Cotton Links


Clean Cotton:
A Win-Win For Everybody


By Amanda Huber
Southeast Editor

It is Stephen R. Covey who popularized the concept of “think win-win” in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Essentially, a win-win is something mutually beneficial to two parties, or something that happens that is good for both sides of the issue.

Cotton that is picked and delivered to the gin as clean as possible is a win for both the producer and ginner.

Cleanly picked cotton at the proper moisture content does not need as much processing at the gin, and that will preserve more of the fiber properties and value that the farmer worked so hard to grow. Less processing means less heat and less fuel used by the ginner, plus he has a better quality product to send to the textile mill.

The vast majority of gin equipment cleans the cotton so that the farmer gets the best possible grade. However, ginners say it really is important for producers to pick their cotton as cleanly as possible.

“We can clean it up a little bit, but we can’t do that much,” says Bob Courtright, manager for Jeff Gin Co., in Huntsville, Ala. “If they pick the leaves, we can’t get them out.”

Less Processing Is Best

That the ginner has various pieces of equipment at his disposal to clean the cotton is the good side, says Dusty Findley of the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association.

“The bad side is that all of these machines have detrimental effects to some of the fiber properties.”

It stands to reason that the cleaner the cotton, the fewer the machines that are needed to clean the foreign material out, and that means less damage to the fiber. Heat is also used to dry out dirt and leaf matter from the seed cotton for easier removal, but that, too, is added potential for fiber degradation.

“Too much heat will cause the cotton to become brittle and break in the gin stand,” Findley says. “Consequently, that cotton has a lower length and lower uniformity than cotton that has not had to be dried as much.”

Good defoliation and not picking with too much dew or when the cotton is too high in moisture content are two recommendations. Producers should also scout the field for contaminants.

“Plastic bags, baling twine, polyester string and such things can all contaminate the fiber,” Findley says. “Those materials can get chewed up in the picker and gin and will become a huge issue in the textile mills.”

Weather Compounds Problems

One problem out of the producer’s control is rain after the defoliant has been applied. Courtright says a big rain in the last couple of days in north Alabama means that some producers will likely have to defoliate twice.

“The rains will cause the stems to green up again, and the green areas mixed in with the leaves will cause staining,” he says.

Another problem compounded by rains is poor placement of the module.

“I see it everyday,” Courtright says. “Producers will put them in the wrong areas. Then, if it rains, it may take a week to get it up.”

At harvest, producers should build good bread loaf-shaped modules, placed only in areas that are well drained. Also, use only good quality tarps and materials approved to tie down the tarps.

Don’t Wait To Call

Paul Richerson, gin manager for Southern States in Statesboro, Ga., says producers can also help the ginning process, but more importantly, help themselves by not waiting until all of their cotton crop is picked before calling the gin to pick up the modules.

“I have seen it where a grower will pick for a month and never call in the first module,” he says. “By the time we get it, the color will be awful, even though the cotton was perfectly bright white when it was picked. They may think they are saving on storage, but it is costing a lot more in color grades.”

Perhaps the best way to achieve that win-win relationship is to keep the lines of communication open. For the producer, it’s best to have a good relationship with the person that has so much control over the ultimate value of the crop, and for the ginner, that producer is a customer. Overall, communication is the win-win key.

Contact Amanda Huber at (352) 486-7006 or ahuber@onegrower.com.

Tips For Delivering Clean Cotton To The Gin

• Defoliate crop as much as possible.

• Do not pick when there is too much dew, or moisture content is too high.

• Scout the field for items of possible contamination.

• Build properly shaped modules.

• Place modules in well-drained areas.

• Use good quality tarps.

• Tie down tarps with approved materials.

• Call for module pickup after six to 10 modules are built.


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