In ginning cotton: Accuracy key in adding moisture

Restoring moisture to cotton in the ginning process can be a good thing, says Southern Cotton Ginners Association Engineer Bill Mayfield.

But if done improperly, it can adversely affect quality of the baled cotton over time, resulting in discounts or even rejection by the ultimate user.

And, he told northwest Mississippi members at their recent annual meeting at Clarksdale, Miss., the Memphis Cotton Exchange has proposed a rule that would classify any bale with moisture exceeding 7.5 percent as “unmerchantable.”

“In a perfect world,” Mayfield said, “every bale would leave the gin at 7 percent to 7.5 percent moisture.” And adding moisture in the ginning process “is not illegal, immoral, or fattening,” he said.

“The textile guys are going to pay for it, so the question is whether the farmer gets it or someone else. I see no reason not to add moisture, if it can be accurately controlled and kept within the recommended range.”

But, he said, moisture management technologies often may leave something to be desired, and problems can occur with distribution of moisture within the bale, although most wet bale problems occur from moisture on the outside.

“Data show that moisture sprayed on the outside of the bale doesn't equilibrate well,” Mayfield said. “If you're doing this, be careful and limit it to only 1 percent to 1.5 percent of the total water added.”

He said it is unclear how the proposed Memphis Cotton Exchange rule would be administered, since moisture isn't currently measured anywhere in the merchandising system. “I'm sure there will be further discussions on this.”

Quality concerns may also be influencing a change in the way cotton is ginned, Mayfield said. “All through the mid-1980s, we were telling everyone to back off using two lint cleaners and use only one. Now, we may be seeing a reversal of this, with more cleaning in order to meet quality demands by the overseas mills.”

In the regulatory arena, he said, the association continues to work with state environmental agencies on air pollution issues.

In Mississippi, a change is being sought in regulations for gin permitting. “The current emissions formula was written back in the 1970s, when gin volumes were much smaller. Most gins have grown larger and increased capacity, so there is need to have the regulation updated.”

Anyone considering construction of a new gin, or enlarging a present gin, should be sure that all regulatory paperwork is done and that the facility will be in compliance, he said.

Ginners need to be vigilant about trash pile fires, Mayfield said.

“This is one of the worst things from an air pollution standpoint. There is no provision in the regulations for an ‘accidental’ fire. They take these incidents very seriously, and it's your responsibility to do everything possible to be sure they don't happen.”

New safety video

An emphasis on safety training and awareness should continue at the top of the list for gin management, said Larry Davis, safety director for the association.

“All our gins have made really good progress with their safety programs in recent years, and they're to be commended for their accomplishments,” he said.

“But we have to remain vigilant and do everything possible to insure the health and safety of all gin employees.”

Davis said the association now has available an additional tool, a video for training module truck drivers. Developed by the National Cotton Council, the National Cotton Ginners Association, and member ginner associations, the video helps instill in drivers the various measures to be followed for safe operation.

“Volume for most ginning operations has more than doubled over the past decade, and there is much more opportunity for errors. Module truck operation is a very critical safety concern,” he said.

“In the last 12 years, we've had three deaths from module truck accidents at Mid-South gins. We'd like to never have another.”

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TAGS: Management
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