The best asset for a successful cotton harvest is a good operator. Your harvester definitely ranks high in this area, too, but it can only do so much if you or the operator you hire lacks certain knowledge and skills. Fortunately, teaching people is always possible and learning more about your own harvester is a good investment of time, which makes this a simple problem to solve. Here is what you (or your hired hand) need to do or know to guarantee efficient operation of your harvester:
- Read the manual: No, it is not a riveting novel, but it is necessary to read the harvester’s manual and understand the contents. This is especially true if you purchased a new harvester or started using a new model, since they can have their idiosyncrasies. There may be some truly technical content that you may not comprehend, but overall, you will learn cleaning, maintenance, and troubleshooting that can prove essential later—even if you lack the engineering degree to understand the technical specs. You will also learn about the quirks of your machine and how to handle them. You would not enjoy discovering those on accident in the middle of a cotton field.
- Know lint quality: This bit of expertise will help you determine the best harvesting time. Many people make the mistake of picking cotton when it is too green or when weather interferes. Wet weather after the boil opens often means waiting until the field dries out. Freezing weather can also compromise them, and the best course of action is to wait for a thaw and let things dry out. The best quality is after the boil opens and enough time passes to let it dry. Check the condition of the boils and the weather report before getting your harvester to work.
- Learn how to make adjustments: How you adjust your harvester will determine quality and yield. Many of these adjustments are explained in your manual, but as you use your harvester, you will get some on-the-job training, too. If you deviate from the manual due to particular circumstances, make small adjustments so you can return them to default settings more easily. You do not want to adjust for one situation that never happens again, only to forget what worked every other time.
- Center your rows: Badly centered rows lead to poor tracking and inconsistent picking. This is a common operator error that often arises from being in a hurry or having a lack of knowledge related to maneuvering the harvester. It is likely not a great idea to start picking one hour before a storm starts unless you are very skilled at keeping your harvester steady. If you decide to hire someone for this task, devise a “driving test” type of exercise to see if they can center rows well.
Once you become the ideal operator or you decide to hire one instead, be sure to know where you can buy the best cotton picker parts when it comes time to repair or maintain your harvester. Contact Certi-Pik, USA today to see our catalog.