With cotton harvest underway, it is important to “keep it clean and pure” this year. American cotton growers worked hard to gain a reputation for producing clean fiber, but over the last few years, reports have surfaced about contamination due to a variety of foreign materials, including plastic.
Producers have to be vigilant to keep contaminants out of their cotton. There have been reports of bales being sent back to gins, and customers moving elsewhere because of plastic issues. The cotton industry is committed to improving this situation for all along the cotton supply chain.
Foreign materials are simply anything but lint and seed that is mixed into the cotton during harvest or during/after processing. Contaminants can range from bark to plastic bags to bale wrap. Not only can foreign materials inadvertently make it into yarns and fabrics, but they can also degrade the crop. These things can very easily be taken in by harvesting equipment.
Always remember: it is easier to prevent contamination than it is to remove contaminants from baled or ginned cotton.
Educate. Before harvest, growers must educate employees by creating a foreign material watch list, and posting that list in automobiles and tractor/sprayer/picker cabs. Once that education is complete, workers can then identify and abate any potential contaminants in the field by stopping what they are doing to remove the foreign materials in the field.
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Start clean. Begin the harvest season with clean equipment. For growers who use the new picker/balers, it is important to make sure that the equipment is not rubbing or puncturing the bale wrap and that the wrap is adhering in the correct places, as to not have any yellow or pink plastic lodged in the cotton.
Keep modules elevated. Transport modules at a height above cotton stalks and place them at a flat, clean spot with a bit of space between them.
Ginners and warehouses also need to take precautions.
Start the season clean and keep employees educated on how to prevent contamination and the importance of preventing it. Areas in the process that are more susceptible to contamination are transporting bales/modules and removing bale wrap.
Also, ensure that spills – grease, oil and similar product — are thoroughly cleaned up.
While these tips seem simple, they are very important in keeping our cotton contamination free this year. Following these simple guidelines can help keep the high standard of American cotton around the world, and could improve access to more foreign markets.