|Moderator:||William F. Lalor, Cotton Incorporated|
|Panelists:||Gene Frye, Parkdale Mills|
|South Bryan, Swift Denim|
W. F. Lalor: In the late 1970's, stripper harvesters were used in the San Joaquin Valley in an effort to reduce costs while taking advantage of the yield increases associated with 30-inch rows. Cotton thus produced created a quality problem in the Acala market. The spindle-picker varieties and the crop management systems of the time were used, and no over-the-top herbicides were available. Modern varieties and management tools, combined with the high plant populations of Ultra Narrow Row crops, might now make marketable qualities attainable because of how bolls are thought to be concentrated in first fruiting positions under such high population pressures. In particular, the dye uptake problems of the stripper-harvested San Joaquin Valley cotton of the 1970's might be avoidable. Cotton Incorporated's role is to do the research necessary to protect producers and textile mills from costly mistakes.
Cotton Incorporated has examined fiber from Ultra Narrow Row crops of 1996 and 1997 at each process stage through dyed fabric. Data from Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida are shown in the accompanying table. The differences between Ultra Narrow Row and conventional cotton were small but usually of a nature that would indicate dye uptake problems. In the case of the Tennessee cotton, a difference in fabric color that might be important was observed. The HVI leaf grades of the raw, UNRC fiber were slightly trashy, reflecting the higher foreign-matter content of the harvested material. AFIS data measure fiber properties not measured by the HVI system. Immature fiber content relates to the ability of fabric to absorb dye and have a desirable appearance. In general, AFIS data showed that there should be concern for the NEPS and dye uptake properties of stripper-harvested fiber from Ultra Narrow Row systems.
The low profitability of cotton relative to corn and soybeans is a sign that growers will continue to pursue cost-cutting methods of producing cotton, or they will move to other, more profitable crops.
In the 1970s, new spinning technology (open-end spinning) entered the textile economy because of its common profitability for spinners and fabric manufacturers. Even though open-end-spun yarn was different in nature and quality from ring-spun yarn, the profit motivation was present, the problems were resolved, and open-end spinning is now a major process in the textile industry. Likewise, if the profit incentive is present for Ultra Narrow Row, the problems in both the production side and the textile side will be resolved to the benefit of cotton farmers and their customers, and a market for UNRC will be established.
In response to questions about the nature of important fiber qualities and how they are measured; Lalor and Frye brought out the concept that stripper-harvested cotton might be different from spindle-picked cotton even though the HVI classing instruments report no differences – in the same way that some SJV cottons appear to have identical HVI properties to Delta types when measured by HVI instruments while it is well recognized that those two cottons are quite different in their textile performance.
Gene Frye: Parkdale spins a million bales a year. The quality of UNRC is of concern. Any change for the worse in fiber quality would create a problem. The textile industry recognizes a need for profitability of cotton producers. UNRC needs to be thoroughly researched and experiments repeated until the knowledge is reliable and adequate. Customers of the spinning industry are demanding better quality yarns and fabrics -- hence the big investments in new mill equipment and the better quality cotton that spinners try to buy. Not all cotton is first grade however, and there is a place for lower qualities in less demanding end products, but this is a place for cotton discounted from premium-cotton prices. There will probably be such a market for UNRC but the buyer must be aware of what is being traded. Future contracts will likely specify the harvesting method. The discounts for stripped cotton are not yet clear -- experience with UNRC fiber is needed to determine this. Certain non-measurable quality characteristics will have to be taken into account as mills learn from experience. High fine trash content and bark are problems. Short fiber content and NEPS are also concerns. UNRC should be investigated all the way through ginning and the textile process. In the long run, the textile industry needs yarn that can be competitive in the market place regardless of planting patterns or harvesting methods. Mills must be cautious in beginning to process a new product until they have learned as much as possible about it.
South Bryan: Swift Denim is also interested in increasing farmer’s income. They want a viable production community. Swift can use higher leaf, with grass and bark. They expect to receive UNRC, especially if it is at a discount, but they are not ready to do so until more of the uncertainties are resolved. The UNRC that they have seen includes finer bark that may be very difficult to remove until the fiber gets to the opening rotor of the open-end spinning frame. They are nervous about bark content. They anticipate difficulty with UNRC based on the evidence so far, but they expect improvements as a result of the research that they hear being discussed. In the next year some spinners will try to restrict buying contracts of UNRC until they get a better understanding. In the long run, however, if it helps the farmer, they will learn how to use it in the mills. It is a safe assumption that any stripper-harvested cotton will sell at a discount to the same cotton spindle picked. The mills need to have patience and learn to adjust over time to UNRC if that is needed. West Texas cotton of comparable quality goes for a lower price than eastern cotton because of grass, bark and the nature of stripper harvested cotton.
Ultra-Narrow Row Cotton Production Systems
HVI Quality Comparisons
Ultra Narrow Row Cotton Production Systems
AFIS and Dye-Uptake Quality Comparisons
|138-inch picked||336-inch picked||510-inch finger stripped||7on dyed fabric|
|27.5-inch finger stripped||440-inch picked||6Lab Gin, No Cleaning|