There is considerable excitement surrounding cotton on the heels of the Farm and Gin Show. From visiting with those in the industry across the Mid-South, I believe TN 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 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? Missouri? What about capacities in states outside the Mid-South?
Dr. Terry Griffin (Agricultural Economist at Kansas State University), our own Dr. Mike Buschermohle (Agricultural Engineer at the University of Tennessee), and Dr. Ed Barnes (Senior Director and Agricultural Engineer with Cotton Incorporated) recently published picker and planter capacities relative to estimated days suitable for fieldwork. Their publication, “Planting and Harvesting Capacity in Cotton Production,” used historical weather patterns to determine days suitable for fieldwork and ultimately equipment capacities. You can access this document by clicking any of the pictures in this post or the article title above.
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 AR, TN, MS, and MO averaging 34, 32, 29 and 27 days, respectively. Assuming a normal year, a Six Row Round Module Building Picker could subsequently harvest 2163 ac in AR, 2048 ac in TN, 1850 ac in MS, and 1715 ac in MO. For a Six Row Basket Picker, numbers declined to 1974 ac in AR, 1869 ac in TN, 1688 ac in MS, and 1548 ac in MO.
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.
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 attached document serve as a solid starting point but should be adjusted based on your typical harvest window and acceptable level of risk.