Last season was exceptional based on the absence of lint contamination reports from textile manufacturers using U.S. cotton, and the National Cotton Council wants the 2010 experience to be the norm, not the exception.
What is the contamination prevention target?
Contamination-free bales are a high priority, and we, as producers and ginners, cannot afford to rest on our laurels. It is all too easy for contaminants to enter cotton’s lint stream – from field to bale press. The payoff for zero tolerance is delivery of pure, high quality lint to spinners and the preservation of U.S. cotton’s outstanding reputation.
Because of some extreme U.S. weather patterns this season, some ginners, and particularly growers, face a distinctive situation. In some growing areas, the spring floods and tornadoes have deposited debris in many fields that must be removed prior to harvest. Besides being potential contaminants, some of that debris also could damage harvesting, ginning and textile mill machinery. Other areas were plagued by drought. Because of the resulting short plant stature, harvesting equipment may need to operate at or near ground level. This raises the potential of more foreign matter, such as plastic bags and baling twine, being introduced into the seed cotton.
Are there resources available?
The NCC provides educational resources on its Quality Preservation Page at www.cotton.org/tech/quality/index.cfm. Included is a list of major contaminants such as plastic, nylon, oil and grease, but other unanticipated materials can be contaminants. For example, a recently reported and unique complaint may be linked to strap or twine that was left in a field following the previous year’s hay harvest. Producers rotating fields to cotton after growing crops where twines and strapping materials were previously used must make sure those fields are scouted for potential contaminants.
The NCC, Cotton Council International and the National Council of Textile Organizations also have worked with U.S. textile manufacturers on a contamination reporting system. The web-based Cotton Contamination Incident Report was developed to allow mills to report to the NCC any contamination event involving U.S. cotton. Ironically, the first incident report involved the improper placement of permanent bale identification tags on the inside of the bagging, which – because of the tag’s metal grommets – created a potentially serious fire hazard at the mill.
What else are spinners doing to deal with the contamination problem?
Mills glean contaminants from cotton using hand labor or rely on expensive equipment that visually identifies and removes contaminants from the lint stream. Mills also take steps to buy cotton growths known for low contamination. U.S. cotton always has done well in the International Textile Manufacturers Federation’s mill surveys on contamination that began in 1982. Our competitors are catching up, though. One country has even surveyed its local ginners to determine the degree/type of contamination found in modules so prevention resources can be better deployed. U.S. producers and ginners must continue being vigilant so we can stay ahead of our competitors – foreign growths and man-made fiber.
Charles H. Parker is the chairman of the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming page.
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