Introduction: (Initial Observation)
Cotton is a part of our daily lives from when we dry our face with a soft cotton towel in the morning until we slide into our soft cotton sheets at night. It has hundreds of uses, from blue jeans to shoe strings. Many clothing and household items are made of cotton.
Cotton has many advantages to nylon and other synthetic fibers used to make clothing.
Cotton is natural, healthy, safe, soft, and does not collect static charges.
Cotton fiber is produced by a plant called cotton plant. In this project you will make a display to show different parts and different growth stages of cotton plant.
Find out about cotton plant, cotton products and the steps used to make such products. Read books, magazines or ask professionals who might know in order to learn about the cotton and its uses. Keep track of where you got your information from.
Note: This is a display project. In other words you should gather information and present it in the form of a display and possibly a report. There are no hypothesis and no experiments for this project.
More advanced students in grades 5 and up may want do a cotton related experimental project. For example they may want to study the strength or the length of cotton filaments among different species of cotton. Following are some other questions that may be used as a base for some other experimental projects:
- How do different cotton species vary in their ability to absorb water?
- How does heat affect the strength of cotton fiber?
- How does moisture affect the strength of cotton fiber?
- How does chlorine affect the strength of cotton fiber?
As a display project, you will not need to do any experiment. You must just report the information that you gather.
Following are samples of information that you may find:
Why cotton is important?
Today, the world uses cotton more than any other fiber, and it is one of the the leading cash crops in the United States. At the farm level alone, the production of each year’s crop involves the purchase of more than four billion dollars worth of supplies. This provokes business activities of factories and enterprises throughout the country. Processing and handling of cotton after it leaves the farm requires even more business activity. Altogether, business revenue created by cotton is estimated at about 122.4 billion dollars – the greatest of any United States crop.
Do you have a cotton farm in your state?
Cotton grows in warm climates and is mostly grown in the U.S., the Soviet Union, the Peoples Republic of China, and India. Other leading cotton growing countries are Brazil, Pakistan, and Turkey.
In this country the fourteen major cotton producing states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Some cotton is also produced in Florida, Kansas, and Virginia.
The yield in the U.S. now averages approximately one and one third bales per acre. In the United States, a bale weighs around five hundred pounds. The yield is about twice as much as it was in 1950 because of better land use, improved plant varieties, mechanization, fertilization, technology, irrigation, and newly developed products. It also is a result of much better control of disease, weeds, and insects. Farmers have seen a need to increase their cotton yields because of lower crop prices as well as the rising cost of products used to grow the crop.
How cotton is grown?
After the cotton has been harvested in the fall, the stalks are cut down and turned under the soil. In the spring, the land is plowed again and the soil is broken up and made into rows. Other times, cotton is planted on flat land. Farmers in south Texas plant cotton as early as February. In Missouri and other northern parts of the Cotton Belt, they plant their cotton as late as June. The Cotton Belt is a strip of land across the United States where cotton is the major crop.
Seeding is done with mechanical planters and covers as many as ten to twelve rows at a time. The planter opens a small furrow in each row, drops in the correct amount of seed, covers them, and packs dirt on top of them. The seed is planted at uniform intervals in either small clumps (“hill-dropped”) or singularly (“drilled”) dropped into the the soil. Machines called cultivators are used to uproot weeds and grass, which battle with the cotton plant for soil nutrients, sunlight, and water. Uprooting the weeds and grass also helps to retain the soil’s moisture.
About after two months after planting, flower buds called squares appear on the cotton plants. In another three weeks, the blossoms open. Their petals change from creamy white, to yellow, to pink and finally dark red. After three days, they wither and fall, leaving green pods which are called cotton bolls.
Inside the boll, which is shaped like a mini football, moist fibers form and push the newly formed seeds outward. As the boll ripens, it stays green. The fibers continue to expand under the warm sun. Finally, they split the boll apart, and the fluffy cotton comes forth. It looks like cotton candy, only white. When the cotton plant is defoliated or has been killed by frost, the boll turns brown. Defoliation is the process whereby a plant is sprayed with a chemical.
The chemical causes the leaves of the plant to fall off so that the leaves do not get caught up in the cotton picker.
Machines now gather cotton fifty times faster then workers who used to harvest the crop with their hands. At one time in the United States big cotton plantations covered much of the South. Black people, slaves, were brought from Africa to the United States to work on the cotton plantations.
How Cotton is Ginned and Marketed?
After harvesting, cotton is either stored on the edge of the field in big mounds called “modules” or loaded onto trailers and shipped to the gin. Cotton is transported to the gin in cotton trailers. It is either loosely or tightly packed. If the cotton is tightly packed in modules, the modules are put in trucks called module movers. The cotton is then taken to the gin.
