Last month, we discussed harvesting cotton, but today’s blog we will focus on the third step in this journey: ginning the cotton!
In cotton ginning, the main goal is to separate the seed and lint from the cotton fiber. The freshly picked cotton arrives at the gin with the seeds, sticks, stems, burrs, and other unwanted foreign matter. Since cotton is a natural fiber, we can expect this. But the finished product should be completely absent of this material. That’s where the gin comes in!
Credit: Textile Learner
In the first stage of the ginning process, the moisture of the cotton is measured, which determines the amount of heat that will be applied to open the fiber. Air is used to mix the heat with the seed cotton as it passes through its first cleaning process.
Credit: Cotton Grower
The cleaned seed cotton is then taken over to gin feeders, where additional cleaning takes place. At this point, the seed is removed from the lint by saw blades that pull the lint away. Next, the seed drops into an auger and will later be repurposed (crushed for cotton seed oil, fed to dairy cattle, etc).
The last step of the ginning process is pressing cotton into bales and tested. If you can believe it, the cotton is cleaned again! The cotton goes through finer cleaners were smaller-sized foreign material is removed. Once that is finished, it is hydraulically pressed into 500-point blocks referred to as bales.
Before U.S. grown cotton can be sold and/or purchased, each bale of ginned cotton very bale of ginned in the U.S. must be tested cotton goes through a standardized process of measurement and classification conducted by the USDA. Each and every 500lb bale of gin has a sample taken from it, and is tested. The USDA tests for key characteristics such as: fiber length, strength, micronaire, color, uniformity, and leaf content. The results determine the cotton’s ultimate value and optimal use in manufacturing.
Stay tuned next month to learn all about cotton’s next life stage: cotton purification!