Harvesting cotton is the final step in converting it from bolls to raw fibers that can be spun into cloth. The introduction of mechanical cotton harvesters had far-reaching social consequences.
Mechanical harvesters come in two basic types: strippers and pickers. Stripper-type machines remove both open and unopened bolls along with leaves and plant stalks.
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Picker harvesters use finger-like spindles to remove cotton from the open bolls of the plant. This method is less invasive and does not damage the plant itself while it is picking. This type of harvester is usually used in places where weather conditions prevent multiple harvests and when high-quality cotton is important.
Strippers, on the other hand, remove lint and some other plant material from the plant. They are primarily used in areas with very dry climates, such as West Texas or Kazakhstan. They are also more prone to wind than pickers and have a much lower yield than pickers.
Both types of harvesters have several different configurations to meet farmers’ needs and requirements. The type of cotton harvester that’s right for you depends on your farming operation and specific needs, so work with a knowledgeable purveyor to determine which option will best suit your unique situation.
The proper adjustment of a cotton harvester is vital for optimum quality and yield. Improper adjustments can cause the harvester to work less efficiently and produce a lower-quality crop. Incorrect doffing can result in a spindle twist, which causes the harvester to orient itself incorrectly during the picking process. This can cause poor fiber grading, which reduces the profitability of your farm.
A mechanical cotton harvester is a highly complex piece of machinery, with many moving parts and components. This makes it difficult to maintain and repair without a large budget. Using an experienced cotton harvester dealer for maintenance and repairs is the most effective way to keep your machine running smoothly.
If your cotton harvester is having trouble, connect with us for fast and convenient support. Our team can help you diagnose and fix issues over the phone or online and even remotely access your in-cab display so you can resolve problems quickly. Our expert inspections, PowerGard extended warranty coverage, and routine maintenance plans can save you time and money while helping your harvesting equipment perform like new for years to come.
Once your harvester is ready to be loaded onto a truck, it’s important to properly load the cotton modules. Loose cotton can wick water and cause fires. When loading the cotton, be sure to leave a module gap between two cotton modules for temporary storage; this will help avoid shearing the cotton as it’s being ejected.
The selection of a harvester is one of the most important decisions made by cotton farmers. For farms seeking a gentle harvest that delivers high-quality cotton, pickers are the preferred choice; however, strippers provide affordability and speed. Choosing the right harvester for a specific farm depends on both the farming goals and the budget. A consultation with experienced cotton farmers will help determine the best option to meet a particular farm’s needs.
The cotton is forcibly removed from the bolls by strippers, also known as “stripping harvesters,” using rotating drums. This approach has advantages in terms of cost-effectiveness, particularly for big cotton farms that grow a variety of crops. It is important to note that strippers have the potential to harm the plant and degrade the quality of the cotton. A semi-dwarf plant that produces relatively short-fruiting and short-noded branches is the best type of cotton for stripping. It should have a medium-sized boll stem that can tolerate mechanical extraction, be reasonably fluffy, and be.
In order to ensure that foreign materials are removed from the harvested cotton, the stripper row units must be configured for an appropriate level of aggressiveness. The higher the level of aggression, the more foreign matter is collected; therefore, it’s crucial to select a harvester with a specialized design that minimizes unwanted particles during the separating process.
After the cotton is harvested, it’s loaded into a module builder that packs it into eight to twelve bale modules. The modules are then placed on a trailer for transport to the gin. Historically, a tarp was used to cover the modules until they were transported to the gin.
The process of crop harvesting occurs in the spring when seeds are planted into green shrubs that grow into green and pink flowers. When these flowers are pollinated, they develop into cotton bolls, which are small, round fruits that produce white and brown fiber. After a period of time, the bolls will turn brown and shrivel; once this happens, they are harvested by either a picker or a stripper. The bolls are then processed through a gin to reveal the raw cotton fiber.
In the late nineteenth century, many inventors sought to perfect a mechanical cotton picker, but their failures reinforced the widespread belief that it was impossible to mechanize harvesting. Inventors tried to speed up the process by using suction or blasting the boll with air. In a typical pneumatic cotton harvester, a blow of compressed air removes the cotton from the plant and delivers it to a container. The container is a box that lines up with the row of cotton plants. In the early twentieth century, Angus Campbell of Chicago invented what he called a spindle picker. Campbell’s machine performed poorly, and agricultural scientists ridiculed it.
Another inventor, Theodore H. Price of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, joined Campbell and formed the Price-Campbell Cotton Picker Corporation in 1912. The machine worked better but still required manual labor to operate.
The machine’s design incorporated a pneumatic rubber buffer that could take the impact of the blow from the picker staff and prevent it from breaking the cop. When the buffer collapses, it dispenses cushioning air through a vent in the bracket base. The flexible valve allows the air to be forced out faster than it can be drawn into the buffer, thereby forcing the buffer to collapse faster than it would by its own force.
A shield or apron 25 of a flexible material, such as leather or felt, is suspended in front of the inner buffer and faces over it. The impact of the cam-actuated blow of the picker-staff button on the apron is softened by the displaced air and made a dead blow that will not break the cop, as shown in Fig. 14.
The piston or blow of the compressed air is transmitted by a rod through a conduit to a cylinder-shaped cup which is seated in an annular groove in the bracket base and terminates at its base in an outwardly extending rim or flange adapted to be interlocked with a sealing-joint within the base. The flange of the cup is fitted with an opening through which the plate vent is accessible and which is closed by the outflow pressure of the air caused by the collapsing of the buffer.
Although the first mechanical cotton picker was patented in 1850, economic and social conditions prevented the machine from coming to market until after World War II. After the war, the cotton industry in the South shifted away from sharecropping and hand labor to capital-intensive agriculture, and the electrical picker became an indispensable part of the new process.
Like the pneumatic and stripper harvesters, electrical pickers use rotating spindles to delicately remove cotton from the bolls (the fluffy and round clumps of cotton that grow on the plant) without damaging the rest of the plant. The machines can harvest up to six rows of cotton at once, and they are capable of removing as much as a person’s entire annual production in one pass. They can also be used to harvest stormproof cotton, which is less susceptible to damage from bad weather.
Unlike strippers, which remove both opened and unopened bolls from the plant, pickers are selective in that they only collect cotton from open bolls of seed cotton. This makes them able to harvest cotton faster than strippers while still causing minimal material damage to the remaining parts of the plant. However, this also means that the machines must be run repeatedly throughout the growing season to fully harvest the crop.
A key component of the mechanical cotton harvester is a spindle bar that contains several rotating spindles that are stacked together and lined up in a row. As the machine moves over a cotton field, the spindles rotate to contact and dislodge cotton from the bolls, and the cotton is then drawn up through the uncovered burr into the hopper of the machine. From there, the spinning doffer wipes the cotton off the spindles and deposits it into a basket carried above the machine.
Another benefit of mechanizing the cotton harvest is that it frees up farmers’ time on other farming tasks. This includes preparing fields for planting, maintaining machinery, and handling other farm management duties that are more difficult or impossible to accomplish by hand. It also allows them to invest in other agricultural ventures, including livestock or other crops that may be more profitable than cotton, and to hire off-farm workers to help with these operations.