Full text of Agricultural News Letter : Vol. 6, No. 6
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n 'c u NEWS LETTER F E D E R A L Vol 6, No. 6 R E S E R V E B A N K OF DALLAS, TEXAS D A L L A S June 15, 1951 Mechanical Harvesting of Cotton With one of the largest acreages of cotton in many years virtually assured in the South west, the job of harvesting the crop will be a major task. Much can happen between now and harvest, but the probable acreage sug gests that a very large crop may be produced in the area, and the wise farmers will prepare now to handle the maximum production from their acreage. The problem of cotton harvesting is aggra vated this year by the fact that manpower re quirements of the Arm ed Forces and of industry (at high wages) are steadily red u cin g th e su p p ly of farm labor. Some migratory labor will be available, but with the pros pect of a very large crop, even this addition to the farm labor force may be inadequate to handle the harvest. In attempting to meet the problems of la bor shortages at harvest time, many farmers will turn to machines. Last year there were about 300 spindle-type cotton pickers oper ating in south and central Texas and an esti mated 7,500 strippers in the High Plains area of the State. Large numbers of the spindletype pickers have also been used in the Delta areas of Louisiana and in the irrigated sections of New Mexico and Arizona. However, many cotton growers are not fa miliar with the problems involved in mechan ical harvesting of cotton and will be greatly disappointed if they resort to this method of getting out their crop unless they are fully aware of the limitations of the machines and unless they follow recommended procedures in their operation. Thus, a brief discussion of the experience and recommendations of the A. and M. Colleges of Texas and of Oklahoma may be helpful to many cotton farmers. The first item to check in considering me chanical harvesting is whether or not gin fa cilities for handling mechanically harvested cotton are available within a reasonable dis tance of the farm. Special cleaning equipment is needed to turn out a good sample, and if these gin facilities are not available, harvest ing with machines is not likely to be profitable. Also, it is important that growers, ginners, and bankers cooperate in making arrangements to store seed cotton if mechanical harvesters are used in the community. If gins do a satisfactory job, they cannot keep up with mechanical h a rv e s te rs . Thus, it is often necessary to store the seed cotton and permit the gin to operate well past the harvest season. There are two types of mechanical cotton harvesters— strippers and pickers. Stripping machines are referred to as “strippers” because they actually strip the cotton stalks, removing all of the cotton— including the bur— at one time. The two types of strippers are the roll type, in which the stripping unit consists of two iron rolls operating at about a 45° angle to the ground, and the finger type, in which the stripping mechanism consists of steel fin gers about 12 to 18 inches in length and about 2 inches apart. These fingers move parallel to the ground, with the cotton stalk being drawn in between them, thus stripping the cotton and burs. In both machines the cotton is con veyed back to a wagon. 2 AGRICULTURAL NEWS LETTER Mechanical cotton pickers actually “pick” cotton from the bolls. The picking unit con sists of two vertical, revolving drums on which are mounted many small spindles, or fingers. As the machine moves over the ground, the cotton plant passes between these revolving drums and the fingers pick the lint from the bolls. Mechanical strippers can be used on any variety of cotton but are best adapted to short, stormproof varieties. Inasmuch as they strip the cotton plant, the harvesting operation must be delayed until all bolls are mature; this practice causes considerable loss in quality, as well as in quantity, of open-boll varieties. On the other hand, stormproof varieties which produce a tight, compact boll can be left in the field until after frost with very little loss in grade or in quantity of lint harvested. Mechanical pickers work very well on openboll varieties but will not pick stormproof va rieties. The picker can be used several times on the same field, enabling the farmer to har vest early maturing bolls and then go over the field a second or third time to pick bolls that open later. Costs The costs of mechanically harvesting cot ton vary within rather wide limits, depending upon variety, yield per acre, skill of the oper ator, and the number of bales or acres har vested each season. It is difficult to arrive at any “hard-and-fast” cost figure that can be used to fit a wide variety of circumstances. Moreover, the relative advantage of machine harvesting also depends upon the cost of hand labor. For example, mechanical pickers have stood idle in some seasons because hand labor was plentiful and cheap. On the other hand, in 1949, when sufficient hand labor was not avail able at any price in some communities, it be came a question not of which method was cheaper but of which would “get the crop out ” That situation may prevail again this year Mechanical strippers can harvest from 15 to 20 acres of cotton per day, and mechanical pickers will pick about two bales per day in cotton yielding one-third of a bale per acre and four to six bales in cotton yielding one to one and one-half bales per acre. Figures obtained by Texas A. and M. Col lege may be helpful in giving a more definite picture of the costs of mechanical harvesting. In 1948, machine stripping of cotton on dry land cost $12.32 per bale, including both op erating costs and depreciation allowance on the machinery. About 50 percent of this cost was depreciation on equipment and about 25 percent was labor. These costs are based on the use of the stripper on 195 acres per season and an average estimated life of 7 years for the machine. In 1949, machine picking in central Texas cost $17.79 per bale, including operating costs and depreciation. In this case, a somewhat higher proportion of that cost was represented by depreciation because the picking machine cost about 7 times as much as the stripper. Another “cost” is the loss m grade due to mechanical harvesting. E xp erim en ts h ave shown that the loss in grade when open-boll varieties are stripped mechanically is as high as 2 V2 grades but averages about 1 grade. However, loss in grade from mechanical strip ping of stormproof varieties is negligible. Me chanical picking of cotton usually results in the loss of quality amounting to V2 to IV2 grades. This grade differential decreases rap idly as the harvest season progresses. In other words, after about midseason the difference in grade between machine-picked and h a n d picked cotton is very small. One of the most important factors to con sider in deciding whether or not to use a me chanical harvester is the amount of cotton to be harvested. A farmer with 40 acres of cot ton could not afford to pay several thousand dollars for a mechanical