By: The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating.
Produced by Texas A&M AgriLife Communications
Myth: Once seed cotton is stored in modules it is protected from loss.
Fact: Cotton in poorly built modules covered by worn tarps can lose up to $650 in lint value per module during storage.
Myth: A tarp that stays on is good enough.
Fact: Tarps that leak can reduce ginning rates by 50 percent or more.
Cotton that is not well protected from the elements loses quality and value as it waits to be ginned. The profit from a year’s work and investment could be disappearing in poorly built modules under worn tarps.
At one Texas location, lint value was reduced $400 per module when poor tarps were used. A poor module shape reduced the value an additional $200. Gin turnout was reduced from 34 percent with well-built modules and good tarps to 26 percent with poorly built modules under poor tarps. Ginning rate was cut from 42 bales per hour (BPH) with good module shapes and good tarps to 19 BPH with both poor module shapes and poor tarps.
Producers and ginners can stop these revenue losses with just a few simple steps.
Half of all cotton modules are built incorrectly so that water ponds in depressions on top. If the tarp has pinholes that allow water to leak through, the cotton can be damaged. When building a module, the cotton should be tightly compacted, with more in the middle of the module so that the module is rounded both along the length and across the width. It should be shaped like a loaf of bread.
Producers—Using Good Tarps
A tarp cannot do its job if it is worn out or has pinholes or tears. When receiving a load of tarps, the producer should inspect them before use and ask for replacements for any that are in poor condition. If it is necessary to add extra tie-downs to keep the tarp secured, put them through the existing grommets in the tarp. Do not put ties over the top of the module because this will wear out the tarp prematurely.
Ginners—Inspecting and Purchasing Tarps
After the ginning season, tarps should be cleaned and dried thoroughly, then inspected. Tarp condition is more important than age. Repair rips and tears and replace damaged straps, ropes, buckles or other fasteners. Only close inspection will reveal pinholes, thinned coatings and the breakdown of UV-light stabilizers all of which can result in damaged cotton. Many tarp suppliers and other companies offer inspection and repair services.
Replace worn tarps that cannot be repaired. A new module tarp costs $65 to $120. This investment makes economic sense when compared to the possible losses from poor cotton quality and low ginning rates.
In laboratory tests, tarps constructed of woven poly, vinyl or film have been shown to repel water. Research at Texas A&M University has shown that vinyl and film tarps resist water penetration after significant exposure. The performance of woven poly tarps varied from good to poor water resistance with the same exposure. When buying new tarps, consider your climate. Tarps exposed to intense solar radiation (summer through early fall) or high wind will degrade more rapidly. Ask tarp manufacturers for data showing how their tarps perform over time.
For more information:
National Cotton Council
“Just Build It: Seed-Cotton Storage & Handling in Modules” http://www.cotton.org/tech/quality/just-build-it.cfm
“Just Tarp It” http://www.cotton.org/tech/quality/just-tarp-it.cfm
Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Texas A&M University, (979) 845-3931.
Download a printer-friendly version of this publication: What is the Real Cost of a Cotton Module Tarp?
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