Improving profitability through research

In this age of cutting-edge technology, Cotton Incorporated works even harder to ensure its research and development efforts are timely, valuable and applicable to grower needs. As always, maximum profit from every dollar invested in the Cotton Research and Promotion program is at the core of all Cotton Incorporated research initiatives. Growers are all too aware of the continuing stagnant yield trend and related quality concerns across the Cotton Belt. Recently, Cotton Incorporated unveiled its 2002 proposed budget, and within the hundreds of planned research projects, several are designed to lend insight toward improving yield and quality trends.

Cotton Incorporated's Fiber Quality research department, directed by Mike Watson, is charged with supplying timely and accurate data to researchers who work on improving the quality and value of U.S. upland cotton and its subsequent products. Watson's department also works to develop improved quality measurements for fiber, yarn, fabric, and garments.

“In the highly competitive international cotton market, it is imperative that U.S. upland cotton has the levels and distributions of qualities needed by all customers, since cotton fiber properties have a fundamental effect upon textile processing efficiency and the final quality of those textile products,” explains Watson.

In 2002, Cotton Incorporated's Fiber Quality research department will continue its support of efforts to improve fiber quality; evaluate new HVI technologies; automate shrinkage and appearance measurements; continue research into the measurement of cotton stickiness; and, generate information services to support foreign markets.

Work to improve fiber quality can be seen in several different projects. Currently, certain basic fiber properties, such as maturity and nep levels, are not measured as part of the standard cotton grading system. The Fiber Quality research department collects this information through its supplemental crop survey, which provides a statistically sound sample set for each year's crop. Also continuing in 2002 are studies on how single fiber strength is transferred to subsequent constructions and how losses in strength occur during cotton processing. Watson's group will continue to develop better tests for determining fiber maturity and short fiber content. “Measurement of these cotton qualities are important to mills and manufacturers…the front line customers of U.S. cotton,” adds Watson.

One of Watson's biggest efforts in 2002 will be putting to use a new piece of machinery that's designed to evaluate and measure length properties and fiber fineness. “With all the attention that's being directed toward improving commercial varieties, more and more breeders are sending us sample of their cottons. We are anticipating a tremendous increase in the number of samples we will test in 2002,” explains Watson. In 2000, the Fiber Quality department conducted 28,000 individual tests on cottons. Over 24,600 have already been conducted this year. “We should see a huge jump in that total for next year, but we'll be ready. With the addition of a new Advanced Fiber Information System (AFIS) testing machine, we will be more efficient and responsive to the testing needs of the cotton industry here and across the globe,” concludes Watson.

Additional initiatives for Fiber Quality research include work on stickiness measurements and fabric shrinkage. “High Volume Instruments (HVI) currently do not determine all high-speed cotton fiber properties,” explains Watson, “Continued research on stickiness measurements could aid in determining the levels of stickiness that may cause problems in textile manufacturing.” Cotton Incorporated will also be evaluating several new methods to improve the accuracy and precision of fabric shrinkage measurement. Cotton Incorporated's market research consistently says that consumer's of cotton products are concerned about shrinkage. Fiber Quality Research and Textile Research, with independent researchers, continue to work on the control and measurement of shrinkage in cotton products.

Today, cotton is the best selling fiber in the world with a 60% share of the total retail market for apparel and home furnishings, excluding carpet, in the U.S. As you can tell, Cotton Incorporated recognizes for cotton to continue its consumption climb, research and development on fiber quality is a necessity.

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