New high-speed roller gin poised to generate major cost savings

There will about 25 more roller gin stands operating in the San Joaquin Valley this season to process what most likely will be the largest Pima cotton crop ever produced in the valley.

About a dozen of the 373 roller gin stands in 22 cotton gins slated to operate will be high speed versions developed at the USDA ginning lab in Mesilla Park, N. M. These modified stands now being built offer an enormous breakthrough in processing Extra Long Staple (ELS) cotton with the potential to increase ginning speeds by fourfold.

Earl Williams, president of California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, told attendees at the Pima Production Summit '06 that if this new technology was employed in all SJV roller gins, this year's anticipated 260,000- acre/650,000-bale crop could be theoretically ginned in 20 days instead of the 79 it would require with conventional 1-bale-per hour roller gin stands.

With rising ginning costs, Williams said this new stand offers “something exciting and meaningful on the horizon.”

Pima growing costs are about equal to upland cottons. It is the ginning costs that make Pima more expensive to produce.

This new stand was tested last season in Arizona. However, only a limited amount of both short staple and ELS cotton was put through it, said Williams.

The “new” stand actually represents modifications to an existing stand, including increasing horsepower thereby increasing speed and adding fans to cool the rolls as well as other machinery adjustments.

“There are some pretty phenomenal expectations of this new roller stand. Unfortunately not enough cotton was run through the stand to answer some important questions, like the life of the rolls,” said Williams, explaining that one of the most expensive aspects of maintaining roller gins stands is changing worn out rolls.

“With increased speed, that means more heat and what that does to the life of the rolls is one of the questions that needs to be answered.”

Early indications are the higher speed does not degrade fiber quality.

Williams remains cautiously optimistic about this being a major breakthrough for the California cotton industry. “The cost savings for something like this would be unbelievable, not to mention to advantages to the grower of getting his cotton ginned more quickly.”

Williams did not mention it, but these new high-speed stands could have a significant impact on roller ginning Acala/upland cottons. When Pima prices are high, some mills will substitute roller-ginned Acalas and pay a premium over saw ginned upland prices. This happened last season.

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