The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is partnering with technology innovators in the private sector to develop high volume instruments to test cotton samples for extraneous matter such as seed coat fragments, plastic, bark and grass.
The ITMF International Committee on Cotton Testing Methods (ICCTM) met in Bremen, Germany on March 20th and 21st during Cotton Week, and USDA reported on progress in the development of such an instrument, but there is still no solution.
A challenge is that extraneous matter, or contamination, often is not distributed evenly throughout a bale, making testing a single sample of a few hundred grams per bale problematic. Testing methodology involves the use of computer algorithms to analyze electronic images of cotton samples. Variations in the color, percent area coverage, shape, and other characteristics are used to differentiate contaminants from cotton lint so as to produce grades for extraneous matter. A related challenge is that no standards, or internationally recognized definitions of extraneous matter currently exist. USDA is in the process of developing standards using samples of cotton from the U.S. Refinement in the extraneous matter algorithms and use of a wider range of cottons will be needed for the development of an internationally acceptable testing method and contamination standards.
Members of ICCTM include materials engineers and fiber scientists from around the world who collaborate so as to standardized definitions and agree on the best practices in cotton testing methodology. The next meeting of ICCTM is scheduled for 2020.