While U.S. cotton producers work to meet the more stringent fiber requirements requested by their overseas textile mill customers, Cotton Incorporated is conducting research into what it would take at the gin point to preserve those qualities once that fiber is harvested.
“While there may be several ways to improve your crop’s quality before harvest, once your module is covered and hauled to the gin, quality preservation is up to your ginner,” says Dr. Ed Barnes, Director, Agricultural Re-search at Cotton Incorporated.
Thanks to funding from Cotton Incorporated, researchers at the Southwestern Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory in Mesilla Park, N.M., have taken the “rotary-knife” roller gin they created back in the 1960s and turned it into what some think could be a game changer – a high-speed roller gin (HSRG).
“A HSRG is able to achieve ginning rates four-to-five times faster than conventional roller ginning,” says Carlos Armijo, research textile technologist at the New Mexico facility.
A Turning Point?
Ed Hughs and his Mesilla Park staff turned the corner with their HSRG research when they developed the “Variable Frequency Drive” (VFD) control that monitors and adjusts cotton flow rates within the HSRG.
“The importance of the VFD is its ability to control cotton’s flow to the stand so that a steady feed rate is maintained to prevent overheating of the gin roll,” says Hughs. “This VFD has led to a gin roll life in HSRG that is as good or better than a conventional roller gin.”
Most people are aware roller ginning is generally less harsh on cotton fiber than saw ginning. In California, several gins have been ginning upland cottons with high-speed roller gins. The question now is, can roller ginning have applications in areas other than arid regions of the Southwest?
Roller ginning first came to the Mississippi Delta in 1989 when Jim Cassidy of Marks, Miss., oversaw the installation of a rotary knife roller gin operation.
“We were ginning Delta Pine 90 through the stand and had direct contracts with manufacturers and mills,” says, Cassidy, president of Self Gin Co.
Stoneville Gin Lab Evaluates
High-Speed Roller Ginning
The USDA/ARS Ginning Research Laboratory in Stoneville, Miss., acquired a roller gin from California and had Lummus convert it to a HSRG. Dr. Rick Byler, ag engineer and research leader, along with his Stoneville research staff, recently began conducting evaluative trials with upland cottons.
“We’ll be looking at what kind of lint ‘throughput per hour’ we can achieve and, more importantly, what kind of quality improvements we can garner over saw ginning,” says Byler.
Roller gins typically produce less short fiber content, fewer neps and deliver all-around more impressive fiber length numbers. Their most recent tests illustrated the stand’s ability to maintain a high ginning rate.
In the future, he hopes to take the HSRG to the next level by encouraging a commercial gin to invest in this important technology.
“We never know how a variety will act when it’s ginned because of its specific genetics, the growing conditions under which the cottons were produced and other variables, so we’ll be evaluating a number of Mid-South and Southeast varieties moving forward, and we will continue to be very collaborative with our fellow researchers at Mesilla Park and our funding partners at Cotton Incorporated,” says Byler.
The Cotton Board, which administers the Cotton Research and Promotion Program conducted by Cotton Incorporated, contributed information for this article.