Different Types of Cotton Pickers – Which One Is Right for You?

A mechanical cotton picker is a harvesting machine that removes ripe and matured bolls from the plant without damaging unopened ones. It is more effective than hand-picking and can reduce field stalk loss by up to 20%.

The machine works by revolving spindle fingers or prongs that snag and pull the cotton from inside the boll while leaving burr and used parts behind. It may make multiple trips through a field as the bolls continue to ripen.


In the past, cotton pickers had to be pulled by a tractor and trailer. They were also large and heavy enough to require a large field to operate effectively. Today, harvesters can be compact and use a module builder at the rear that packs the cotton into bale modules. The modules are then pulled away and loaded into a truck for transportation. This process is faster, more efficient, and less expensive than hand-picking and trailering cotton in the past.

When a machine harvester picks cotton, it removes the cotton from the plant without harming the stalk. The pickers are able to do this because of the way they work. They have spindles or prongs that rotate to pick the cotton. When these prongs come in contact with an open boll, they will grab it. This process is repeated until all the cotton is removed from the plant.

One of the biggest advantages of a modern cotton picker is that it can be used on smaller fields because it takes up less space than its manual predecessors. In addition to being more portable, this new type of machinery is more efficient and saves money because it requires less manpower. This has spelled disaster for the traditional cotton industry and led to many workers leaving the fields in search of better jobs.

Cotton is also much easier to pick with a machine than by hand, especially for those who are not as skilled. The sharp, thorn-like protrusions on the cotton plants can easily stab people who are not experienced with picking. The sharpness of the protrusions makes it difficult to get a good grip on the cotton, and people who are not experienced with the crop may end up grabbing leaves and other parts of the plant along with the fibers they want.

This is why it is important to have a quality machine that will not damage the cotton plant or cause injuries to those using it. This is one of the reasons that a picker is preferable to a stripper, although some farmers still use strips because they are more convenient than a harvester.


In the early 1900’s Angus Campbell, an agricultural engineer from Chicago, Illinois, came up with the idea to automate the process of picking cotton by using a spindle. The first machine he developed was called the Price-Campbell Cotton Picker Corporation, and although the device was successful, it was still very labor intensive, and farmers continued to harvest their cotton by hand.

The stripper is a very effective way of picking cotton, and it can do so much more quickly than a traditional spindle picker. The machine uses a revolving prong or finger-like spindles to separate the cotton from the plant’s stalk. The spindles are made from roughened metal and are designed to remove the cotton from the plant without removing anything else. The resulting material is then sent into another machine to remove the burrs and used parts of the plant, leaving the ripe cotton behind.

While this is a more invasive procedure than the one used by the picker, it results in much cleaner cotton fiber. In addition, the stripper can be used to pick both ripe and unripe cotton bolls, whereas the picker only collects a certain number of open bolls from the plant. The choice between a stripper or a picker should be made based on the size of the field and how fast a farmer would like to get their cotton out of the ground.

The ideal cotton variety for stripping is one that produces a semi-dwarf plant with relatively short fruiting and short-noded branches. This type of plant will produce a uniform maturity that will allow for good mechanical harvesting performance. Additionally, the plant should have a relatively fluffy lock structure to make it easy for the machine’s finger-like spindles to pull out the cotton. The optimum bolls will also have a 2.5 and 4-inch diameter. This will give the machine enough strength to pull out the cotton with minimal damage to the stalks. If the bolls are too large, they may be difficult to pick and will leave behind a lot of extra debris in the fields.


Unlike strippers, which remove both opened and unopened bolls from the plant, pickers are selective and only collect open cotton bolls. This method allows the cotton to be left on the stalk for further maturation, which results in a higher fiber yield.

Historically, picking cotton was done by hand. This was laborious work and expensive. As a result, it was not a popular career choice. However, cotton farmers were experiencing a labor shortage and were desperate for help. This led to the development of the first mechanical cotton picker by John and Mack Rust.

The Rust brothers’ machine was called a spindle picker, and it used two drums with rows of spinning spindles. Each spindle had a wet finger or prong that would encircle the cotton filaments and fold them over themselves. The cotton was then pulled through a doffer, which separated the cotton from the bracts and other plant material. This process was not as effective as manual picking, but it was cheaper and faster than traditional harvesting methods.

Despite being more efficient than hand-picking, the spindle cotton picker had significant problems. The machine was very noisy and could not handle large amounts of cotton. It also required a lot of maintenance, including lubrication and cleaning. In addition, it was not able to collect all the cotton because it was often left behind in the bolls. The machines were also vulnerable to fire and explosions, which posed significant safety risks.

Another major problem with the spindle picker was that it caused contamination. Machinery fractured the potentially long, strong strands of cotton into shorter frayed strands that were not as durable. In addition, it picked up contaminants like grease and oil from the machine and plastics from the environment, which could be transferred to the consumer’s clothes or sheets.

As a result of these issues, the spindle cotton picker was not an ideal farming tool. Keeping the machine oiled and clean was difficult, which increased the risk of breakdowns and fires. Furthermore, the rotary motion of the spindles caused the cotton to fly off of the stalk, which was not good for the cotton’s quality. It was also expensive to maintain and repair, which discouraged many farmers from using it.


Before the development of the cotton picker, farmers separated lint from the plant by hand. The process took hundreds of hours and was extremely arduous. As a result, it is one of the reasons that slavery existed in America before the Civil War and why the sharecropper system came about after the Civil War ended.

John Rust of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, is credited with inventing the first mechanical cotton picker. He grew up picking cotton and dreamed of inventing a machine to relieve people from this laborious task. Rust’s picker used straight spindles to separate the cotton from the plant and was patented in 1932.

The spindles on the cotton picker are either curved or straight and are coated with a wet substance to keep them free of dirt, gum, and other debris. The spindles are also positioned to selectively remove the seed cotton from opened bolls while leaving unopened bolls, burrs and leaves behind. A rotary drum within the picker carries a bar with rows of spindles, and as the picker moves through a row, the spinning spindles rotate and contact the cotton, which is then removed by a pneumatic conveying system that directs the cotton to a cotton basket.

Cotton pickers are large, complex machines that create blind spots for an operator. If a farmer is not careful, he can get into trouble and cause damage to the equipment and the field. This type of cotton harvester requires a lot of maintenance to ensure that it performs at its best.

In addition to a full maintenance program, a modern 7760 model has a 300-gallon fuel tank and 360-gallon water-solution tank that allows it to run nonstop all day without having to stop to refuel or replenish the picker’s lubricants. Its accumulator bay has a high-volume auger that collects the harvested cotton and can hold up to 320 cubic feet.

The accumulated cotton is then directed into a round module builder that can contain eight to twelve bale modules. Once the cotton is packed in a modular builder, it can be moved from the module builder by a tractor and transported to a gin for further processing.

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