Lint Cotton Conditioning

Restoring moisture to lint cotton is probably the most debated and most misunderstood ginning practice. Recent abuses have made the industry even more fractured on this matter and spawned even more misinformation.
The Certified Cotton Gin Program seeks to provide clarity on this issue by establishing a dialogue which addresses bale moisture from an industry-wide perspective, rather than through the eyes of a single cotton industry segment.

A sincere discussion of bale moisture is not complete without acknowledging the following facts:

  • During storage, a bale will move toward and attain an equilibrium moisture content (EMC) in the warehouse in which it's stored.

  • Without any moisture restoration at the gin, the typical moisture content of the lint is well below the EMC a bale will reach in storage. Simply put, the fiber after lint cleaning is very dry.

  • There are significant benefits to a gin if they can raise the moisture in the lint prior to the press. In fact, for efficiently operating at modern ginning capacities, the ability to restore moisture is a necessity, not a luxury.

  • Lint moisture restoration systems do not improve fiber quality. When considering this point its important to not to confuse lint moisture restoration with seed cotton moisture restoration (seed cotton conditioning), which can positively impact fiber quality.

  • Done properly, lint moisture restoration does not harm fiber quality. This requires the moisture to be applied uniformly and in moderation.

  • Water spray systems do not apply moisture evenly throughout the bale.

  • A mill buying a bale based on the receiving dock weight is paying for the moisture in that bale whether it was gained by the lint at the gin or in the warehouse.

  • A mill can derive benefits from bales that were properly moisturized by the gin, including: bales opening to a uniform and more manageable height, fewer broken bale ties making handling easier, reduced tie forces making opening the bales safer, faster conditioning times in the mill's opening room (because proper fiber moisture is important for mill operating efficiency, too).

Taking the above points into consideration, it's clear that there is some common ground on this issue. If a gin restores moisture to lint using a safe method and reasonable level, it can be mutually beneficial for both gins and mills. Growers benefit by having some of the weight lost during harvesting or gin drying restored to the bale.

At this point, it would be unfair not to address the merchants' perspective on bale moisture. Generally, a merchant buys a cotton bale based on its gin weight and sells it based on its weight at the mill's receiving docks. If a gin does not restore moisture, the bale will gain weight in storage and the merchant benefits from that change.

An undeniable fact of gin-level moisture restoration is that it reduces the amount of weight bales will gain in storage, thereby negatively affecting the merchant.

But the alternative also has negative consequences for merchants. If gin-level moisture restoration were eliminated or severly restricted, all of the above benefits discussed for growers, ginners, and mills would be lost. Positioned as a key link in the middle of the distribution chain, merchants benefit from healthy counterparts both upstream and downstream. Advocating a policy that harms your suppliers and your customers is usually not prudent business.

So should the industry simply look past the merchants' unique perspective on bale moisture? Absolutely not.

Ignoring the interests of the key player in the distribution of your product or raw material does not qualify as prudent business, either. Especially when that player is responsible for providing both liquidity and smooth transactions amidst an ever changing deluge of global beauracratic red tape; with these services being provided on the thinnest of margins.

So what's the answer? First, consideration of merchants needs to be a critical part of determining the amount of moisture added by the gin. The target bale moisture should not exceed the expected EMC for that bale in storage. Next, other industry segments should seek to do business and give preference to merchants that handle Certified Cotton. Not only will they derive direct benefits from the ginning practices advocated by the program, they will also be supporting companies committed to helping the industry prosper.

Recognizing the importance of the bale moisture issue across industry segments, the Certified Cotton Gin Program evaluates Lint Cotton Conditioning systems on the following criteria:

  • Is the system fully operational?
  • Moist air generator performance ability
  • Is it used in conjunction with seed cotton conditioning?
  • Moist air applicator performance
  • Gin capacity
  • Qualified operators, training, and personnel oversight

Click here for the Lint Cotton Conditioning Score Sheet