants and mills greatly discount the price offered for bales with plastic contamination. Damage to round module wrap can occur from the time the wrap is applied to the module on the harvester to the time it is cut off at the gin. The objective of this work is to identify and document specific handling practices used in the field, during transportation, and at the gin that lead to wrap damage and subsequently increase the risk of plastic contamination. Harvest related factors such as forming large diameter modules and dropping modules on stalks in the field can lead to wrap damage and increased contamination risk. Field handling practices that do not raise modules over the top of cotton stalks can lead to significant wrap damage and subsequent wrap failure. Transportation related activities such as dragging modules over trailer decks, using improper module truck bed chains, and loading mis-aligned modules can result in module wrap damage. Problems documented at the gin module feeder that lead to increased risk of contamination include processing broken modules, improper wrap removal techniques that trap plastic underneath the module, and mis-handling of small diameter modules.

Technical Abstract: The U.S. cotton industry has a long history of producing contamination-free cotton, and we need to preserve that reputation. In the last three years, USDA Classing Offices have found plastic in samples with much of the plastic likely originating from round module wrap. Therefore, to maintain the reputation of U.S. cotton and prevent significant discounts to the value of a bale, it is important that both producers and ginners take steps to prevent contamination. The recommendations in this document are based on a review of video footage collected by placing cameras on module handers in the field and gin yard, as well as video cameras at the module feeder at four U.S. locations with diverse production (picker and stripper) and environmental conditions (humid to arid). Results presented here are preliminary and monitoring will continue during the 2020 season. In transporting from the field, the primary issues observed were failure to fully raise the module above cotton stalks and damage from placing modules on top of cotton stalks. Hitting the bottom of flatbed trailers during loading and unloading was a source of damage to the bottom of modules as were chains on module trucks. Damage also occurred to the side of modules when placing modules on flat bed trailers and when loading oversized modules into conventional module trucks. There were cases where trouble at the module feeder introduced plastic to the gin; however, many contamination events could be traced back to modules that were damaged in the field or during transport. Therefore, producers and module handlers are strongly encouraged to protect modules in the field and during transportation to the gin.