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Cotton Ginning Research Unit

Computerized process control for cotton gins to increase monetary income and to improve cotton quality.
The Cotton Ginning Research Unit at Stoneville, Mississippi developed and implemented a computerized system to automatically measure the quality of cotton at various stages of gin processing and select and route the cotton through the optimum machine sequence. Application of the Computerized Process Control Systems (CPCS) will improve fiber quality substantially and increase farmer profits $10 to $20 per bale with a potential impact of $400,000,000 annually. The CPCS is based on eight patents, which includes moisture sensors, new automated bypass valves, automated calibration devices, automated sample collection and analyses hardware, and software. Key components of the CPCS are licensed to Uster Technologies and over 80 systems are in place processing over 2,000,000 bales annually.

Improved cotton growers' income by updating USDA recommendations for lint cleaning at cotton gins.
New grading and marketing systems changed the optimum decisions for ginning cotton. The ARS Cotton Ginning Research Unit at Stoneville, MS, conducted new studies to evaluate the effect of multiple stages of lint cleaning at gins on the market value of lint cotton. The studies were conducted in response to changes in the cotton grading system, the growing of improved varieties, and new quality demands for ginned lint. Guidelines on when to use one, two, or three stages of saw-type lint cleaners have raised the value of a bale of cotton by about $8. Based on an annual production of 20 million bales in the United States, the updated USDA recommendations have improved the U.S. cotton growers' annual income by about $160 million.

Decreased the level of imperfections in cotton delivered to the textile mill.
Changes in textile mill processing machines and process rates greatly influence the fiber quality characteristics necessary to optimize cotton processing at the mill level. For example, it is difficult for the textile mill to remove fiber entanglements and small fragments during the spinning process. Results of studies at the ARS Cotton Ginning Research Unit at Stoneville, MS, are reducing the numbers of neps and seed-coat fragments in cotton that are created at commercial cotton gins. Decreasing the numbers of these imperfections in the cotton bale helps the textile mill to reduce their labor costs and produce a better quality fabric. Experimental results have led to the USDA recommendation of only one saw-type lint cleaner for quality preservation; this reduces fiber entanglements by about 40 percent and decreases the number of small seed-coat fragments in the lint.

Inexpensive, accurate and automated measurement of cotton moisture at the gin and at official USDA grading.
The Cotton Ginning Research Unit at Stoneville, Mississippi developed and patented a device to measure the moisture of cotton during harvesting, moduling, gin processing, and classing inexpensively and accurately. Over 100 units are in use in cotton gins. At the farm level, cotton can be harvested at the correct moisture content to avoid quality degradation; at the gin level, cotton can be dried to the proper moisture content for optimum cleaning and ginning, and fiber damage can be avoided; at the grading level, cotton can be graded immediately on arrival without conditioning for 24 hours. Savings at the gin in fiber weight alone will amount to over $70,000,000 annually. The cost of conditioning cotton for classing can be reduced by 50% and the accuracy of measurements of the fiber strength and other factors can be greatly improved; over 100 units are in use worldwide in connection with high volume instrument classing systems.

System to measure the stickiness of cotton
Sticky cotton (sometimes referred to as honeydew) which is caused primarily by insects known as "whiteflies" and "aphids", is a significant problem for the cotton industry and market penalties of about $35 per bale may be assessed. Contaminated cotton is very difficult to process at the textile mill. Current laboratory methods to detect stickiness are slow and tedious, time-consuming (over 10 minutes per sample), and require manual evaluation by a human operator. The lack of a rapid and accurate method to detect insect sugar on cotton is a problem for the entire industry. A new device has been developed at the U.S. Cotton Ginning Laboratory, ARS, USDA, Stoneville, MS, to estimate the stickiness of a sample of seed cotton or lint cotton in less than one second (Patent Number 5,700,961). The new stickiness tester can be used at the gin or mill to automatically (without operator assistance) collect a cotton sample, evaluate the sample, and release the sample into the flow of material. It can also be used as a benchtype device in the laboratory. Use of the device in gins and mills will allow management to activate administrative and engineering controls to mitigate the impact of the sticky cotton and thereby reduce the market penalty.

Automatic calibration of sensors
An invention (patent number 5,639,955) to automatically calibrate sensors that are used in analyzing and grading agricultural products was developed at the Cotton Ginning Research Unit, Stoneville, MS. Cotton and other agricultural solids are officially classified by USDA and other organizations, and some classification is done by farmers and ginners to optimize processing of products such as cotton. Most sensors require manual calibration periodically (typically 4 hours) to ensure that industry standards are met. The invention replaces the time-consuming, manual method with an automated system that assures sensor calibration at any interval selected by the operator. This technology, when applied in cotton ginning systems, will aid in implementation of a computerized and automated process control system that measures the quality of cotton during gin processing and automatically selects and routes the cotton through the optimum machine sequence, and it will make the system more acceptable to gin owners. Incorporation of this invention in agricultural operations such as cottons gins will eliminate the need for one skilled employee and increase farmer profits.

