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    A Dissertation



    Submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies of Texas A&M University

    in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of


    August 2008

    Major Subject: Biological and Agricultural Engineering



    A Dissertation



    Submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies of Texas A&M University

    in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of


    Approved by:

    Chair of Committee, Bryan W. Shaw Committee Members, Eric F. Hequet Calvin B. Parnell, Jr. J. Alex Thomasson Head of Department, Gerald L. Riskowski

    August 2008

    Major Subject: Biological and Agricultural Engineering

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    Comparison of Picker and Stripper Harvesters on Irrigated Cotton on the High Plains of

    Texas. (August 2008)

    William Brock Faulkner, B.S., Texas A&M University;

    M.S. Texas A&M University

    Chair of Advisory Committee: Dr. Bryan W. Shaw

    Over a fourth of the cotton produced in the US since 2002 has been produced in

    Texas, with most coming from the High Plains. In recent years, Texas has accounted for

    almost half of all US cotton production (USDA-NASS, 2008b). Most cotton on the

    High Plains is of more storm-proof varieties that have traditionally been harvested using

    stripper harvesters. However, improvements in irrigation technology and shifting

    markets for US cotton have increased interest in picker harvesters in the region.

    A holistic comparison of picker and stripper harvesters in irrigated cotton on

    the High Plains of Texas was conducted focusing on differences in system efficiencies,

    the costs of ginning, fiber and yarn quality, and potential economic returns under

    comparable crop yields and conditions.

    Harvester performance was evaluated based on harvest efficiency, time-in-

    motion, and fuel consumption. Stripper harvesters left less cotton in the field, but most

    of the cotton left by the picker was of low quality. While the time spent in each

    operation of harvest was highly dependent on the operator and support equipment

    available, in general, picker harvesters were able to harvest a unit area of high-yielding

    cotton more quickly than stripper harvesters.

    The cost of ginning picked and stripped cotton was evaluated considering current

    fee schedules from gins on the High Plains. On average, it cost a producer $4.76 more

    per bale to gin stripped-and-field-cleaned cotton than picked cotton.

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    Fiber quality parameters were compared between harvest treatments based on

    results from High Volume Instrument (HVI) and Advanced Fiber Information System

    (AFIS) tests. Samples were ring-spun into carded and carded-and-combed yarns.

    Differences in fiber quality between harvest treatments were more pronounced when

    growing conditions were less favorable. Few differences were detected in carded yarn

    quality between harvest treatments, while more pronounced differences favoring picked

    cotton were seen in carded-and-combed yarns.

    A cost-benefit analysis was conducted to determine the production scenarios in

    which picker and stripper harvesters were most appropriate. Results indicate that, if a

    producer has sufficient yields coupled with sufficient area to harvest per machine, picker

    harvesting is a more profitable alternative to producers of on the High Plains.

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    This research effort has, at times, been enjoyable, trying, stressful, and exciting,

    but in the end it has been incredibly rewarding. A project of this magnitude is rarely

    accomplished by the efforts of one individual, and this work is no exception. Many

    people have been integral to the success of this work. Some of them worked hard to

    achieve the results presented in this manuscript, while many more have labored to instill

    good character and a good work ethic in me for which I am incredibly grateful. While

    there is not enough space here to acknowledge all of them by name, I appreciate the

    patience and persistence they had, as well as the potential they seem to have found in


    By the grace of God, He has allowed me to come to know and love His Son Jesus

    and has continued to bless me through many circumstances. I owe all to Him and hope

    to diligently live to bless Him in response to His kindness.

    To my wife, Brittney, I want to say thank you for encouraging me, being patient

    with the many nights I’ve been away during harvest, and being excited with me as I have

    worked to complete this degree. Thank you for trusting me to provide for you and

    Emery, and thanks for being a great mother to our son. Your confidence in me has been

    a steady impetus to work at all things well. Marriage to you has been more fun than I

    could have imagined, and I look forward to tackling the challenges of the future with

    you by my side!

    To my Mom, I want to say thank you for loving me and continuing to believe in

    me. Thank you for having the foresight to plan for C.W. and me to be able to go to

    college and for disciplining us to live and learn on our own. I know that raising two

    boys after Daddy died was hard, but (while I'm biased) I think you did a great job! Your

    wisdom and strength amaze me.

    To my grandparents, I want to say thank you for teaching me to work hard and

    teaching me how important character and family are. If it weren't for you, I would not

    have come to love working in agriculture as much as I do. And, I remember well all of

  • vi

    the Little League games and elementary school plays that you came to, all of the

    weekends and summers I spent at the ranch, the 4-H projects and the family dinners.

    You have truly left an eternal legacy for all of your grandchildren.

    To my brother, thanks for being a good friend and role model. You have a great

    wife and kids, and you have an incredible amount of godly wisdom! Thanks for telling

    me the truth, even when I don't think I want to hear it. And thanks for all of the listening

    and counseling that you've given me as we have done life together.

    To Dr. Shaw, I want to say thank you for trusting me as much as you have and

    for letting me have the experiences that you've given me. There has never been any

    doubt that you are looking out for my best interests and that you have gone out of your

    way to prepare me for what lies ahead. Thanks for the candid discussions and good

    humor we’ve enjoyed! Much of what I have learned as a graduate student has been

    thanks to your instruction, your guidance, and especially your trust in me. Thank you.

    To John Wanjura, Randy Boman, and Dr. Hequet, thanks for your patience and

    cooperation with me during the planning and execution of this research. This work

    would be only a fraction of what it is if it were not for all of the time and effort you

    contributed. From long days in the field running equipment and taking samples to hours

    spent in the lab learning about cotton production and processing, you have made

    invaluable contributions to this work and to my professional development.

    Thanks to Britt Norvell and Kyle Kieschnick for all the help prepping machines

    and collecting samples for this project. You guys made field work go smoothly and

    made it fun. Your hard work, competence, and especially your humor made doing this

    work enjoyable.

    I would also like to thank Dr. Ed Barnes from Cotton, Inc. and Mr. Steve Verett

    from Plains Cotton Growers for helping secure the financial assistance needed to

    conduct this research. Further thanks are due to Mr. Tim Deutsch from John Deere for

    providing the 9996 cotton picker used in this project and to Brad Palmer, Craig Heinrich,

    Rickey Bearden, and James Brown for letting us harvest your cotton in the middle of a

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    very busy season. Thank you for your help and I look forward to working with you

    again in the future.

    And finally, thanks to the folks at Community Church for providing Brittney and

    me a great home. The friendships we've built as we have worked together to become the

    beautiful bride Christ came to redeem have changed us more than I would have ever

    imagined! Thanks for being supportive of Brittney, Emery, and me through some tough

    times and some great ones, too. "The body is not one member but many...and when one

    member suffers, all members suffer with it; when one member is honored, all parts

    rejoice." It's been an honor to be part of a church where that is lived out well.

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    ABSTRACT ......................................................