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Western Ginners Try To Protect Fiber Quality

By Brent Murphree
Maricopa, Ariz.

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Cotton ginners have a slightly different take on cotton harvest than the producers who bring their crops to the gin.

While producers focus on yields, micronaire and how quickly they can get their crops ginned, ginners are looking more intensely at things like module moisture, leaf content and plastic contamination – all of which can affect the producer’s bottom line as much as yield and in-field quality.

Avoiding Contamination

In the August issue of Cotton Farming, USDA’s Tommy Valco at the Cotton Technology Transfer and Education Center in Stoneville, Miss., discussed the necessity of keeping plastic out of the gin. Producers and ginners must be vigilant in keeping ditch liners, grocery bags, plastic tie-downs and irrigation pipe out of the harvest process.

With plastic-wrapped round modules, farm and gin staff must be more careful that the handling of these modules does not impart damage to the wrap, which, if torn, can be carried through the ginning process. Careful module handling is now an important industry best practice in the process of gentle ginning.

In Arizona, some cotton production follows vegetable harvest, and contamination from black plastic can be a big problem.

Butch Gladden, manager of Pinal Gin in Stanfield, Ariz., has asked his producers to be extra diligent in policing their fields to keep the plastic out of the ginning process.

“We had a big problem last year,” Gladden says.

It was resolved when gin officials contacted the producer, who was unaware of the problem. But, there is a cost associated with cleaning out the gin. And, of course, the quality of the contaminated bales was severely affected.

Module Moisture

Moisture is another big focus for the ginner. It was the first thing Bill Brackett of Farmers Gin in Buckeye, Ariz., spoke of when asked what he thought producers should be aware of in the harvest process.

“If it’s picked too green or too soon after a rain, it can impact the quality inside of the module,” says Brackett.

“Sometimes they go into the field as soon as the ground is ready.”

If the ground dries quickly, but the crop has not had sufficient time to dry, fiber quality can be compromised as it sits inside the module. A wet module is in danger of heating up and compromising the fibers inside the module.

Tom Pires, manager of West Island Cotton Growers in Riverdale, Calif., is very familiar with wet modules.

“We even had mushrooms growing in one,” Pires recalls.

He recommends rounding the tops of the modules during the module building process so the water runs off the top when tarped. He says not to run straps or ties over the top of the module as it tends to tear up the cover.

Greg Gillard of Olam Cotton’s California operation says that when building modules, “Higher, firm ground is better than low and loose.”

Extraneous Plant Matter

Gary Phelps, manager at Olam’s Valencia Gin in Buckeye, Ariz., says it would be helpful to know the variety traits he will be ginning.

“We would adjust the gin if we knew it was a hairy leaf variety versus a smooth leaf,” Phelps says.

Extraneous plant matter can be an issue, according to Gillard.

“It can vary from grower to grower and from field to field,” Gillard says.

Moving through the field too fast and defoliating in cool weather can add to the amount of leaf trash in cotton.

“I was unaware they had a leaf grade of eight,” say Gladden after one of his producers failed to defoliate a field effectively because of the cool weather.

The bottom line for producers, from the ginner’s point of view, is good communication. Don’t surprise the gin. If a producer is having issues with moisture, contamination or extraneous plant matter, communicate those issues to the ginner, and most problems can be worked through.

Brent Murphree is the Cotton Board’s Regional Communication Manager for the West. He resides in Maricopa, Ariz.

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