The Joint Cotton Industry Bale Packaging Committee develops bale packaging material specifications, which USDA adopts as a requirement for loan eligibility. Part of the Specifications since 1991 under Section 2.1 General Requirements has been a clause covering the patching of bagging cut to obtain samples. Parties responsible for sample holes must insure the bale is merchantable prior to shipment from the warehouse. In addition, bale heads and all large holes or tears must be fully covered. Bales must be cleaned prior to patching to prevent contamination. Small areas of exposed cotton due to normal wear and tear must be clean. Bales must be patched using a material that will prevent contamination concerns while adequately protecting the cotton lint inside the bale.
Whenever possible take samples prior to packaging to prevent bagging cuts. Samples can be cut inside the gin press box using "cookie cutters" attached to the platens. The cut sample can then be pulled after the bale is ejected from the bale press box but before the bale is packaged.
Following is a list of some current patching materials and techniques. This information is intended to help gins, warehouses, and textile mills identify types of patching materials. Current packaging suppliers can provide more information regarding available materials.
Polyethylene Stretch Film: This product’s characteristics are similar to "cling type" wraps. Stretch film with a minimum thickness of 90 and 120 gauge is recommended. Stretch film must be applied under tension to assure success.
Patching Procedure: Stretch film patches require the use of either a hand held or a mechanical applicator. A minimum of two but preferably four continuous overlapping wraps around the bale should be made. When wrapping the bale, the applicator must maintain sufficient tension on the stretch film so that the film adheres to the bale and to itself.
Polyethylene or Polypropylene Stretch Band, Tube, or Sleeve: Sleeve type patches work best on bales of uniform dimensions such as gin universal density bales. In order to patch a bale the sleeve’s circumference must be slightly smaller than the bale’s circumference. Sleeves are typically 18 inches wide with a recommended minimum thickness of 4 mils. Sleeve size and chemistry are important factors that keep the sleeve on the bale. The sleeve circumference must be slightly smaller than the bale circumference.
Patching Procedure: A plastic sleeve is slipped over the end of the bale covering the area needing patching. Due to the patching materials’ lack of elasticity, the sleeve application requires at least two persons or a bale stuffer. To manually apply a sleeve, securely grasp it and pull it over the head of the bale. A bale stuffer applies the sleeve on the bale using the following procedure. Mount the sleeve on the stuffer. As the bale is pushed through the stuffer the sleeve is spread enough to allow it to slide off the stuffer and on the bale.
Tapes: Either adhesive-backed film or woven tapes can be used to patch holes and torn bagging. Speed of application depends on tape width and the size of the hole. The adhesives must stick to cotton, polypropylene, or polyethylene bagging. Expect a small amount of cotton to cling to the tape and to be discarded when the bagging is removed.
Patching Procedure: Use hand held or mechanical applicators to apply tapes. Before patching, inspect the bagging around the exposed cotton. Make sure that bagging is clean and sound. Insure good bonding by pressing the tape firmly to bagging around the exposed cotton.