How Does a Mechanical Cotton Picker Work?

The development of the mechanical cotton picker goes back to the early 1930s, and its proliferation and improvement in the decades that followed made for significantly easier harvesting of cotton. No longer would farmers have to rely on laborers to go out and work the fields all day picking cotton off the bolls—instead, they could invest in a cotton picker that would get the job done in a fraction of the time while also saving a significant amount of money in labor costs in the long run. This increased production and harvesting capability at lower costs had a massive effect on the cotton industry, and as such, on the textile industries as well.

But how does a mechanical cotton picker work? Let’s take a closer look.

Two Main Types of Cotton Picker Machines

In the old days, the earliest cotton pickers only were able to harvest a single row of cotton at a time. Even with this relative inefficiency, however, they still would replace up to 40 hand laborers in the field, saving a whole lot of time and money.

Today’s cotton pickers have obviously evolved quite a bit since those days. These self-propelled machines are capable of removing cotton lint and seed from plants at a rate of up to six rows at a time.

There are two main types of pickers used most commonly on cotton farms today: the “stripper” picker (primarily found in Texas and Arkansas) and the “spindle” picker.

The cotton stripper removes the lint from the plant, as well as a fair amount of plant matter, including bolls that have not yet opened up. The plant matter gets separated from the lint later on in the process, as heavier matter gets separated from the lint before the lint gets moved to its end point in the basket at the back of the picker.

Spindle pickers use rows of barbed spindles, similar to those that had been used to less efficient effect in the early days of mechanical cotton pickers. These spindles rotate very quickly and pluck the seed-cotton off the plant. That seed-cotton then gets taken off the spindles with the use of a counter-rotating doffer, and blown upward into the basket that collects the cotton.

After the basket in either type of picker is full, the picker then dumps that seed-cotton into an area known as a module builder, which compacts the cotton into a brick-like form. These cotton “bricks” can weigh up to 21,000 lbs each and are then stored either in the gin yard or the field until it can be run through a cotton gin. The ginned bales then weigh about 480 lbs.

This is a very basic overview of how a cotton picker works, but it should give you an idea of the efficiency inventors have developed in these machines over the course of the last eight decades. For more information about the type of cotton picker that might be the best solution for your needs, contact the experts at Certi-Pik, USA. We’re your premier source for replacement cotton picker parts for John Deere and Case IH equipment!