picker, because the depreciation on the machine and the interest on his investment would make the per-bale cost prohibitive. On the other hand, an oper ator with several hundred acres of cotton might find it very profitable to make such an investment. In order to make it possible for the small operator to take advantage of the benefits of mechanical harvesting, it probably AGRICULTURAL NEWS LETTER will be necessary for several growers to buy and operate a machine cooperatively or to rely upon custom operators. A mechanical cotton sampler that automat ically collects lint during ginning and packages a cross section of the bale into a true sample has been developed by the United States De partment of Agriculture. Details of the device and its operation may be obtained from the Information Branch, Production and Market ing Administration, Washington, D. C. Guides for Farm Rental Agreement A good rental agreement is a basic factor to consider in improving relationships be tween landlords and tenants and in insuring the most profitable operation of the farm, according to Louisiana State University. While the exact contents of the rental agreement may vary within wide limits, de pending upon the desires of the landlord and tenant and special conditions pertaining to the farm, it is pointed out that when the pro visions of the agreement are set down in writing and agreed to by both parties, an im portant step has been taken toward promot ing harmony, mutual understanding, and good farming. 3 • Make the lease flexible enough to meet changing economic and farming conditions. • Provide for a system of fa rm in g that will conserve natural resources and increase the productivity of the farm. Hog Vaccination Vital Vaccination can save swine growers from severe losses due to hog cholera and cholera like infections, which caused more than a million-dollar loss in Louisiana in 1950, says A. D. Fitzgerald, associate animal husbandman of Louisiana State University. Reports from Louisiana and Oklahoma veterinar ians point out that the dis ease which did so much damage in 1950 is believed to be closely related to the hog cholera virus and that the best control available is a full dose of both the virus and the serum vaccination used to prevent hog cholera. The Oklahoma A. and M. School of Veterinary Medicine suggests that the serum dose may be increased as much as 100 percent above the standard recommendations. The serum protects the animal against the virus while the virus is building up immunity to the disease. ® M ake th e farm busin ess sufficiently large to provide a good living for both land lord and tenant (if landlord is dependent upon the farm for his income). Other points to be watched in this program are: keep hogs well fed and free from para sites and have them well rested at the time of vaccination. Many of the losses last year were among feeder pigs which had been re cently moved through livestock markets. Vet erinarians point out that such animals should be given comfortable quarters and an easily digested ration for at least a week after they are brought to the farm. At the end of that time, they should be treated for internal para sites and vaccinated. • Provide for a long-time farming system that will promote security and stability for both parties. The vaccination program should be carried out under the direction of a competent vet erinarian. • Definitely divide responsibilities of man agement between landlord and tenant. Shade for Livestock • Divide expenses and receipts according to contributions of each party. The value of a summer shade for livestock depends on how it is built and where it is lo- The following guides for drawing up a rental agreement are suggested: 4 AGRICULTURAL NEWS LETTER cated, according to a recent report by agricul tural engineers of the United States Depart ment of Agriculture. This study indicates that the more important sources of heat affecting animals under a shade are the heat radiated from the ground surrounding the shadow of the livestock shade and from the underside of the roof. Three points are recommended for consid eration in building shade for livestock: ( 1 ) keep the roof as high as practicable, (2 ) place the shade on grassland rather than on bare ground, and (3 ) cover the roof with hay. Some 250,000 tractors with allied equip ment were in service on Texas farms at the end of 1950. This power was used to plow 85 percent of the land, and 88 percent of the small grains was harvested with power equipment. Glass Bottles Cause Grass Fires Glass bottles lying along the roadside or in pastures are a major cause of grass fires, ac cording to an article in the Farm and Ranch magazine. Acting as a magnifying glass when the sun’s rays reach the proper angle, almost any bottle may concentrate the heat of the sun sufficiently to ignite dry grass. Insurance adjusters have frequently sus pected that many fires blamed on matches and cigarettes dropped by passing motorists should have been charged to a bottle found in the center of the burned area. However, little attention has been given to this source of fires, and it is not uncommon to see literally dozens of bottles scattered along the roadside and even on pastures and in woodlots. Evidence that this is a major fire hazard is found in the experience of farmers in McLen nan County, Texas. Fire bugs had been sus pected of setting frequent grass fires along Highway 6, but the discovery of a bottle in the center of one of the burned areas stim ulated a clean-up campaign by the farmers along the highway. Pastures and ro a d sid es were cleared of all bottles, and the grass fires were practically eliminated. There is sufficient evidence that bottles can start grass fires to warrant a thorough clean up campaign on the part of farmers and ranch ers. Such a program may be a major step in reducing the number of destructive grass fires. Publications Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station, Stillwater: Broiler Growing Can Be Profitable, Bul letin No. B-365, by George F. Godfrey and others. Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, Baton Rouge: Control and Use of Johnson Grass, Exten sion Publication 1067, by W. T. Cobb. Feeding Cattle for Market, Extension Pub lication 1072, by W. T. Cobb. New Mexico Agricultural Experiment Sta tion, State College: Preliminary Report on Spraying Nitrogen F ertilizer on Cotton, Press B ulletin 1048, by Glen Staten. 1517C, A High Yielding Strain of 15 17 Cotton, Press Bulletin 1049, by G. N. Stroman. Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station, Stillwater: Chemical Control of Weeds and Brush in Oklahoma, Bulletin No. B-335, by W. C. Elder and others. Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Col lege Station: Control of Mesquite, Progress R eport 1320, by C. E. Fisher and others. Summary of the 1950 Grazing and Feed ing Work at the Blackland Experiment Station, Progress Report 1333, by O. J. Tippit and others. The Agricultural News Letter is prepared in the Research Department under the direction of C a r l H. M oore, Agricultural Economist.