Improvements in cotton fiber properties for textiles depend on changes in the growth and development of the fiber.

  •  Manipulation of fiber perimeter has a potential to impact the length, micronaire, and strength of cotton fibers. The perimeter of the fiber is regulated by biological mechanisms that control the expansion characteristic of the cell wall and establish cell diameter.
  • Improvements in fiber quality can take many different forms. Changes in length, strength, uniformity, and fineness   In one recent analysis, fiber perimeter was shown to be the single quantitative trait of the fiber that affects all other traits . Fiber perimeter is the variable that has the greatest affect on fiber elongation and strength properties. While mature dead fibers have an elliptical morphology, living fibers have a cylindrical morphology during growth and development. Geometrically, perimeter is directly determined by diameter (perimeter = diameter × p). Thus, fiber diameter is the only variable that directly affects perimeter. For this reason, understanding the biological mechanisms that regulate fiber diameter is important for the long-term improvement of cotton.
  • A review of the literature indicates that many researchers believe diameter is established at fiber initiation and is maintained throughout the duration of fiber development . A few studies have examined, either directly or indirectly, changes in fiber diameter during development. Some studies indicate that diameter remains constant ; while others indicate that fiber diameter increases as the fiber develops.
  • The first three stages occur while the fiber is alive and actively growing. Fiber initiation involves the initial isodiametric expansion of the epidermal cell above the surface of the ovule. This stage may last only a day or so for each fiber. Because there are several waves of fiber initiation across the surface of the ovule , one may find fiber initials at any time during the first 5 or 6 d post anthesis. The elongation phase encompasses the major expansion growth phase of the fiber. Depending on genotype, this stage may last for several weeks post anthesis. During this stage of development the fiber deposits a thin, expandable primary cell wall composed of a variety of carbohydrate polymers . As the fiber approaches the end of elongation, the major phase of secondary wall synthesis starts. In cotton fiber, the secondary cell wall is composed almost exclusively of cellulose. During this stage, which lasts until the boll opens (50 to 60 d post anthesis), the cell wall becomes progressively thicker and the living protoplast decreases in volume. There is a significant overlap in the timing of the elongation and secondary wall synthesis stages. Thus, fibers are simultaneously elongating and depositing secondary cell wall.

  •  The establishment of fiber diameter is a complex process that is governed, to a certain extent, by the overall mechanism by which fibers expand. The expansion of fiber cells is governed by the same related mechanisms occurring in other walled plant cells. Most cells exhibit diffuse cell growth, in which new wall and membrane materials are added throughout the surface area of the cell. Specialized, highly elongated cells, such as root hairs and pollen tubes, expand via tip synthesis where new wall and membrane materials are added only at a specific location that becomes the growing tip of the cell. While the growth mechanisms for cotton fiber have not been fully documented, recent evidence indicates that throughout the initiation and early elongation phases of development, cotton fiber expands primarily via diffuse growth . Later in fiber development, late in cell elongation, and well into secondary cell wall synthesis (35 d post anthesis), the organization of cellular organelles is consistent with continued diffuse growth . Many cells that expand via diffuse growth exhibit increases in both cell length and diameter; but cells that exhibit tip synthesis do not exhibit increases in cell diameter . If cotton fiber expands by diffuse growth, then it is reasonable to suggest that cell diameter might increase during the cell elongation phase of development.

  •  Cell expansion is also regulated by the extensibility of the cell wall. For this reason, cell expansion most commonly occurs in cells that have only a primary cell wall . Primary cell walls contain low levels of cellulose. Production of the more rigid secondary cell wall usually signals the cessation of cell expansion. Secondary cell wall formation is often indicated by the development of wall birefringence.

  •  Analyses of fiber diameter and cell wall birefringence show that fiber diameter significantly increased as fibers grew and developed secondary cell walls. Both cotton species and all the genotypes tested exhibited similar increases in diameter; however, the specific rates of change differed. Fibers continued to increase in diameter during the secondary wall synthesis stage of development, indicating that the synthesis of secondary cell wall does not coincide with the cessation of cell expansion.


