Submitted to: Engineered Fiber Selection Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/11/2008
Publication Date: 9/17/2008
Citation: Ibendahl, G., Willcutt, H., Anderson, J., Barnes, E., Reeves, J., Wedegaertner, T., Wanjura, J.D., Funk, P.A., Holt, G.A., Byler, R.K., Faulkner, W.B., Shaw, B.W., Searcy, S., Kulkarni, S. 2008. Evaluation of the on-board module building cotton harvest systems. In: Proceedings of 2008 Engineered Fiber Selection System Conference, June 10-11, 2008, Memphis, TN. Interpretive Summary: Mechanized cotton harvesting in the US significantly reduced the number of man-hours required to harvest cotton. Later, advances in terms of in-field storage through the module builder helped reduce the logistic dependency between the gin and harvesting operation as producers no longer had to wait for cotton transport trailers to become available from the gin in order to continue harvesting. The new harvesting systems from Case IH (Module Express 625 [ME625]) and John Deere (7760) represent the most revolutionary change to cotton harvesting since the advent of the module builder. Both of these machines have the ability to harvest cotton from the plants and simultaneously form modules for in-field storage. The ME625 forms 8 ft x 8 ft x 16 ft "half-modules" while the 7760 forms 7.5 ft diameter x 8 ft long round modules. This work focuses on the engineering evaluation of the new harvesting systems with regard to fuel consumption, field efficiency, and harvesting rate in an effort to bolster previous economic models comparing the two new systems to current harvesting machines. The results show that the new machines consume less fuel per acre and offer faster harvesting rates than the conventional machine. Time in motion data collected indicates that the new machines also are more efficient in terms of spending more time on the row picking than performing other tasks associated with harvesting compared to the conventional system. While the economic advantage to the producer in switching from a conventional picking system to one of the new machines is marginal, the deciding factor is likely to be the fact that both of the new systems require 1 – 2 workers to operate while conventional systems often require more than 4 workers. This is an attractive option to producers in light of today’s limited and costly farm labor situation.
Technical Abstract: The "on-board" module building systems from Case IH (Module Express 625 [ME 625]) and a system under final testing by John Deere (7760) represent the most radical change in the seed cotton handling and harvest system since the module builder was introduced over 30 years ago. The Module Express 625 creates half-size modules, while the 7760 builds approximately 7.5-ft diameter, 5000 lb "round modules". Economic analysis of these systems relative to conventional pickers and strippers was conducted using assumed machine efficiencies under specific production scenarios by previous researchers. These evaluations have been valuable to provide an immediate look at the potential economic impact of the new harvest systems; however, the objectives of this project are to provide a more extensive evaluation of the different harvest systems by: 1) collecting on-farm and in-gin data to independently evaluate the efficiencies of the new harvest systems relative to conventional harvesters; and 2) building an economic model capable of comparing these systems from the field through production of a bale of cotton out of the gin under multiple harvest and ginning conditions. The findings of this work indicate that the fuel use for the conventional picker, ME625, and 7760 are on the order of 2.6, 2.24, and 2.35 gallons per acre, respectively. The harvesting rates for the conventional picker and ME625 were 6.5 and 6.8 ac/hr, respectively while the Deere machine was higher at 8.5 ac/hr. The time in motion data indicated the percent time on row harvesting for the conventional, ME625, and 7760 were 70, 74, and 87 percent. Harvesting speeds for the three machines were in the range of 4 – 4.2 miles per hour. Additional work is planned for evaluating the new harvesting systems during 2008 on the influence of the new storage and handling systems on fiber quality and ginning rate.