Submitted to: International Journal of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/25/2010
Publication Date: 3/31/2010
Citation: Sui, R., Thomasson, J.A., To, S.D. 2010. Cotton-Harvester-Flow Simulator for Testing Cotton Yield Monitor. Int J Agric & Biol Eng. 3(1): 44-49. Interpretive Summary: Cotton is one of the major crops grown in the United States, especially in the southern states. However, in recent years, strong competition in the world cotton market created a big challenge to U.S. cotton producers. In order to keep U.S. cotton economically competitive, it is essential to maximize cotton production efficiency by using new technologies. It has been demonstrated that precision-agriculture technologies provide a way to adjust production inputs based on the needs of individual areas within a field. These adjustments are made to optimize farm profit and minimize environmental impact. Crop yield maps are important tools for precision agriculture and yield monitors can be used to collect yield information on small locations within a field to make a yield map for production input management. As precision-agriculture technologies have become more widely adopted in cotton production; accurate, reliable, inexpensive, and easy-to-use cotton yield monitors are needed by cotton producers. At the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Mississippi State University, a cotton yield monitor system was developed using the optical-reflectance-based cotton-flow sensor. Many tests are required in cotton yield monitor development. In a given cotton producing area, there is only a short harvest season each year when a cotton yield monitor can be tested. If problems occur during field experiments (a common occurrence), time is spent to overcome the problems while harvesting continues. At times experiments must be delayed until the following year. Thus, field-testing is the limiting factor in cotton yield monitor development. In this study a cotton-harvester-flow simulator was developed and tested to speed up the development of cotton yield monitor systems. It consisted chiefly of a centrifugal fan, hopper, cotton feeder, and a cotton picker duct. Ducts of both John Deere and Case-IH cotton pickers fit in the simulator. Adjusting the feeder speed of the simulator controlled the cotton flow rate, which was calibrated at three feeder speeds (3.9, 8.4, and 9.48 kg/minute). The relationship between the feeder speed setting and the amount of conveyed seed cotton was found to be consistent. The optical-reflectance-based mass-flow sensor for cotton yield monitor was evaluated with the simulator. A very strong correlation (R2=0.99) was found between conveyed seed cotton weight and sensor output.
Technical Abstract: An experimental system was developed to simulate the pneumatic flow arrangement found in picker-type cotton harvesters. The simulation system was designed and constructed for testing a prototype cotton yield monitor developed at Mississippi State University. The simulation system was constructed to approximate the pneumatic cotton flow system of a cotton picker, and was capable of operating with varying cotton flow rates. The simulator was tested with different cotton flow rates, and the relationship between feeder rate and amount of conveyed seed cotton was found to be consistent. Further, the simulator was used to conduct tests with the novel optical cotton yield monitor, which proved accurate at measuring the amount of seed cotton flowing through the simulator. Finally, some differences between laboratory testing and field-testing were noted: seed cotton becomes fluffed and twisted when recycled through the simulator, and seed cotton stored in the laboratory tends to be of lower moisture content than cotton during harvest. These differences should be considered when using a laboratory simulator to test cotton yield monitors.