Replacing damaged ties on cotton bales on-site is now made simpler with a device invented by an Agricultural Research Service scientist in Stoneville, Miss.

Bale-restraining ties fail when they are defective, improperly connected or when bales are compressed to the wrong density. Also, the straps or wire ties fail when cotton is distributed unevenly in the bales or has low moisture content. Improper storage and handling can cause tie failure, too. Bales damaged by a lack of ties are rejected by mill customers because they are more susceptible to contamination and less conforming to a mill's processing machinery.

The new device's inventor, W. Stanley Anthony, is the research leader at the ARS Cotton Ginning Research Unit in Stoneville.

About 85 million bales of cotton are produced worldwide each year, including 18 to 20 million in the United States. It's estimated that on average about 4 percent of U.S-produced bales — as many as 800,000 — experience tie failures each year. Repair costs range from $10 to $45 a bale, an estimated $8 to $36 million annually. Some storage facilities have even reported tie failures of more than 10 percent.

Warehouses where cotton bales are stored have to invest in expensive large-scale bale presses to carry out bale tie replacement. Smaller gins and warehouses must ship defective bales to facilities with the necessary equipment to make them acceptable for market.

According to Anthony, an agricultural engineer, the patented device replaces multiple failed bale ties by recompressing damaged bales only in the specific area of the bale where one or more ties need to be replaced. There is no need to move the bale to replace more than one tie because components of the device move internally.

Parties interested in licensing this technology (U.S. Patent No. 6,363,844) should contact the ARS Office of Technology Transfer at:

http://www.ars.usda.gov/business/business.htm.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research

agency.