Case IH's new Module Express 625 attracted a lot of oohs and aahs when it was introduced before a group of about 200 farmers, ginners and equipment dealers at the Hood Brothers Perthshire Farms near Gunnison, Miss., last month.
But several questions probably remained in the minds of growers who watched the new picker tilt its metal basket up to a 21-degree angle and then roll forward, allowing a 10,000-pound block of seed cotton to slide out onto the ground. The biggest: How did it do that?
By now, most farmers have read that work actually began on a module-building picker not long after researchers for Cotton Incorporated unveiled the first stand-alone module builder back in the 1970s.
It took engineers a while to develop a harvesting system that would form cotton into modules inside a moving cotton picker that could be placed on the ground, picked up by a module truck and hauled to the gin without having to invent several new pieces of handling equipment.
One obstacle was designing a platform that could produce a large enough module to make it worthwhile to haul it to the gin, but still have a picker that could move through the field.
“Many growers wanted the picker to be able to put together a standard, 32-foot module,” said Kevin Richman, senior project engineer for cotton harvesting equipment for Case IH. “But that would have been too much weight — 45,000 pounds, plus the module.”
“We did a lot of surveys of growers, ginners and dealers and settled on a module that was exactly half the size of the conventional module.”
One of the advantages of the half-sized module — 8 feet by 8 feet by 16 feet — was that — with a little maneuvering — truck drivers could load two of them on a standard-sized module truck, and unload them at the gin onto a standard walking floor.
“We haven't had any problems unloading or handling these modules whatsoever,” says Bruce Cook, gin manager at Perthshire Farms, who has run a number of modules through his gin while Case IH tested the Module Express picker at the Hood Brothers farming operation.
The Module Express 625 has a capacity of 10,000 pounds, which can turn out eight to 12 bales of lint cotton, depending on moisture conditions.
“You can stuff more cotton into the basket,” said Tim Meeks, a Case IH product specialist who was involved in testing the new picker. “But some of the cotton may wind up on the ground, instead of on the module if you put too much in the basket.”
Case IH tried building square modules similar to hay bales, said Richman. “But ginners didn't like the twine that was used to tie them.
Richman and Meeks said it doesn't take long to get the hang of operating the module picker. “These operators have been consistently building six- to eight-bale modules all fall without any problems,” said Richman.
The next most-asked question may be how the picker compacts the cotton into that 10,000-block of cotton while rolling through the field at 3 to 4 miles per hour? The secret: a new system of augers that distributes the cotton evenly across the basket.
“The Case IH Module Express 625 features the Automatic Intelligent Auger Packing System, a patented, first in the industry innovation,” says Trent Haggard, director of Case IH global marketing for cotton. “Using a system of sensors and augers, cotton is automatically moved as the module is being compressed. The system is fine-tuned to create consistent, domed modules for excellent weatherability and ginning.”
While the reversible augers spread the cotton evenly, the weight of the augers and their frame press the cotton downward into a compact module. When the module reaches the desired weight, the operator tilts the basket up and pulls forward to allow the module to slide out onto the ground in less than a minute.
Haggard, who grew up on a cotton and soybean farm near Steele, Mo., says the module builder provides some efficiency over the standard basket system on conventional pickers.
“It takes less time to unload a 10,000-pound module than to empty 10,000 pounds of cotton from a traditional basket,” he says. “That's besides the savings you get from having one man, one machine for cotton harvest and module building.”
The Module Express 625 has the same six-row configuration as earlier six-row pickers from Case IH. It has a new 9.0-liter engine that provides 365 horsepower to transport the picker. It also features Case IH's two-sided picking system that Haggard says helps the picker put an average of 3.4 percent more cotton in the basket on the first pass.