By Tyson Raper, University of Tennessee Cotton & Small Grains Specialist
There is considerable excitement surrounding cotton on the heels of the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show. From visiting with those in the industry across the Mid-South, I believe Tennessee and nearby states may see larger increases than those initially estimated by the National Cotton Council for the 2017 season.
Given the increases in acreage, picker capacity has been a topic of conversation over the past few weeks. Many growers sold basket equipment several years ago with plans to purchase a module building picker if cotton made its way back on the farm. Now that cotton is coming back, how much cotton can you typically feed through one picker in Tennessee, Mississippi or Missouri? What about capacities in states outside the Mid-South?
In their publication “Planting and Harvesting Capacity in Cotton Production,” Dr. Terry Griffin (Agricultural Economist at Kansas State University), Dr. Mike Buschermohle (Agricultural Engineer at the University of Tennessee), and Dr. Ed Barnes (Senior Director and Agricultural Engineer with Cotton Incorporated) published picker and planter capacities relative to estimated days suitable for fieldwork. The publication used historical weather patterns to determine days suitable for fieldwork and, ultimately, equipment capacities.
The authors assumed a six row, round module building picker would average 8 ac/hr; a six row basket would average 7.3 ac/hr; and an old six row basket would average 6.2 ac/hr. Harvest time per day was calculated to equal 8 hr/day. Days suitable for field work varied by Mid-South state, with Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Missouri averaging 34, 32, 29 and 27 days, respectively.
Assuming a normal year, a six row round module building picker could subsequently harvest 2,163 acres in Arkansas, 2,048 acres in Tennessee, 1,850 acres in Mississippi, and 1,715 acres in Missouri. For a six row basket picker, numbers declined to 1,974 acres in Arkansas, 1,869 acres in Tennessee, 1,688 acres in Mississippi, and 1,548 acres in Missouri.
A couple of additional points should be emphasized. Harvest windows for these calculations were broad – these numbers assume the picker is in the field by the last few days of September. Also, keep in mind that the larger the acreage per picker, the larger the potential quality and lint loss in bad weather.
Finally, do not interpret these numbers to be exact. Should the weather cooperate, each picker could carry considerably more acres, but the chances of bad weather and considerably less acres are just as likely.
The take home: consider picker capacity now. It is unlikely the 2017 harvest season will be as favorable as 2015 or 2016. Numbers provided in the publication serve as a solid starting point, but should be adjusted based on your typical harvest window and acceptable level of risk.