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Ginning Research Is A Priority

The National Cotton Council annually sends a letter to the Senate and House leaders who oversee agricultural appropriations requesting that funding levels be maintained for the three U.S. ginning laboratories. Just a few years ago, that and other council efforts with these senators and representatives played a significant role in Congress’ approval of federal appropriations increases for all three laboratories after a decade of flat or declining research budgets.

However, the U.S. cotton industry needs to maintain this research funding level. Our industry must not forget or take for granted the fact that the research at these ginning laboratories spawned the development and improvement of highly sophisticated ginning technology and systems.

The scientists at these labs continue to conduct much of the basic scientific research that often finds its way into such important ginning applications as drying systems, lint cleaners and process controls. In addition, there are ongoing research projects that include ginning equipment and technology companies. The overall goal is developing or improving existing equipment and systems.

Labs Maintain Regional Emphases

Although all three gin labs’ work is important, each lab has a unique focal point. Work at the lab in Stoneville, Mississippi, is centered on issues related to the picker cotton systems of the Southeast and Mid-South, while researchers at the lab in Lubbock, Texas, conduct research on the Southwest’s stripper harvest system.

The Mesilla Park, New Mexico, lab is the only roller ginning research lab in the world with a focus on improving the ginning of extra-long staple cottons.

The three labs also are involved with cotton research that includes both picker and stripper harvesting methods. The labs collaborate on common research projects applicable to all regions. All of them work with the Cotton Structure and Quality Research Group at U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans.

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All three labs also assist the ginning industry by conducting research into improving fiber quality and increasing efficiencies. Currently, the labs are at the forefront of developing a practical system to detect and eliminate plastic contamination.

Several years ago, I was asked to participate in a USDA Agricultural Research Service “Post-Harvest National Program Review” that included several other commodities. In fact, I was asked by one of the other participating commodities how I knew so much about ongoing cotton ginning research.

My response to the group was that each year, we receive updates on various research projects at our annual ginning conference and at various industry meetings. Additionally, I noted I had been able to visit the three ginning labs and discuss their research efforts. Several of these scientists have served on many of the National Cotton Ginners Association’s issues committees.

The bottom line is that the U.S. cotton industry is close knit — a trait that extends to the cotton research community.

The U.S. cotton industry cannot afford to become complacent, though. It must strive to produce and provide its customers with the best fiber quality possible in the most efficient, environmentally sound means possible. Our industry should appreciate these ginning labs and continue to support the scientists who work there.

Harrison Ashley, executive vice president of the National Cotton Ginners Association, contributed this article. Contact him at (901) 274-9030 or hashley@cotton.org.

Practice Seed House Safety

seed house

Practice seed house safety — photo courtesy Cliff Granbury Corp.

Overhead seed houses are valuable for short-term seed storage, wet seed storage and gins with limited yard space. Design improvements allow overhead seed houses to be an efficient method for loading trucks from flat-storage houses.

When fully loaded, a double-hopper seed house can weigh 200,000 pounds or more. This load hovers above trucks and personnel, so structural integrity is critical.

Volatile weather can put older seed houses at risk, especially those not properly maintained. Through the years, moisture and chemicals from seed along with humidity cause the inevitable – rust and corrosion.

Since the damage primarily occurs inside the seed house, it’s out of sight and mind. If a structural failure occurs, personnel are put at risk of injury.

All cotton gins should review their overhead seed house safety and maintenance procedures before the start of the 2019 cotton ginning season.

Safety Comes First

► Never go beneath a seed hopper that contains seed.

► Properly guard all ladders and catwalks.

► Do not enter the seed trailer or climb on the side walls of the trailer.

► Post decals, “DANGER – DO NOT ENTER AREA BELOW HOPPER DOORS WHEN SEED IS IN STORAGE HOUSE.”

These are free from your local ginning association.

► Contact your ginning association or loss control representative to get a copy of the “Cottonseed System Safety Policy” for employees, visitors and outside contractors such as seed haulers.

► Be sure to use all other known gin safety procedures daily.

Maintain And Repair

► All proper safety precautions should be taken by all personnel who perform maintenance and repairs.

► Clean out all seed.

► Clean hopper panels to remove seed oil. Steam cleaning consistently works well.

► Use sanding and steel brushing to make the inside surfaces of the hopper panels smooth again.

► Carefully examine the entire seed house for stress fractures and loose hardware, especially if vibrators have been used.

► Remove rust and corrosion.

View From The Catwalk

Best industry practices include the use of a trailer-viewing catwalk mounted on the outside of the vertical columns, approximately 9.5 feet above the driveway. This provides a good vantage point to see into the tops of the trailers to determine when to open and close the hopper doors.

Jim Granberry, president of Cliff Granberry Corp., contributed this article. Email jim@cliffgranberrycorp.com or call (972) 381-8899.