Submitted to: Applied Engineering in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/3/2010
Publication Date: 7/1/2011
Citation: Faulkner, W.B., Wanjura, J.D., Boman, R.K., Shaw, B.W. 2011. Comparison of modern cotton harvest systems on irrigated cotton: Harvester performance. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 27(4):497-506. Interpretive Summary: Field efficiency during harvest is critical to producers in producing profitable cotton crops. Comparatively, cotton harvest operations can require over three times the amount of time required to plant. Thus, it is imperative that producers appropriately match harvesting equipment capacities to the needs of their operations. Picker and stripper harvest systems were evaluated on production-scale irrigated cotton on the High Plains of Texas over three harvest seasons. Observations on harvester performance, including time-in-motion, harvest efficiency, seed cotton composition, and turnout were conducted at seven locations with multiple cultivars. In systems where sufficient support equipment was available, strippers had higher productivity (i.e., acres per hour) than pickers. In higher yielding cotton, pickers had a higher productivity rate than strippers. The picker harvester had lower harvest efficiency but also resulted in lower levels of foreign matter and, therefore, higher gin turnout.
Technical Abstract: Harvester performance, fiber quality, and harvest system costs are important considerations when comparing cotton harvesting systems. Harvester performance was measured as a function of time-in-motion, harvest efficiency, foreign matter content of seed cotton, and lint turnout at the gin at seven irrigated sites on the High Plains of Texas. Time-in-motion performance was highly dependent on equipment used in the harvest system and machinery operators. In a system where sufficient support equipment such as boll buggies and module builders were available, strippers had higher productivity (i.e., acres per hour) than pickers in lower yielding cotton in spite of the fact that stripper harvesters have smaller basket capacity than pickers, requiring more frequent transfer of cotton from the harvester basket. In higher yielding cotton, pickers had a higher productivity rate than strippers. The John Deere 9996 picker was shown to have statistically lower harvest efficiency than the John Deere 7450 and 7460 strippers regardless of cultivar or harvest location. However, these tests gave no indication of the quality or value of cotton left unharvested by the picker. If the cotton left unpicked is immature, the value of lint per unit area may be greater for picked cotton even though less cotton is harvested. As expected, the foreign matter content of picked cotton was significantly lower than that of stripped cotton and field cleaned cotton contained less foreign matter than non-field cleaned cotton. While the field cleaner reduced the percentage of hulls and sticks in the seed cotton, leaf content was unchanged, and pin trash increased. The reduced foreign matter content in the picked cotton also led to greater lint turnout, as would be expected. Turnout also varied significantly by cultivar.