At the gin, powerful pipes suck the cotton into the building and through cleaning machines that remove the trash, like burs, dirt, stems, and leaf material from the cotton. Then, it goes to the gin stand where circular saws with small, sharp teeth pull the fiber from the seed. If there is too much moisture in the cotton, it is also dried in the gin stand.
From the gin, fiber and seed go different ways. The ginned fiber, now called lint, is pressed together and made into great big bales that weigh about five hundred pounds. About thirty-five percent of each pound of cotton is lint, and the rest is seed. The farmer gets paid for both the lint and the seed. To determine the value of the cotton, samples are taken from each bale and classed according to fiber length, strength, width, color, and cleanliness. Once the cotton is baled it is sent to cotton merchants.
Growers usually sell their cotton to a local buyer or merchant who, in return, sells it to a textile mill either in the U.S. or in a foreign country. In California, Cal-Cot is a marketing cooperative. It is grower owned, meaning that the growers “own” the company and profits are distributed to the growers based on the amount and quality of cotton that the grower produced that year. Cal-Cot actively seeks out buyers (foreign and domestic) and sells to these buyers the type of cotton they are looking for. Being a part of the co-op means that the grower can focus his or her attention on growing better crops and feel confident that Cal-Cot will get the best price for the crop.
Once the cotton is sent to cotton merchants, the remaining seed is sold by the gin. If the gin is a co-op, meaning it is grower owned, the money for the seed is given to the farmer. The gin can sell the seed as feed for animals. It can also sell the seed to a mill where it is crushed and the oil is extracted, or the seed can be sold to a de-linter. At the delinters, the fuzzy fibers are removed in a process much like ginning. This lint is baled and used for paper, batting, and plastic. The cleaned seed that remains after delinting is then processed for use in the planting of next year’s crop.
How cotton is spun and woven?
At the textile mill, machines open the bales, and the lint is mixed and cleaned further by blowing and beating. The short lint that comes out is usually separated and sold for use in other industries. The best part of the lint consists of fibers that are one inch to one and three fourths inches long.
The mixed and fluffed cotton goes into a carding machine which cleans the fibers again and makes them lay side by side. A combing machine finishes the job of cleaning and straightening the fibers. This machine makes the fibers into a soft, untwisted rope called a sliver.
Two more machines – a drawing frame and a slub – pull the soft rope thinner and give it its first twist. When the fiber leaves the slub, it’s called roving and goes through other machines that twist and pull it some more. Finally, it reaches the spinning frame which gives it a last pull and twist. The fiber leaves the spinning frame wound on bobbins as cotton yarn.
Machines called looms weave cotton yarns into fabrics the same way the first hand weaving frames did. Modern looms work at great speeds, interlacing the lengthwise yarns (warp) and crosswise yarn (filling). The woven fabric, called gray goods, is sent to a finishing plant where it is bleached, pre-shrunk, dyed, printed, and given a special finish before being made into clothing or products for the home.
Uses of Cotton Seed:
By removing most of the economically important lint of a cottonseed, you can see how the hairs are attached to the seed coat. The long hairs are termed lint and the short ones are called fuzz. The short fuzz on the seed, which is also called linters, supply the cellulose needed for making plastics, explosives, high quality paper products, batting for mattresses, and furniture and automobile cushions.
The cotton seed is also manufactured into various products. It is crushed to separate it for use in three different products – oil, meal and the hulls.
Cotton seed oil – shortening, cooking oil, salad dressing and a high-protein concentrate for use in food products.
Meal and Hull – livestock, poultry and fish feed, fertilizer.
COTTON the most important of the materials used for our woven fabrics, is furnished by a semi-tropical plant called the cotton plant.
It is an herb or even a shrub from one to two meters high, and its large yellow flowers are followed by an abundant fruitage of bolls, each as large as an egg, filled with a silky flock, sometimes brilliantly white, sometimes a pale yellowish shade, according to the kind of cotton. In the middle of this flock are the seeds.” Source…
Cotton Plant (a) Cotton Boll
Top Ten Facts About Cotton
- Cotton is produced by small trees and shrubs.
- It is in the same family as hibiscus, okra, and swamp mallow.
- The immature flower bud is called a square.
- Scientists have found fiber and boll fragments from the Tehuacán Valley of Mexico from about 7000 years ago.
- The plant has been grown and used in India for at least 5000 years and probably for much longer.
- It was one of the earliest crops grown by European settlers, having been planted at the Jamestown colony in 1607.
