John Deere has unveiled its new 7760 Self-Propelled Cotton Picker, giving dealers, ag media representatives and financial analysts a chance to see the on-board, round-module-building cotton harvester up close and personal for the first time.

The 7760 was one of 15 new product or software lines Deere introduced during its annual dealer meetings in Cincinnati, Ohio, so many in fact that some who saw it may not have realized how significant the development of the new cotton harvester could be.

“This is truly a revolution in cotton harvesting,” Chris Ohnysty, manager, factory marketing at John Deere's Des Moines, Iowa, Works, told a group of editors and financial analysts who attended the introduction. “But this is not just a picker. This is a cotton harvesting system.”

The new system could help growers reduce their harvest labor requirements significantly by eliminating at least four other pieces of equipment — a boll buggy, a module builder and two tractors — and the laborers needed to operate them, he said.

The much-anticipated introduction of the round-module-building picker means farmers will have a choice of module-building harvesters for the 2008 season when Deere expects to have full production. Case IH introduced its new 622 Cotton Module Express picker last fall.

“At the beginning of this process, we asked growers what they wanted to see in a cotton picker,” said Ohnysty. “We asked them what is it that is most important to you as producers when it comes to your harvesting?

“The answer that came back to us was they wanted a simplified harvest system that would allow them to get the crop out of the field faster, in a more effective manner and still give them a high quality crop.”

Growers also wanted to see reductions in labor and the amount of equipment currently required for a timely and effective harvest. And they wanted machines that were “faster, wider and had more capacity”

“Without ever stopping the machine during picking, the operator can then carry the module to the end of the field to be transported later to the gin,” says Jamie Flood, product marketing manager at John Deere's Des Moines works, where Deere will manufacture the new machines.

“This efficient, non-stop harvesting system eliminates unloading cotton into a boll buggy and processing it in a module builder,” he noted. “Ultimately, the producer saves time, fuel and manpower when harvesting and moving the cotton to the gin.”

In the 7760, cotton flows from the Pro-V picking heads into an accumulator that collects the cotton much like the basket on a conventional picker. The accumulator bay includes an automatic compacting auger and six feed rolls. The feed rolls ensure that a flat, evenly distributed sheet of cotton is fed into the round module builder.

“With a high-volume capacity of 320 cubic feet, the accumulator has the storage to allow the picker to harvest non-stop and at higher speeds in even the most arduous conditions,” says Flood.

Ohnysty says the new picking speed of 4.2 mph represents a 5 percent increase in the normal picking speed of about 4 mph on conventional pickers. The new picker has a scrapping speed of 5 mph, a field transport speed of 9 mph and a road transfer speed of 17 mph.

Sensors located at both the top and bottom of the accumulator monitor the cotton level and activate and deactivate the feed rolls and auger. This allows the harvester to continue picking while the round module is being wrapped and ejected onto the module handler.

“Those parts (in the module builder) aren't moving all the time,” says Flood, who was on hand for the rollout of the picker and several new models of tractors, combines, corn headers, forage conditioners and disks in Cincinnati. “That means less wear and tear and less need for replacing them.”

Studies show conventional pickers now spend only about 70 percent of their operating time on the row, harvesting cotton. Another 20 percent is taken up with waiting to unload, unloading and moving back to the row and 10 percent with transferring from field to field.

“The new 7760 Cotton Picker with an on-board module builder will be 90 percent effective because you eliminate the waiting time,” he said. “Spending less time dumping cotton and increasing the picker operating speed gives us a 26.7 percent increase in productivity.”

Ohnysty acknowledged the new system will require changes in cotton handling equipment at the gin. But Deere engineers believe those costs will be offset by eliminating cotton lint and quality losses that can occur on the turn row and in the gin yard.

“Studies show you can leave 1 to 2 inches of cotton behind every time you move a module,” he said. “And gins sometimes have to skim damaged cotton from the bottom of the module when the cotton gets wet. Taking off 6 inches of cotton can equate to the loss of 453 pounds or almost a bale of cotton.”