sticky cotton



The Sticky Cotton Thermodetector (SCT) measures the physical sticking points transferred to aluminum sheets by a conditioned lint sample that is squeezed and heated (to 82.5°C for 12 sec.). Levels of stickiness are categorized according to the number of specks left on the  two sheets of foil. Lower numbers of specks are preferable to  higher numbers; however, a specific threshold over which all cotton will result in processing problems has not been defined. The SCT takes about 5 minutes to process each sample, requires smaller initial investment costs than the minicard, is more mobile, and its results correlate well with predicted stickiness from the minicard.


The High Speed Stickiness Detector (H2SD) is a quicker, automatic version of the thermodetector. The cotton sample is pressed between a heated (54°C for 30 sec.) and an unheated pressure plate. Sticky points are counted and point size distribution determined by image-processing computer software. Plates are automatically cleaned between samples. The H2SD is able to analyze a sample in 30 seconds.


Like the thermodetector and H2SD, the Fiber Contamination Tester (FCT) measures physical sticking points (at 65% RH). The instrument feeds a thin web between two rollers. Contamination of the rollers interrupts a laser beam, resulting in a recording. Because the cleaning and recording is automated, samples may be processed as quickly as one per 45 seconds.

While there is no reliable infield method for detection of stickiness predisposition, the insects responsible for honeydew deposits can be sampled and populations measured. Not all population levels of insects lead to sticky lint; however, chronic numbers of insects, especially during boll opening or an extended season, can lead to excessive insect sugars that result in stickiness. In addition, field factors associated with risk of excessive plant sugars are lateness of the crop, fiber immaturity, and freezing temperatures before harvest.


The most efficient way now to prevent stickiness is by managing sugar sources in the field. Detailed integrated pest management plans (see references) for both aphid and whitefly. These honeydew-producing insects may be managed by avoiding conditions leading to outbreaks, carefully sampling pest populations, and using effective insecticides when populations reach predetermined thresholds.

The risk of having excessive plant sugars can be minimized by harvesting mature seed cotton. This may be accomplished through plant management tactics that include: early and uniform planting, nitrogen management according to plant growth and yield goals, high first-position boll retention, and timely chemical termination and harvest. If a freeze is imminent and immature bolls are present, the use of boll-opening chemicals can greatly diminish the problem of plant sugar contamination. All these measures work towards early harvest, before freezing conditions that contribute to excess plant sugars.


When field management of sugar sources is inadequate to prevent excess accumulation of sugars, mitigation tactics may be necessary to remove excess sugars from the lint. This mitigation may be achieved through both natural and managed processes; however, the specific impact of these processes on stickiness is variable and may depend on the initial level of contamination.

Natural processes include weathering, rainfall, and degradation by microorganisms. Since sugars are water soluble, rainfall will wash some honeydew from lint. If sufficient moisture is available, bacteria and molds living on the plants will decompose many honeydew sugars. Complex sugars are broken down to simpler sugars, and the simpler sugars, given sufficient time and moisture, are further broken down to carbon dioxide and water. Unfortunately, microbial action also leads to discoloration and to a weakening of the fibers as well as heating of cotton in modules that may result in reduced seed viability and problems in ginning.

Potential in-field mitigation techniques include supplemental oversprays of enzymes or water. Certain carbohydrate degrading enzymes when sprayed on sticky cotton can reduce honeydew to simpler sugars. Microbial activity on the fibers then further degrades these simpler sugars, resulting in a significant decrease in fiber stickiness. However, these enzymes require water for activity, and metering the proper amount of water for activity is a problem yet to be solved. In some areas of the world, overhead and in-canopy irrigation has been used to remove honeydew from open bolls. The frequency of this type of irrigation may be more important than the volume applied. Use of sprinklers has been limited in the Western United States, where furrow irrigation is prevalent.

If stickiness is a problem while ginning, the ginning rate of honeydew contaminated cotton can be increased  by increasing the heat of the drying towers to reduce humidity. The potential for stickiness can be further reduced by lint cleaning. Both of these practices, however, can result in shorter fibers.

Conventional textile lubricants may also be used. Stickiness due to high levels of plant sugars can be reduced by storing the cotton for approximately six months.

However, storage of baled cotton will not appreciably reduce stickiness from insect sugars. At the textile mill, stickiness may be managed by blending bales and by reducing humidity during carding.

A lubricant in fog form may be introduced at the end of the hopper conveyor, and card crush rolls may be sprayed sparingly with a lubricant to minimize sticking.





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