Wesley M. Porter,
Associate Professor and Extension Ag Engineer
University of Georgia
It’s that time of year again, it comes on us before we know it every year, but hopefully not before we’re ready for it. To quote Camp Hand, “The smell of Folex is in the air”. It’s easy to recognize that smell if you have spent any time around the cotton especially during the fall. Once you have successfully defoliated your crop it’s time for the next critical operation, harvest. While driving around the state I am starting to see more pickers in field and more round modules being wrapped. A majority of our cotton is now harvested with on-board module building pickers. While it may not seem like a big issue, one of our fiber quality problems that starts when the cotton pickers move into the fields through unwrapping of round cotton modules at the gin is plastic contamination. Currently, there are three commercially available module wrap materials provided by Tama USA Inc. Those are the original TamaWrap+® Yellow, the TamaWrap+® Pink, and the TamWrap® Blue value wrap. While the original patent or module wrap has expired and there are other options for wrap, there are currently only two module wraps that meet the ASABE S615.2, Cotton Module Cover Material Performance Standard, that was updated and approved in February of 2022. The two wraps that meet this standard are the TamaWrap+® Yellow and the TamaWrap+® Pink. There are usage and handling recommendations for all three different wraps. Specifically, the value Blue wrap was created to help save money on module wrap, but it does have specific handling recommendations. According to Tama USA there are three main categories during harvest, which include handling, transportation, and unwrapping (https://www.tama-usa.com/tamawrap-for-cotton/tamawrap-blue/tamawrap-blue-for-cotton/):
During handling, the module should not be dragged on the ground or across stalks during staging, if using a rear back or front loader with the forked loading attachments ensure arms are completely on the ground before opening and closing to avoid “over squeezing”, during transportation using a Module truck, the diameter should not exceed 100 inches in size (a recommended harvester monitor set size is 92 inches), ensure recommended chains are used on module trucks, if other trucks or trailers are used ensure there are no sharp edges or objects that can tear the wrap material, and during unwrapping at the gin, extra care is required, examine the module for any lose pieces of plastic or other contaminants and remove them, use the Tama Cut Indicator™ to locate the cutting zone, make one clean cut and not multiple cuts, remove all pieces of wrap after unwrapping or cutting.
It is important to know that during the 2022 harvest season, yellow, pink, blue, and then black plastic were the highest levels of plastic contamination (Figure 1).
Figure 1. USDA AMS Classing Office plastic calls by color for the 2022 crop (Source E. Barnes Cotton Inc). It is important to note that a plastic contamination call falls within the Extraneous Matter category. While when looking at overall Extraneous Matter calls for 2022, they ranked, Bark, Grass, Seedcoat, and then plastic in that order. It should be noted that of the total Extraneous Matter calls plastic only accounted for 0.61%. Overall, this number is very low, but if you are the one who gets discounted for a plastic call it can be detrimental. Make sure that you do everything you can during harvest, staging, transportation, and opening at the Gin. More good news is that when compared to 2021, plastic calls went from 6,279 in 2021 down to 4,048 in 2022 which is moving in the right direction, hopefully we see this trend continue.
For more information on the ASABE S615.2 standard and general plastic wrap contamination prevention please visit the National Cotton Council’s website at https://www.cotton.org/tech/quality/contamfree.cfm.