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Chuck Denney (UT Institute of Agriculture)
Jimmy Hargett is farming his 47th cotton crop. But every harvest, he has to figure out the most cost-effective way of getting this fluffy white fruit from the field to the gin.
Jimmy Hargett (Crockett County Producer)
“You’re not going to get it picked manually, so you know you’ve got to have a machine. So which machine out here today will harvest your cotton cheaper than anything else?”
For Hargett, the answer is this 20-foot monster - a module picker. He says this machinery compared to more conventional pickers saves him $35 per acre. With nearly two thousand acres to pick, the math makes sense.
“If a man’s farming very big, he’ll own a module picker. All he’s got to do is run one and see the savings.”
All cotton is packed into modules, but this machine eliminates several steps in the process. The picker itself builds a module internally while still in the field which saves on production costs. The new pickers produce smaller, more densely packed modules which are easier to transport and eliminates waste. Hargett himself was involved in the design of the first module picker.
“Cuts your labor. On four pickers I went from 14 people to six.”
Cotton will always be one of the most expensive crops to produce on a per acre basis. While all pickers cost a bundle, experts believe an investment in a module picker could pay for itself over time. Cotton specialists with UT Extension believe more producers will replace conventional equipment with module pickers in the future.
Dr. Chris Main (UT Extension)
“Going to a module building picker not only makes it more efficient, but it makes it more affordable because you don’t have to have the tractors and boll buggies and module builders associated with it.'
Crockett is among the top 30 cotton-producing counties in the nation, but grew only about one-third of a normal crop this year. Farmers opted for corn, soybeans and other crops instead. But given the uneven rainfall of the summer, this year’s cotton is looking pretty good.
Richard Buntin (UT Extension)
“I think so. It’s not going to be a record year and it’s not what we want, but it is definitely decent and we will be around to go again.”
As consumers we like our cotton clothing, and we want producers to grow the crop. And for farmers, they need the equipment that works best and keeps them in business.
NOTE: Module pickers are not cheap - running about $500-thousand dollars.