- Planting time varies from the beginning of February in southern Texas to the beginning of June in the northern sections of the Cotton Belt.
- Cotton ranks just behind corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay among the leading cash crops of United States agriculture and is among the nation’s principal agricultural exports.
- The leading cotton-producing states are Texas, California, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Arizona.
- Some cotton products are padding in furniture and automobiles, cotton swabs, plastics, lacquers, smokeless powder for munitions, feed for cattle, cottonseed oil, yarn, cloth, cordage, and much more!
Fruiting branches typically form above the fifth or sixth node on a cotton plant and bear the developing fruit. The developing branch terminates in a square, but a second square and leaf develop adjacent to the first leaf and extend a new internode of the branch away from the first fruiting position. The fruiting branch grows by repeating this process to produce several squares, leaves and internodes in a zigzag pattern, as illustrated in Figure 1.
Squares are the flower bud that first appears on the plant when reproductive growth begins. The flower bud is enclosed by three bracts. Squares grow for about three weeks before a bloom appears.
Blooms open at the culmination of the square period. The cells of the flower petals expand rapidly during the 24 hours preceding bloom, and the flower opens during the early to midmorning hours.
Boll development begins with fertilization of ovules and alters the status and growth of the plant. Rather than sending most of its resources to vegetative growth, the plant must now support continued vegetative growth as well as growing bolls. The growth of a boll can be divided into three phases: enlargement, filling and maturation. The enlargement phase determines the final volume of the boll and seeds, while the fibers are elongating during the first 20 days after bloom. The filling period is the next 20 days after bloom, when much of the dry matter is added to the boll through secondary wall formation of the fiber; oil and proteins are added to the seed during this time as well. The maturation period allows both the fiber and the seed to mature physiologically and dry down prior to boll opening.
What do you want to find out? Write a statement that describes what you want to do. Use your observations and questions to write the statement.
The purpose of this project is to prepare an informational display board about cotton plant and cotton products.
Note: The amount of information that you can find are too many. You need to choose some of the most interesting information for your display and ignore the rest.
When you think you know what variables may be involved, think about ways to change one at a time. If you change more than one at a time, you will not know what variable is causing your observation. Sometimes variables are linked and work together to cause something. At first, try to choose variables that you think act independently of each other.
This section is not required for a display project.
Based on your gathered information, make an educated guess about what types of things affect the system you are working with. Identifying variables is necessary before you can make a hypothesis.
This section is not required for a display project.
Devise a plan and design a layout for your experiment. Make a step-by-step list of what you will do to find answers to your questions. Make a note of what material and information you want to include in your display.
Introduction: A cotton display may only show and describe the plant parts; or, it may only show and describe the production stages from cotton boll to cotton cloth. Either of these two displays need a cardboard or foam board of about 20 x 30 inches (50 x 75 centimeters). You may want to make both and place them side by side.
For a cotton plant display you will need:
- Cotton Seed Before cleaning
- Cotton Seed after cleaning (ready for planting)
- Cotton leaves (fresh, dried or a picture)
- Square (fresh, dried or a picture)
- Bloom or flower (fresh, dried or a picture)
- Small Boll
- Large Boll
- Open Boll
For a cotton production display you will need:
- A cotton boll
- Picture or drawing of cotton gin
- Cleaned cotton (with no seeds)
- Picture or drawing of spinning process
- Cotton string
- Picture or drawing of weaving process
- Cotton cloth
Write an introduction about cotton growth. A sample introduction may look like this:
Procedure (plant display):
Draw a simple cotton plant with at least 4 leaves, one square, one bloom, one small boll, one large boll and one opened boll.
The main stem of the cotton plant has a few vegetative branches at the bottom. Vegetative branches will have no flowers and no cotton bolls.
All the other branches above the vegetative branches are fruiting branches. Fruiting branches are the one that may have squares, flowers, and bolls.
Label the plant parts with the name of each part.
If you have actual samples of plant parts, you may attach them right over your drawing.
Your drawing can be a simple black and white drawing. You may also use some water based colors to make the plant parts more noticeable.
Procedure (Production display):
Start your display with a fully opened cotton boll. If you don’t have access to a real cotton boll, make a model or use a picture instead.
Typically, small cotton bolls may weight about 2 grams while the large bolls weight about 6 grams.
Cotton balls contain the lint and the seeds. Seeds must be separated from the lint.
This is done in a machine called cotton gin. In the past cotton gins were small and were operated by hand. (as shown in the right image). Now cotton gins are advanced and large machines equipped with computers that control all the operation.
