How did your moduled cotton fare during the frequent rain of the 2006 harvest? It probably depended on how well the module was built and the condition of the tarp used to protect it.

Reports of wet cotton modules due to worn-out covers usually surface somewhere in the Cotton Belt each harvest season, especially in the presence of heavy wind and rain. Cotton damaged by worn out tarps and/or poorly-built modules can result in losses in yield and quality, and can slow ginning.

According to Shay Simpson, research associate at Texas A&M University, the problem can be exacerbated by a large or bumper crop “when tarps are hard to find and ginners pull out their old inventory of tarps they haven’t thrown away, but should have. Then you see the problem escalate.”

A Texas A&M study showed that lint value can be reduced as much as $400 per module when poor tarps are used. A poorly-built module can reduce value an additional $200.

In addition, gin turnout in the study was reduced from 34 percent with well-built modules and good tarps to 26 percent with poorly built modules under poor tarps.

Ginning rate was cut from 42 bales per hour with good modules and good tarps to 19 bales per hour with both poor modules and poor tarps.

Producers and ginners can stop these revenue losses with just a few simple steps. First step, think bread loaf.

“Half of all cotton modules are built incorrectly so that water ponds in depressions on top,” Simpson said. “If the tarp has pinholes that allow water to leak through, the cotton can be damaged. When building a module, the cotton should be tightly compacted, with more in the middle of the module so that the module is rounded both along the length and across the width. It should be shaped like a loaf of bread.

“A tarp cannot do its job if it is worn out or has pinholes or tears. When receiving a load of tarps, the producer should inspect them before use and ask for replacements for any that are in poor condition.

“If it is necessary to add extra tie-downs to keep the tarp secured, put them through the existing grommets in the tarp. Do not put ties over the top of the module because this will wear out the tarp prematurely.”

After the ginning season, all tarps should be thoroughly cleaned and dried. Module cover supply companies and module cover repair companies provide services for sorting through inventories. Covers that cannot be repaired are disposed of properly.

Covers that can be repaired are sewn, taped, re-corded, etc. Costs for repair are lower than costs of purchasing new covers. Benefits to repair may be on a cover-by-cover basis.

Research at Texas A&M University has shown that vinyl and film tarps resist water penetration after significant exposure. The performance of woven poly tarps varied from good to poor water resistance with the same exposure.

When buying new, make sure tarps are inspected, but remember, tarp condition is more important than age.

A study by west Texas researchers shows significant economic loss if proper steps are not taken to protect cotton stored in a module. In the test, all the modules were constructed prior to a rainy period.

Modules that were ginned prior to rains showed good color grades and profits above local base loan value. Modules that were well-built and had good covers on them, but not ginned until after the rains, still had good color grades and profits.

Modules that were well-built, had poor covers on them and were ginned after the rains resulted in duller and more yellow color grades and large losses.

Modules that were poorly built, had good covers on them and were ginned after the rains resulted in poorer color grades, but only small losses.

However, modules that were poorly built, had poor covers on them and were ginned after the rains resulted in the worst color grades and the largest losses.

Losses in discounts due to the reduced value of seed cotton in modules that were poorly built and/or covered with a poor cover ranged on average from $30 to $478.

Fortunately for the cotton industry, quite the opposite is experienced in modules well-built and covered properly. Profits due to the premiums brought from preserving the seed cotton quality averaged over $200.

Simpson noted that gin managers and owners are beginning module cover management programs where a third of the gin module cover inventory replaced each year. New covers are bought to replace those that are discarded. This practice ensures less damage to seed cotton due to older, worn covers.

Simpson also noted that the risk of rainfall may be greater in gulf-region gins, therefore, making the benefits to replacing covers greater. However, arid-region gins may be at even greater risk if worn covers continue to remain in inventories until an unseasonable rain occurs during harvest and ginning season.

Unfortunately, Simpson says, many gin owners, gin managers, cotton producers and their employees “believe that module covers will continue to protect seed cotton for numerous years and as long as they are not falling apart at the seams, have numerous obvious holes, or are destroyed by mechanical force.

“This thinking can lead to significant financial cost. Sunlight damages coatings and scrims. Wind causes the cover to abrade. Cold temperatures can cause cracking. Over time, materials used to make tarps break down — even in normal environmental conditions.”

e-mail: erobinson@farmpress.com