Round Bales, Ginning Technology And A Positive Outlook For Cotton
By Carroll Smith
As one of the seven cotton industry segments, ginners follow producers in the chain that ultimately leads to the textile manufacturer. Once cotton is harvested, it is delivered to the gin where the seed is separated from the lint.
Perhaps incoming Southern Cotton Ginners Association President David Cochran says it best. “Farmers and ginners are closely connected in that ginning is an extension of the farmer’s harvest. Gins process the raw cotton that comes out of the field to create a marketable product.”
And just like farmers, ginners have to take advantage of efficiencies to stay viable. In a poll of several Mid-South ginners who attended the December SCGA Executive Committee meeting, round bales and computer technology were perceived as the top two components that contribute to streamlining the ginning process.
Round Bale Benefits
James Wages, SCGA vice president, manages two plants in West Tennessee — Farmers Gin in Humbolt and Yorkville Gin Co. in Yorkville.
“Round bales have definitely made things a lot easier at the gin — especially inside the gin,” he says. “The conventional modules came in with mud and field debris on the bottom of them. With round modules, it’s mostly pure cotton. And since they are wrapped in plastic, they don’t get as wet out on the gin yard.
“We’ve also been able to cut down on our transportation cost in getting the round bales to the gin. On a long-distance transport, we can haul eight at once. Some gins will haul as many as 12 to 14 round modules on drop-deck trailers hooked to an 18-wheeler truck.”
The Tennessee ginner also takes advantage of some of the latest computer technology available to the industry.
For example, Moisture Mirror 3X, a central moisture control system, is installed in both gins. Wages says the system comes with a 12-inch color touchscreen and, among other things, controls the burners that dry down the cotton to ensure it is not overdried. He can connect to the system over the Internet or on his iPhone or iPad with the Mobile Mirror App, which allows him to monitor the two plants in real time wherever he goes.
Crop Link, a system manufactured by AgSense that shows the temperature for each cable in the cottonseed houses, is installed at both gins. Wages can remotely access the information on his iPhone in real time as well. When he touches a location within the seed house on his phone’s screen, the current temperature for that area shows up.
“The darker the orange color, the warmer the temperature,” Wages says. “Unless we cool down the seed, the temperature will continue to rise because the seed contains moisture. This technology provides a huge energy savings because we only run the fans we need to. We can cut the other ones off. Computer and wireless technology has been a great help to me at both plants.”
SCGA President Randy Ainsworth manages Tanner & Co., a gin in Frogmore, Louisiana. He says they have incorporated some new approaches to cleaning cotton that have improved the process and are looking into an Argus Infrared Spark Detector that helps eliminate fires in the gin.
“This technology is a big plus as a safety measure and helps cut costs in our industry,” he says. “We also invested heavily in computer technology 10 years ago and are still investing in it. It has helped steadily grow the efficiency of the cotton gin.”
A Bright Outlook
One of the positives Ainsworth sees for cotton is a historic yield increase from all the new seed varieties.
“We also are getting better grades as far as color, strength and longer staple length, which make our product worth more,” he says. “And cotton will be competitive with other crops if the price stays up. In our area, I think we will have at least as many cotton acres as we had last year and possibly see a little increase.”
SCGA Vice President Gary Hayes, who manages Caruthersville Gin in Caruthersville, Missouri, says farmers in his area are upbeat about cotton after having two substantial crops in a row.
“We have a good group of farmers who typically plant the same amount of cotton acres year in and year out,” he says. “Other positive news is the loan value for cotton is supposed to be brought back to 52 cents, which will help. And we appreciate the National Cotton Council’s work to try to get our generic cotton base acres converted to something more permanent in 2019.”
As the outlook for cotton looks bright, Hayes encourages more young people to get started in both farming and ginning.
“There are good jobs out there in both industries,” he says. “In the ginning industry in particular, the Ginner School in Stoneville, Mississippi, and the Gin Management program at Mississippi Sate University both provide good opportunities to learn about all aspects of this profession.”
David Cochran with Avon Gin in Avon, Mississippi, says the biggest positive he anticipates for cotton in 2018 is the possibility it will be included as a covered commodity in upcoming legislation.
“Another encouraging factor is China reducing its cotton stockpiles,” he says. “The Mid-South had an extremely high-quality crop in 2017, which should be attractive to buyers, and the price of cotton has held up.”
Keep The Boll Rolling
In looking to the future, Cochran puts at the top of his wish list keeping U.S. cotton contaminant free and making ultra-low gossypol cottonseed available to farmers to expand the cottonseed market from ruminant animals to humans and other feed sources.
“The U.S. cotton industry has always prided itself in having contamination-free cotton — which is what the mills want — so we have to stay conscious of this issue,” he says. “And the opportunity to expand our cottonseed market would contribute greatly to the viability of all cotton gins.”
Ginners across the Cotton Belt encourage everyone to attend the upcoming regional gin shows and annual meetings. These events provide an opportunity to learn about the latest cotton products and technology and cement the bond between farmers and ginners going forward.