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New Harvest Technology —
A major Breakthrough

The two designs of on-board module-building cotton harvesters (John Deere 7760 & Case IH Module Express 625) represent the most innovative engineering cotton harvesting-related advancements since the module builder was created back in the early 1970s.

At Cotton Incorporated’s 2008 Engineered Fiber Selection (EFS) System Conference, a presentation was given that highlighted and compared the similarities and differences between these two engineering advancements in harvesting.

Current evaluations of the new machines were limited to Mid-South two-bale-per-acre yield levels during the 2007 growing season.

“We covered three specific aspects in this first study of these two new harvesters,” says Dr. Gregg Ibendahl, economist in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Mississippi State University.

Those aspects included: 1) documentation of the different handling system efficiencies relative to the current module system (from harvest through ginning); 2) economic impact to the producer and gin of the different systems; and 3) impact, if any, each system has on fiber and seed quality.

“We also wanted to document any new opportunities the systems offer the producer and the gin,” says Ibendahl.

The economic model used in this study was based on estimates of selected costs on a per-acre basis which allowed only those costs affected by the choice of harvest systems to be influenced.

Comparing The Two

“Both of the new systems provided equal or better percent time picking relative to a conventional system, and they also had lower fuel use rates per-acre considering a boll buggy, module builder and tractor could be eliminated, which was estimated to be a $23 an acre savings,” says Ibendahl.

The two new systems also had higher field efficiencies than a conventional harvester and despite an increase in fuel usage (gallon-per-hour) for both new harvesters (compared to a conventional harvester), their “percent time on row” was increased over the conventional harvester.

The biggest factor increasing the performance rating for these machines is they do not need a boll buggy or a module builder.

“The cost-per-acre number has the most influence on the performance rating, and a 10 percent change in performance may lower or increase the cost per acre by $8,” says Ibendahl.

Where the two systems seem to cooperatively stand out is in labor savings. They also lower the amount of cotton that is lost from harvest to the gin.

Factors To Consider

Both harvesters can lower on-farm costs compared to conventional harvest systems.

“The true value of eliminating labor that’s not readily available to begin with cannot be reflected in this study although this problem affects many producers each season,” says Ibendahl.

Both systems will have the ability to deliver improved fiber quality relative to a conventional harvesting system because, based on studies in Texas, conventional modules are not properly built 50 percent of the time.

“These two systems could not only help preserve cotton’s fiber quality, they could also improve ginning rates thanks to their ability to deliver consistently dryer cotton to the gin,”says Ibendahl.

Because of the diversity in farm types (number of acres, land types, etc.) across the Cotton Belt, the decision to invest in a capital expenditure this size for an operation could be different for each producer, depending on his specific situation.

To obtain the full evaluative paper from this study, contact Ibendahl at ibendahl@agecon.msstate.edu.

The Cotton Board, which administers the Cotton Research and Promotion Program conducted by Cotton Incorporated, provided information for this article. For more information, go to www.cottoninc.com.

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