View original document

The full text on this page is automatically extracted from the file linked above and may contain errors and inconsistencies.


'c u

Vol 6, No. 6





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
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.



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
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.
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


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
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


• 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

® 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

• 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:



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.

Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station,
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.
Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station,
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.