Among the many industry experts who are working tirelessly for cotton producers’ on-farm profitability and success are cotton breeders engaged in creating new cotton varieties for growers. New varieties go through fiber quality testing to ensure they are viable for commercial production.
Historically, these potential new varieties are hand-harvested and tested on tabletop-sized saw or roller gin stands to determine strength, fineness and other fiber quality characteristics.
While this information is helpful, it is unknown if the numbers accurately correlate to what the classing sample would show commercially on a full-scale gin. Cotton Incorporated and researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Las Cruces Gin Lab in New Mexico are on a mission to find out.
“When looking at the work that has been done in fiber quality, this question has truly never been answered — How do tabletop gin stand results compare to those of a commercial, full-sized gin?” said Dr. Neha Kothari, Associate Director of Fiber Quality Research at Cotton Incorporated.
Joint Research Project
Dr. Kothari is experienced in, and passionate about, cotton breeding and is very familiar with the process of creating new varieties and bringing them to market. She says that cotton breeders don’t always have access to a high quantity of cotton or a commercial gin to gather data. Years ago, at a research meeting, Dr. Kothari and Mr. Carlos Armijo, a scientist at the USDA-ARS Gin Laboratory in Las Cruces, New Mexico, started brainstorming these issues and developed a joint research project.
The goal of their research is two-fold. First, they will compare the advertised fiber qualities and characteristic results from commercial saw and roller gin stands to the results from tabletop saw and roller gin stands. Three varieties will be tested in this project, including a stripped cotton from Texas, a picked cotton from New Mexico and a picked long-staple variety from New Mexico.
Next, tests will be run to see if there is a discrepancy between a rotary knife roller gin stand and a reciprocating-knife roller gin stand. In the United States, we have used the rotary knife roller gin since the 1960s. Most of the rest of the world uses a version of a reciprocating-knife roller gin that was developed in the 1800s.
The first part of the study will give growers, researchers and breeders the answer and security that the varieties they plant are going to produce the desired fiber characteristics. In the second part, results would give scientists, producers, textile mills and manufacturers data on how the two different types of ginned cotton compare.
“The ultimate goal of this project is to identify if tabletop and commercial gin stands show similar fiber quality data,” said Dr. Kothari. “If the quality data comes back different, we will then work to identify those differences so breeders and companies can account for them.”
Stripper And Picker Samples
This work was originally slated to start in 2019, but after a few pauses from the COVID-19 pandemic and limited capacities at research facilities, the project is now nearing the half-way point.
Samples were picked in the 2021 harvest season with a full-size stripper and picker. These were then processed through the 2021-22 ginning season at the USDA-ARS Gin Lab. Classing and HVI data is nearing completion, and now comparisons and research will take place. The results should be completed at the end of this year or the beginning of next.
“There is a lot of cleaning in between the testing of each variety, so we can ensure there is no contamination,” said Armijo. “It is time-consuming work even when we are working full speed ahead.”
The researchers are hopeful they’ll be able to release the results from the study at the 2023 Beltwide Cotton Conferences.
This joint project is a great example of how grower funds can be leveraged at facilities across the United States, pairing Cotton Incorporated expert researchers with other research facilities and their dedicated staff.