Cotton Links


Improving Efficiency,
Reducing Costs At The Gin

By Thomas D. Valco
Cotton Technology Transfer Coordinator

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article – the second in a three-part series – was written by Thomas D. Valco, Cotton Technology Transfer Coordinator for the Office of Technology Transfer at the Jamie Whitten Delta States Research Center in Stoneville, Miss. In this installment, Valco examines improving efficiency and reducing costs at the gin.

Striving for the highest quality or the most quantity is a dilemma ginners face throughout the season. There is a compromise between the amount of cleaning that can improve fiber value but can cause extra weight – resulting in fewer dollars returned to the producer.

A ginner must operate the gin to optimize its performance for the producer and be mindful of market demands for the customer, which is, of course, the textile mill.

It is important to keep in mind that the ginner can only hope to preserve the quality characteristics of the cotton or as some ginners might say, “you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken litter.”

A ginner must do three things to maintain quality and quantity: 1) monitor and adjust moisture throughout the ginning process, 2) keep equipment properly adjusted and well maintained and 3) follow standard recommended process speeds and capacity of
your equipment.

Moisture content is a major factor affecting the cotton ginning process from unloading through bale packaging. Moisture management is critical to cotton cleaning, handling and fiber quality preservation at the gin. In one way or another, moisture has an effect on color, leaf and staple.

Avoiding High Moisture

Cotton with too high of a moisture content will not easily separate into single locks, but will form wads that may choke and damage gin machinery or entirely stop the ginning process.  

Cotton with too low a moisture content (below 5 percent) is more brittle and easily damaged by the mechanical actions required for cleaning and ginning, resulting in reduced fiber length and increased short fiber content.

The effort required to measure and control moisture will pay dividends in gin operation efficiency and market value of the cotton. Research has shown that 6 to 7 percent moisture content allows for sufficient cleaning with minimal fiber damage. Although the optimum processing and storage moisture contents of cotton are well known, managing cotton moisture content during ginning is a difficult task.

Too often, cotton is over dried (below 5 percent), and additional moisture is needed. Restoring moisture to cotton fibers improves processing and adds weight to the bale; however, cotton bales should not exceed 7.5 percent moisture content. Best management practices dictate that the over drying of seed cotton not occur in the first place.

Good Maintenance Needed

A good maintenance program minimizes downtime, reduces fiber losses and can improve quality. Gin stands should be kept within the manufacturers’ recommended specifications; gin saws should be replaced on a timely basis and doffing systems should be kept in good condition to avoid backlash and prep problems.

Worn or poorly adjusted lint cleaner grid bars can double lint losses, reducing the returns to the producer. Lint cleaners do a good job of removing trash but are detrimental to fiber length. Anytime a ginner can use seed cotton cleaners to remove trash instead of lint cleaners, the better.  Also, lint cleaners can discard a lot of staple fiber along with the trash.

In summary, evaluate both the quantity and quality of your gin’s output to make sure you are doing the most for your customer. Do only the drying and cleaning that are in the producer’s best interest and keep updated on the market needs and aim for those targets.

Be sure that producers know the importance of harvesting the crop in the best possible condition so that cleaning stages can be bypassed.

Contact Tommy Valco at (662) 686-5255 or thomas.valco@ars.usda.gov.


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