Portable system to replace bale ties
The cotton industry is plagued by occasional problems with failure of the restraining ties that encircle a bale of cotton. About 0.4% of the bales produced in the United States experience broken ties although failures over 50% have been reported. Typically, four operators are required for 30 minutes using the current method of repair that also requires a press that markets for over $300,000. Additionally, the gin must cease operation for the repair to occur. Repair costs range from $10 to $35 per bale depending on the availability of a bale press. For a 20 million bale crop, about 800,000 bales require repair at a cost of $8 to $28 million. An inexpensive, mobile device to allow replacement of individual or multiple ties has been developed at the U.S. Cotton Ginning Laboratory, ARS, USDA, Stoneville, MS. One operator is required for 3 to 10 minutes to replace 1 to 4 ties. The repair can be done without stopping the ginning operation which processes cotton at rates of 20 to 60 bales per hour; it can also be done at a warehouse or textile mill that does not have a bale press available. The portable device should market for a fraction of the cost of the press currently used. The invention (patent number 5,921,174) is licensed to two private firms for manufacture and distribution. An improved higer capacity device has also been patented.

Device to reduce bale packaging forces
The 18 million cotton bales produced annually in the U.S. are compressed with over 800,000 pounds of force. The press requires about 300 horsepower and costs about $300,000. High initial costs, large connected horsepower and the associated hydraulics are problems for the cotton industry, and some bale ties still break! A device to reduce hydraulic pressure and thus horsepower and energy requirements by 35% was developed at the U.S. Cotton Ginning Laboratory, ARS, USDA, Stoneville, MS. Using this ARS-patented technology, the compressive cylinders, pumps and motors for new presses can be smaller which should reduce the $300,000 initial costs. An alternative use is to compress the bale to higher densities than are now possible with the invention and dramatically reduce bale tie breakage. Application of this device should substantially reduce the costs of packaging cotton bales. The patent (number 5,852,969) is licensed to three commercial firms for manufacture and distribution.

The Cotton Ginners Handbook
A "Bible" for the international cotton industry--the Cotton Ginners Handbook--was published by the Agricultural Research Service. The Handbook was written by 46 contributors from cotton organizations and industry under the guidance of co-editors Stanley Anthony of the ARS and Bill Mayfield of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. The Handbook contains 337 pages of technical information that is invaluable to the national and international cotton industry. The Handbook is cotton ginners most trusted and used information source

Cotton Ginning Schools
Technology transfer at the grass roots level is being accomplished by the Agricultural Research Service in conjunction with the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, cotton organizations and industry. Cotton Ginning Schools were developed and initiated at the ARS Cotton Ginning Research Unit in Stoneville in 1986. Since then over 5,000 ginners have participated in 3-day training sessions at Stoneville. Similar schools are now hosted by ARS ginning research units in Lubbock, TX and Las Cruces, NM. One-day seminars have also been conductedacross the Cotton Belt. As a result of the increased interest in educationalopportunities for the ginning industry, a new Gin Management and Technologyprogram was developed at Mississippi State University and will give a BS degree in Agricultural Engineering Technology and Business--the ARS Gin Lab at Stoneville provides key staff contributions to the curriculum and also hosts and helps teach a 1-week course (3 credit hours, undergraduate and/or graduate) annually. In addition, ARS was very instrumental in conducting a ginning school in Australia in 1993 and now schools are held there annually.

Device To Reduce lint Cleaner Waste And increase Farmer's Profit

Many of the 20 million bales of cotton produced annually in the United States are processed through a standard sequence of cleaning machinery at the gin. Each machine reduces the quality of cotton available for marketing and damages the fiber while it changes the market grade. When the cotton does not require all the cleaning available, one of the two standard stages of lint cleaning is omitted. Even less lint cleaning is required on over 30% of the bales. A patented invention that allows online selection of portions of a lint cleaner for use was field tested for two years at a commercial gin. Over 80% of the bales processed used only 20 to 40% of the cleaning capabilities of the lint cleaner, and thus increased the bale value to the farmer about $15 each as a result of increased bale weight. During these test, farmers profited by over $1 million.

The patent (5,900,786) is licensed to Continental Eagle Corporation of Prattville, AL, and over 30 units have been sold. When fully implemented, about 30% of the cotton in the U.S.will use this invention to increase profits by $5 to $15 per bale for an estimated $200 million annually.