  • The generally recommended machinery sequence at gins for spindle-picked cotton is rock and green-boll trap, feed control, tower drier, cylinder cleaner, stick machine, tower drier, cylinder cleaner, extractor feeder, gin stand, lint cleaner, lint cleaner, and press. 
  • Cylinder cleaners use rotating spiked drums that open and clean the seedcotton by scrubbing it across a grid-rod or wire mesh screen that allows the trash to sift through. The stick machine utilizes the sling-off action of channel-type saw cylinders to extract foreign matter from the seedcotton by centrifugal force. In addition to feeding seedcotton to the gin stand, the extractor feeder cleans the cotton using the stick machine's sling-off principle. 
  • In some cases the extractor-feeder is a combination of a cylinder cleaner and an extractor.    Sometimes an impact or revolving screen cleaner is used in addition to the second cylinder cleaner. In the impact cleaner, seedcotton is conveyed across a series of revolving, serrated disks instead of the grid-rod or wire mesh screen.
  •  Lint cleaners at gins are mostly of the controlled-batt, saw type. In this cleaner a saw cylinder combs the fibers and extracts trash from the lint cotton by a combination of centrifugal force, scrubbing action between saw cylinder and grid bars, and gravity assisted by an air current 
  •  Seedcotton-type cleaners extract the large trash components from cotton. However, they have only a small influence on the cotton's grade index, visible liint foreign-matter content, and fiber length distribution when compared with the lint cleaning effects.  Also, the number of neps created by the entire seedcotton cleaning process is about the same as the increase caused by one saw-cylinder lint cleaner. 
  • Most cotton gins today use one or two stages of saw-type lint cleaners. The use of too many stages of lint cleaning can reduce the market value of the bale, because the weight loss may offset any gain from grade improvement. Increasing the number of saw lint cleaners at gins, in addition to increasing the nep count and short-fiber content of the raw lint, causes problems at the spinning mill. These show up as more neps in the card web and reduced yarn strength and appearance .
  •  Pima cotton, extra-long-staple cotton, is roller ginned to preserve its length and to minimize neps. To maintain the highest possible quality bale of pima cotton, mill-type lint cleaners were for a long time the predominant cleaner used by the roller-ginning industry. Today, various combinations of impacts, incline, and pneumatic cleaners are used in most roller-ginning plants to increase lint-cleaning capacity. 


  •     Two simple words, fiber quality, mean quite different things to cotton growers and to cotton processors.    No after-harvest mechanisms are available to either growers or processors that can improve intrinsic fiber quality.
        Most cotton production research by physiologists and agronomists has been directed toward improving yields, so the few cultural-input strategies suggested for improving fiber quality during the production season are of limited validity. Thus, producers have limited alternatives in production practices that might result in fibers of acceptable quality and yield without increased production costs.
        Fiber processors seek to acquire the highest quality cotton at the lowest price, and attempt to meet processing requirements by blending bales with different average fiber properties. Of course, bale averages for fiber properties do not describe the fiber-quality ranges that can occur within the bales or the resulting blends. Further, the natural variability among cotton fibers unpredictably reduces the processing success for blends made up of low-priced, lower-quality fibers and high-priced, higher-quality fibers.

  •     Blends that fail to meet processing specifications show marked increases in processing disruptions and product defects that cut into the profits of the yarn and textile manufacturers. Mill owners do not have sufficient knowledge of the role classing-office fiber properties play in determining the outcome of cotton spinning and dyeing processes. 
        Even when a processor is able to make the connection between yarn and fabric defects and increased proportions of low-quality fibers, producers have no way of explaining why the rejected bales failed to meet processing specifications when the bale averages for important fiber properties fell within the acceptable ranges.
        If, on the other hand, the causes of a processing defect are unknown, neither the producer nor the processor will be able to prevent or avoid that defect in the future. Any future research that is designed to predict, prevent, or avoid low-quality cotton fibers that cause processing defects in yarn and fabric must address the interface between cotton production and cotton processing.
        Every bale of cotton produced in the USA crosses that interface via the USDA-AMS classing offices, which report bale averages of quantified fiber properties. Indeed, fiber-quality data reports from classing offices are designed as a common quantitative language that can be interpreted and understood by both producers and processors. But the meaning and utility of classing-office reports can vary, depending on the instrument used to evaluate.

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