4 Advantages of the New Round Bale Cotton Picker

Living in West Texas, cotton fields are a common sight to the population. When you drive down the highway during the spring the sight of empty cotton fields, which often look like dirt, is common. If you were to drive down the same highway in the fall, they would see tall green stalks with cotton bolls beginning to sprout from the branches. During cotton harvest season there will often be big green tractors driving up and down the cotton rows picking, harvesting and baling the cotton. Over the past few years in West Texas you might have noticed a round cotton module as well as a square cotton module.

Cotton is ready to harvest when the bolls sprout of the stalks. Photograph taken by: Maclaine Shults

John Deere is claiming the new round bale cotton pickers to be the biggest revolution in cotton harvesting and handling since the module builder was invented. The traditional cotton picker only picks the cotton bolls off of the plant. Once the cotton boll is stripped from the plants a boll buggy follows behind the picker, and receives two dumps loads full of cotton to carry to the module builder. The cotton is dumped into the module builder, which compresses the module leaving the module in the field until the module trucks comes to pick it up to deliver the module to the gin. The round bale cotton picker eliminates the boll buggy, the module builder and two tractors as it has the ability to do all of these steps in one, and is a non-stop harvesting process.

The new round bale picker picks the cotton, forms the cotton in a round bale and automatically wraps the bale in yellow wrapping. The $600,000 round bale cotton picker may be gut-wrenching to some farmers, but the new invention has four major advantages.

1. More efficient cotton harvesting

The round bale cotton picker picks up the cotton, forms a round bale and then automatically wraps the bale in Tama RMW. Tama RMW is a plastic coating wrapped around a round bale to provide protection. The picker has the ability to carry the bale, similar to a hay bale carrier, from one place to another continuing to pick cotton with the sensors on the picker. The traditional cotton picker can pick the cotton bolls off of 6 rows of plants at one time; however, the new picker picks the cotton bolls picking 30 inches to 48 inches at a time. This means the farmer picks more cotton at one time. One round bale holds 3.8 bales of cotton lint in a single bale.

2. Savings in labor and equipment

The new picker not only eliminates 4 pieces of machinery, the farmer saves money not only the pieces of equipment, but also saves money on fuel and labor costs. Eliminating the boll buggy, module builder and two tractors also eliminates having to pay five to six employees to run these machines during harvest. Their labor force is cut in half, as they only have to pay someone to operate the picker.

3. Weather resistance

The Tama RMW is made with an inner and outer layer of plastic wrapping for the round bale. The two layers help to ensure the bale is protected through tough weather conditions to maintain the quality of cotton. In windy conditions the structure maximizes the durability of the round bale and keeps it from breaking apart and losing cotton. This will also help the bale hold its uniformity during transportation and processing.

Round Bales
Yellow wrapping that farmers use to protect the cotton. Photo credit: Google Images

4. Ginning

Once the cotton is formed in to a round bale, a module truck will come to the farm and collect the bale from the field. From here the truck driver will deliver the bale to a gin for processing. The truck fits four round bales as oppose, to two square bales. Once the modules are dropped off at the gin, they typically sit in the gins module yard and are processed in the order they were delivered.

The development of the cotton gin revolutionized the cotton industry in the United States. The gin cut down on labor costs to harvest cotton tremendously. In order for the gin to continue to run efficiently they must adapt to the new inventions throughout time.The round bales allow the gin to store more bales at once without the yard getting full.While storing more bales of cotton at the gin is important, the gin appreciates that the round bales hold less moisture then a traditional module. In a traditional square module the moisture content is 10 percent to 18 percent; however in the round bales the moisture content is 6 percent to 8 percent. The majority of the moisture must be dried out of the cotton before it can be ginned and sold.

The new round bale cotton picker might be heavy on the checkbook, running around $600,000 each, but the advantages outweigh the cost of the machine. More farmers are adopting this new innovation because they have seen an increase in productivity and a decreasing amount of labor required to harvest cotton. As the population continues to increase across the world, there is a higher demand for cotton and products made from cotton such as clothes, sheets and many other necessities. Technology such as this will help meet that demand.