It is amazing how fast the John Deere round module harvester has been embraced by cotton producers across the Cotton Belt. This technology has reduced labor requirements in the field and does a great job protecting seed cotton from the elements.
However, there have been issues with contamination that we diligently work to address. As with much new technology, we learned from previous mistakes and continue to make progress.
For example, there has been a concern for several years that when Tama’s patents expired, there would be wrap materials in the marketplace that would not perform at an acceptable level.
Interestingly, there was an American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers rectangular wrap standard that was developed at about the time that the round module wrap was gaining extraordinarily fast acceptance. These standards must be reaffirmed every five years. During these reaffirmations, several ASABE Cotton Engineering Committee members included comments that there should be a minimum performance standard for the round module wrap.
Module Wrap Standard
Dr. John Wanjura, with U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, is responsible for cotton harvesting research at the ginning laboratory in Lubbock. In 2019, he formed a subcommittee to begin the standard development. It was agreed that the standard in place for rectangular modules would be amended to include round module wrap.
Early in the development process, the subcommittee noted that during the harvester development, Deere worked closely with Tama to develop the wrap that would work on the machine and perform in the field and ultimately at the gin. As such, the ASABE used Tama’s premium wrap as the baseline in terms of physical properties and its performance in the field. Testing was conducted to determine the wrap’s physical properties, and the ASABE Committee continued to evaluate the wrap’s characteristics and performance.
During this time, the National Cotton Council was continuing its zero-contamination campaign and emphasizing the importance of proper round module wrap handling, transport and removal at the gin. When the development of the round module wrap standard was presented to the NCC as a policy recommendation, the decision was made to support the ASABE’s efforts. After the standard was developed and passed in February 2022 by ASABE, the NCC adopted the policy to educate the industry on the importance of using approved module wrap material that meets the ASABE Standard. (See https://www.cotton.org/tech/quality/contamfree.cfm).
Voluntary Versus Required Standard
While there is industrywide support for the ASABE Standard, it is voluntary. It has been noted that round modules arriving at the gin in good condition are much less likely to cause contamination. During the time of the standard development, there were a few wrap manufacturers that introduced alternatives to the Tama’s premium wrap. The alternatives performed poorly.
Some in the industry, including the National Cotton Ginners Association, began to question if there was a means of putting teeth in the standard by making it a mandatory requirement that wrap used on modules in the United States meet the minimum performance standard. It was noted that more unginned cotton was being placed in the recourse seed cotton loan program with a requirement by the Commodity Credit Corporation that the cotton be protected during storage.
The NCGA Technology Committee began to discuss this and concluded that the seed cotton in these modules ultimately would become bales eligible for the loan. The logical question arose: Why not include the CCC nonrecourse marketing loan requirement, much like bales that are to be loan eligible must be packaged in Joint Cotton Industry Bale Packaging Committee-approved materials? The recommendation to explore the inclusion of the ASABE Standard as a loan eligibility requirement was submitted to the NCGA Board, passed and submitted to the NCC for consideration. At the 2023 NCC Annual Meeting, the recommendation was passed and is now NCC policy. Since that time, the NCC has followed up on this policy recommendation.
Soliciting Round Module Wrap Sales
It has been amazing to see the number of companies attempting to sell round module wrap in the United States. The problem is no one knows how or if it will perform as needed without being tested.
There are some companies that are going through the testing procedures to get their product approved. There are also reports, including some on social media platforms, that are telling potential customers to check on the NCC’s website for the current suppliers that meet the standard (See https://www.cotton.org/tech/quality/approved-rmw-products.cfm).
To ensure the U.S. cotton industry’s reputation of providing the best quality and contamination-free cotton to our textile customers, we likely will move forward to include the necessary teeth in the standard to help prevent plastic contamination from round module wrap. In the meantime, we urge you to only use wrap that has been approved.
Also, over the past several months, on the same social media platforms, we have begun to see advertisements for bale packaging materials. Please note that the use of JCIBPC-approved materials is a requirement for loan eligibility and is included on the CCC-809 Cooperating Ginner’s Bagging and Bale Ties Certification and Agreement. The approved list for these materials can be found at https://www.cotton.org/tech/bale/index.cfm.
Harrison Ashley, executive vice president of the National Cotton Ginners Association, contributed this article. Contact him at 901-274-9030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.