Visit the website of a Cotton Gin manufacturer to see some pictures and information about new cotton gins.
Cotton gins remove all the seeds and unwanted plant parts from the lint. Clean lint (cotton fiber) can then be used to make cotton thread or yarn.
The process of drawing out and twisting fiber into thread is known as spinning.
Traditionally spinning has been done by hand. Modern factories use automated machinery to make yarn; however, handspinning is still very popular in many towns and villages around the world.
Many kinds of spinning tools are available today-everything from simple wooden handspindles to high-tech electric spinners. The diversity of spinning tools is a wonderful story in itself, but it’s important to remember that in handspinning, it’s the skill and sensitivity of the spinner’s hands that shapes the yarn. The spinner is in control; the tool is just an assistant.
No matter which tool you use, the process of spinning is basically the same. The first step is drafting or pulling fibers out of the prepared lock, top, batt, or roving. Drafting just a few fibers at a time makes a very thin yarn; drafting many fibers makes a thicker yarn. Twisting the drafted fibers makes yarn. Twist holds the fibers together so they don’t slip apart or rub loose; one of the spinner’s skills is determining the appropriate amount of twist for a given yarn. At the start, you want enough twist that the yarn is strong . . . and not so much that it makes itself into independent corkscrews.
After drafting and twisting a length of yarn, you can let it wind on to the bobbin of the spinning wheel or wind it onto a spindle by hand, then start drafting and twisting more yarn. When you finish spinning one batch of fiber, you make a join by splicing on a new supply. A careful join is invisible in the finished yarn. when yarn or thread is ready, it can then be used for knitting by hand or by machine.
Finished yarn is then taken to be woven, knitted, tufted, or bonded with heat or chemicals. Each of these processes creates a different type of textile product and requires a different type of machine. Woven fabrics are made on looms that interlace the yarn. Knit products, such as socks or women’s hosiery, are produced by intermeshing loops of yarn. Carpeting is made through the tufting process, in which the loops of yarn are pushed through a backing material. Although the processes are now highly automated, these concepts have been used for many centuries to produce textile products.
Materials and Equipment:
Make a list of material for your reports.
Results of Experiment (Observation):
Experiments are often done in series. A series of experiments can be done by changing one variable a different amount each time. A series of experiments is made up of separate experimental “runs.” During each run you make a measurement of how much the variable affected the system under study. For each run, a different amount of change in the variable is used. This produces a different amount of response in the system. You measure this response, or record data, in a table for this purpose. This is considered “raw data” since it has not been processed or interpreted yet. When raw data gets processed mathematically, for example, it becomes results.
Your display and your report serve as the results for this project.
No calculations are required for this project.
Summary of Results:
Summarize what happened. This can be in the form of a table of processed numerical data, or graphs. It could also be a written statement of what occurred during experiments.
It is from calculations using recorded data that tables and graphs are made. Studying tables and graphs, we can see trends that tell us how different variables cause our observations. Based on these trends, we can draw conclusions about the system under study. These conclusions help us confirm or deny our original hypothesis. Often, mathematical equations can be made from graphs. These equations allow us to predict how a change will affect the system without the need to do additional experiments. Advanced levels of experimental science rely heavily on graphical and mathematical analysis of data. At this level, science becomes even more interesting and powerful.
Your display is a summary of results.
Using the trends in your experimental data and your experimental observations, try to answer your original questions. Is your hypothesis correct? Now is the time to pull together what happened, and assess the experiments you did.
What you have learned by doing this project is the conclusion.
Related Questions & Answers:
What you have learned may allow you to answer other questions. Many questions are related. Several new questions may have occurred to you while doing experiments. You may now be able to understand or verify things that you discovered when gathering information for the project. Questions lead to more questions, which lead to additional hypothesis that need to be tested.
What other natural fibers do you know?
How much land is used to produce one bale of cotton?
If you did not observe anything different than what happened with your control, the variable you changed may not affect the system you are investigating. If you did not observe a consistent, reproducible trend in your series of experimental runs there may be experimental errors affecting your results. The first thing to check is how you are making your measurements. Is the measurement method questionable or unreliable? Maybe you are reading a scale incorrectly, or maybe the measuring instrument is working erratically.
If you determine that experimental errors are influencing your results, carefully rethink the design of your experiments. Review each step of the procedure to find sources of potential errors. If possible, have a scientist review the procedure with you. Sometimes the designer of an experiment can miss the obvious.
Visit your local library and find books related to cotton, knitting, spinning, and textile. Review the books that you find for information related to your project. List such books in this section of your report.
Following are some online references used in preparing this project guide.