Throughout the harvest season, cotton ginners must continuously adjust equipment parameters and sequence to obtain optimum material flow and fiber quality based on the condition of the cotton and cottonseed making its way through the gin.

A handbook published by USDA's Agricultural Research Service promises answers to many of the problems that arise during the ginning season. The Cotton Ginners Handbook also provides a detailed description of ginning equipment and operations.

“This handbook is a gold mine of useful information instantly available at the ginner's fingertips, compiled by experts in every phase of successful gin operation,” says Tommy Valco, cotton technology transfer and education coordinator for USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Stoneville, Miss. “It provides guidelines to help measure and troubleshoot problems with air flow and moisture restoration, as well as providing information about gin management, maintenance programs, ginning economics and insurance needs.”

One of the most critical components in gin operation, Valco says, is air flow. “Gins use air to transport everything from seed to trash and anytime you change equipment or duct configuration, you affect air velocity and volume. It is important that air velocity is measured and maintained at the desired level. Improper velocity can adversely affect gin performance and fiber quality. Air flow that's too slow can result in poor cleaning and plugging, while air flow that's too fast can cause damage to the seed and fiber. Excessive air speed is also both a waste of energy and money.”

Although drying cotton is good for cleaning, it can have adverse effects on the lint during subsequent processing, Valco says. To assist in cleaning seed cotton, cotton fiber is dried to levels below 5 percent moisture content. If moisture is added back to the lint prior to the gin stand, studies have shown that ginners can reduce fiber breakage.

The Cotton Ginners Handbook is published by the United States Department of Agriculture and available from the Superintendent of Documents at 202-512-1800. The handbook costs $35.50, which includes shipping and handling. If you have any questions or problems acquiring a handbook, please contact the office of Cotton Technology Transfer and Education, 662-686-3019 or cttec@ars.usda.gov.