Submitted to: Applied Engineering in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/15/2011
Publication Date: 7/1/2011
Citation: Faulkner, W.B., Wanjura, J.D., Boman, R.K., Shaw, B.W. 2011. Evaluation of modern cotton harvest systems on irrigated cotton: Economic returns. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 27(4):515-522. 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, 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. The results of this work will be of great interest to producers looking to implement picker type harvesters rather than strippers in an effort to improve production efficiency and revenues.
Technical Abstract: A breakeven 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. Breakeven curves relating yield to harvested-area-per-machine were developed to compare picker-based systems with both stripper-based systems. The breakeven 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 breakeven 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).