Submitted to: National Cotton Council Beltwide Cotton Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/10/2009
Publication Date: 5/1/2009
Citation: Faulkner, W.B., Wanjura, J.D., Shaw, B.W. 2009. Picker versus stripper harvesters on the High Plains of Texas. In: Proceedings of the Beltwide Cotton Conferences, January 5-8, 2009, San Antonio, TX. p. 291-298. 2009 CDROM. Interpretive Summary: Cotton production on the Texas High Plains is different in many aspects to production in other regions of the US cotton belt. Historically, the varieties grown on the High Plains hold mature locks of cotton more tightly inside the cracked bolls than varieties grown elsewhere. This plant characteristic led to the development and widespread adoption of the stripper harvester for gathering the High Plains crop. Recently, new varieties that yield more and have a more open boll conformation have been introduced on the High Plains. This spurred new interest from producers looking to implement picker type harvesters to gather their crops. Pickers generally collect less foreign material with the harvested seed cotton and tend to leave less mature fiber found in unopened bolls at the top and outside boll positions in the field, thus improving fiber quality to some degree. This manuscript reports on the economic analysis performed as part of a multiyear study on investigating the feasibility of implementing picker harvesters on the Texas High Plains. A net present value analysis was conducted comparing three harvesting systems: a picker, a stripper with no field cleaner, and a stripper with a field cleaner. Agronomic data, capital investment, and maintenance and operating costs were included in the models. Plots showing break-even yield as a function of harvested area were developed for each system. These plots show, for example, that a High Plains producer harvesting 1000 acres would need a yield greater than 2 bales per acre to realize an economic benefit from operating a picker harvester rather than a stripper with a field cleaner. Similarly, the same producer would need a yield in excess of 1 bale per acre to profit from a picker rather than a stripper with no field cleaner.
Technical Abstract: A break even analysis based on NPV was conducted to compare picker-based and stripper-based harvest systems with and without field cleaners. Under no conditions analyzed was the NPV of a stripper system without a field cleaner greater than a stripper system with a field cleaner. Break even curves relating yield to harvested-area-per-machine were developed to compare picker-based systems with both stripper-based systems. The break even yield decreases as the area harvested per machine increases. Furthermore, the yields required for picking to be more profitable than stripping are achievable on the High Plains if a producer has sufficient area to harvest per machine. The results of a sensitivity analysis of the NPV model demonstrate that the model is most sensitive to changes in the difference between picked and stripped lint, which is most influenced by growing conditions rather than harvest method. The model is relatively insensitive to level changes in the price of lint. The model is relatively sensitive to changes in seed turnout and machinery purchase price. It is expected that the break even yield for a given harvested area will decrease with more adverse growing conditions (leading to less mature fibers) and increase with more ideal growing conditions (leading to more mature fibers).