Pick a color — red or green, and you can guess about as good as anyone as to how popular the new Case IH and John Deere cotton pickers with on-board module builders will be in 2011.

The rule of thumb to justify buying one of the half million dollar mechanical masterpieces has been 2,000 acres of cotton. In some areas of the Southeast, where 2,000 acres of cotton is not so common, the scarcity of labor has reduced the acreage needed to justify purchasing one of the OMB machines.

Which one to purchase may come down to something as simple as which color you prefer. More likely it will come down to proximity to a reliable dealer — and replacement parts, gin requirements, and labor availability.

Regardless of which color OMB cotton picker is used, there is no doubt the number of these mechanical monsters is increasing across the Cotton Belt.

Barry Nevius, who is head of Technical Services for the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association, says the new OMB machines have even brought a whole new genre of terminology, filled with expressions new to the cotton industry.

Nevius, who studied the increase in OMB use in 2009 and 2010 says, “Even a simple question like how much cotton did you gin from the new OMB machines can give you a couple of different answers. It may come in number of round modules they hauled and others report number of bales they ginned from the round modules.”