Cotton Links


Producers, Ginners Have
One Goal: Quality

By Amanda Huber
Southeast Editor

Producers depend on ginners, and ginners depend on producers. Cotton picked cleanly and at the proper moisture content does not need as much processing at the gin, where the ginner works to preserve the fiber properties. Working together, producers and ginners can send a top quality product to the mills.

“If I can’t keep farmers in business, then I’m out of a job, too,” says Roger Branch, vice president of Southeastern Gin and Peanut in Surrency, Ga. “As a ginner, quality is taking the farmer’s product and processing it into a bale in the finest state possible to be used at the mills.”

Conscious Effort Needed

Branch says most of his area’s producers have been growing cotton since at least 1985.

“They are very conscious about doing what they can to preserve the quality of their product in the field and getting it to the gin in good quality,” he says. “They know to put modules in the right place to keep them out of water, and they do a good job of keeping trash out of the field.”

One bane to the cotton ginner’s existence has been the lightweight plastic shopping bag, an example of a foreign material situation that warranted special attention in the cotton processing system. Plastic bags, baling twine and polyester string can contaminate the cotton fiber and cause real headaches for the gin and mills.

“If one of our producers sees a plastic shopping bag blowing into the field, he will stop and get that bag to prevent it from being collected along with the cotton,” Branch says. “At the gin, we watch for oil leaks or broken wires; we don’t want to do something at the gin that creates a quality problem either.”

The cleaner the cotton – of course this applies to leaves and sticks as well – the fewer number of machines needed at the gin to clean the cotton. The fewer number of machines needed, the less opportunity for degrading the cotton quality.

“We try to maximize the return for the producer and that ties directly in to quality,” Branch says. “We are a producer-owned gin, and our producers do a good job of preserving the quality of their product.”

Less Is Best

Andy Knowlton, research engineer at the University of Georgia’s department of biological and agricultural engineering, also works on the UGA’s Micro Gin. The UGA Micro Gin was designed in a similar manner as a commercial gin with both seed cotton cleaning and lint cleaning procedures except on a smaller scale. However, the similar design is meant to give the same or nearly identical ginning performance as compared to most commercial gins.

“Ideally, you want to do the least amount of cleaning to get the grade you are shooting for,” Knowlton says. “You may want to bypass certain machines to limit the damage. Every machine it goes through, you stand the chance of reducing quality.

“On the lint cleaning side, most gins have the option of running one or two different lint cleaners. If they can get the grade they need, they will limit what is done to the cotton.”

Minimum Of Moisture

Moisture can be beneficial in helping to preserve fiber quality and improve packing and storing of cotton bales. However, too much moisture can create mold.

“We try not to add too much moisture back to the bales,” Branch says. “You have to dry the cotton to gin and put some moisture back to make a tight bale, but going overboard with the moisture creates a real problem.”

Branch says his gin uses IntelliGin by Uster, a computerized system that automatically measures the quality of cotton at various stages of gin processing. The system uses sensors to give the gin real-time information on the trash grade, color grade and moisture of the cotton being processed.

The moisture data also provides information for controlling restoration systems that increase moisture levels in the cotton. Branch says the system is working well for the gin and its producer-owners, but it still takes a quality product from the start.

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

Clean Cotton Means:

• Less cleaning at the gin.
• Less chance to damage fiber.
• Better return to producer.

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