Friday, December 2, 2022

‘Sky’s The Limit’

New Cotton Stripper Fits West Texas Farmers’ Efficiency Goals

• By Mary Jane Buerkle •

eddie and eric smith
Eddie Smith (right) farms with his son, Eric, in Floyd County, Texas — photo by Mary Jane Buerkle

For generations, the Smiths of Floyd County, Texas, have embraced ways to help their fellow farmers by being leaders both in and out of the field.

One of their latest adventures has been working with John Deere to give brand-new cotton harvesters an official test run before they are made available to fellow producers. Eddie Smith and his son, Eric, have been running the new John Deere CS770 cotton stripper since they began harvest in October. This harvest marks Eddie ’s 48th cotton crop.

“I’m impressed,” Eddie said of the new machine, noting that he has been working with John Deere in this capacity for several years. The collaboration began when he met with their staff at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences and encouraged them to create an all-in-one stripper-baler, like they had done with the picker a couple years before.

“They (John Deere) have stepped up their game with the CS770, and we know they will continue to evolve and develop new technologies. The capacity of the machine is tremendous, and we just see a lot of positives going forward.”

One of the most visible and significant upgrades from the previous model, the CS690 — which Eddie also ran as a prototype before its release — is an optional 12-row folding header.

“Expanding to a 12 row was a great fit for us, especially with the folding header,” he says. “It definitely increases your efficiency when you’re moving through 2-bale-plus cotton.

“We were blessed with a good crop this year, and that gave this machine the opportunity to really shine. We have seen a better turnout at the gin because of the high-capacity cleaner. The extra capacity in the burr extractor in the machine seems to be doing its job.”

Efficiency And Comfort

Eddie says John Deere has been “very thorough” in their research and in learning what producers need and can use for optimum harvest efficiency, along with some improvements that make spending hours in the cab more comfortable.

 

john deere stripper
West Texas cotton farmer Eddie Smith says moving to a 12-row harvester was a great fit for their operation. “It definitely increases your efficiency when you’re moving through 2-bale-plus cotton,” he says — photo by Mary Jane Buerkle

The CS770 has a 13.6L PowerTech 515 horsepower engine that runs at 1900 revolutions per minute. This boosts fuel efficiency, which can translate into long-term fuel cost savings.

The new cab in the CS770 is 30% larger than the CS690 and similar to the X9 combine cab, increasing visibility. The cab operator is surrounded by integrated technology that allows for constant monitoring of all the machine’s functions. Operators can work late into the evening more easily, thanks to LED lights with 360-degree coverage, and can connect their mobile devices to the unit’s CarPlay system. There’s even a small refrigerator in the cab.

“The cab and lighting are superior, and the software in these harvesters continues to evolve,” Eddie says. “We can make adjustments more quickly than we could in the CS690.”

Growers will have access to more data than ever before with the CS770, and precision ag technology is included in the factory’s base model now. Operators can know every detail about each module, from average moisture and weight to where it was dropped in the field.

Data from the harvester can integrate directly with the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol for growers who are enrolled in that program.

The round modules are a little wider coming out of the CS770, but Eddie says that has not been an issue for transport or ginning. The module is also slightly denser, which can help reduce wrap and hauling costs.

Eric says the “sky’s the limit” regarding future technological evolutions of cotton harvesters.

“It’s amazing what this machine can do,” he says. “All of my inputs are going up, but my margins haven’t changed. It’s definitely a (financial) commitment, but it’s been worth it for our operation.”

Labor Savings

One of the reasons the new harvesters have worked well for the Smiths is because they have been able to save on labor costs over time. Eddie says he believes that’s a key reason why other producers have shifted from the traditional basket strippers to machines like the CS690 and eventually the CS770.

“We’re all looking for ways to improve our operations, and between the cost of labor and labor shortages, these new machines can help with that,” he says.

His crew also has been “very receptive” to the technology improvements. “(The harvesters) do cost a lot of money, but I remember ordering a couple tractors back in the 1970s, and it was unreal how much they cost at the time. It’s an investment.”

‘An Incredible Legacy’

Eddie learned the importance of rising to challenges in farming from his dad, Ed, and is passing that down to Eric. Ed passed away in January 2021, leaving an incredible legacy to Eddie and also to Eric.

“My dad was very supportive of the technological evolution as it happened, and he, like most of us, was in awe of what continues to develop,” Eddie says. “He’d been around since the days of hand-pulling cotton, and he watched harvesting advance into what we have today.”

Although Ed wasn’t directly involved in John Deere’s relationship with Eddie, he had a front-row seat to everything that was happening on the farm.

“One day several years ago when the team from John Deere was here with the first prototype, it was a beautiful harvest day. We had our own machine running and John Deere had their test machine running,” Eddie recalls. “They (John Deere) are very intense in their research and testing. In the middle of the afternoon, they went to the barn and started taking the machine apart to study some things. Dad called me and said, ‘Do you know what they’re doing?!’ He couldn’t believe they would work on machinery instead of taking advantage of the beautiful harvest weather. But he always supported what we did with John Deere.”

Eddie says that even after his dad moved into a senior living facility in Lubbock, he would come over to the farm every day.

“He’d say, ‘I’ve got a better view sitting right here, and I’m available if you need me to do something,’” Eddie says.

Ed was involved on several boards, and Eddie has served as chairman of the National Cotton Council, Cotton Incorporated and Plains Cotton Cooperative Association, among other leadership positions. Eric is balancing raising a young family with being involved in his community and helping run his family farming operation.

“My dad took my granddad’s dedication to the next level,” Eric says. “All I’m trying to do is perpetuate that, to continue that philosophy.”

Mary Jane Buerkle is a freelance writer based in Haskell, Texas. She may be reached at mjbuerkle@gmail.com.

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