Cotton Pickers

Geospatial Technology February 18, 2008 Print Friendly and PDF

Cotton Pickers

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This is a two row cotton picker that is harvesting cotton in Belle Mina, Al. at the Tennessee Valley Research and Extension Center.

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This is a six row cotton picker that is on display at the 2007 Sunbelt Ag. Expo. In Moultrie, Ga.


  • These John Deere cotton pickers are self-propelled machines
  • They remove cotton lint and seeds from the plant
  • Some of these machines can pick up to six rows of cotton at a time
  • There are two types of pickers in use today. One is the "stripper" picker[1]
    • The stripper picker is primarily used in Texas.
    • It removes lint from the plant and much of the vines and other foreign matter.
    • The vines and foreign matter are heaver than the lint, so they fall through cracks in the maching.
    • The lint is then stored in a basket on the back of the picker.


  • Another type of picker is called the spindle picker[2]:
    • The two pictures above are spindle pickers
    • Barbed spindles rotate very fast and remove see-cotton from the plant.
    • Then, a doffer[3] rotates that rotates the opposite way picks the cotton off of the barbed spindles.
    • The cotton is then blown into a basket on the back of the machine.
    • Once the basket is full the picker dumps the seed-cotton into a module builder[4]
    • The module builder creates a "brick" of seed-cotton that weighs about 21,000 lbs.
    • These huge bricks are stored in the field or in the gin yard[5] until it is ginned.
    • Once the brick is ginned, each bail weighs about 480 lbs.




These cotton pickers have Global Positioning Systems (GPS)[6] receivers installed on them. The small round object sitting on top of the cab of the cotton pickers is the GPS receiver. It receives signals from satellites in space that tell the farmer exactly where the cotton picker is located. This helps the farmer travel exactly the same path in the field when harvesting his crop as when he planted it. With the use of this technology, the cotton picker machine is also able to drive itself along a straight line made by the computer system and never be more than a few centimeters off at any given time.

Cotton pickers are also equipped with a yield monitoring system[7]. This system measures the mass flow with sensors and gives the farmer an accurate measurement of how much he is harvesting from his fields.

The yield monitoring system and GPS can be linked and a yield map[8] can be generated illustrating the yield across the field. This feature will help the farmer know exactly where to fertilize his fields the next year and where he can save his money and not fertilize.

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.