Troubleshooting Common Issues with Cotton Harvesters

Cotton is an important crop for Lubbock and the High Plains. Keeping your harvester in good condition can help you get the most out of this critical crop each season.

Make sure that row unit spacing matches planter spacing. This will help avoid the problem of poorly spaced rows where drills from two different planter passes diverge.

Spindle Issues

Spindle issues with cotton harvesters are common and can cause serious damage to the equipment. In addition to being dangerous, these problems can lead to a loss of production and profit. To prevent these problems, make sure the row unit height is correct, and the mechanical structure is working properly. This can reduce the probability of the spindle cotton picker colliding with the ground and causing damage to the machinery.

Check that the directional hoses are not blocked by trash or debris in the planter field. Also, ensure that the air ducts are functioning properly and have adequate airflow to convey seed cotton to the spindles. If the directional hoses or air ducts are blocked, a technician should clean them before trying to operate the machine.

The physical characteristics of the boll more influence the effectiveness of a mechanical spindle picker than its yield. The size, kind of growth, and shape of the plant affect the efficiency of the picker. This can result in lower-than-expected yields and a high number of rejections. To avoid these problems, the operator should adjust the hopper height to match the planter’s size and growth pattern.

It is important to inspect and replace the spindle nut assemblies in both drums. A new spindle nut assembly should be the same left- or right-hand threaded as the corresponding drum bar. Also, a gap of 1/8- to 1/4-inch between the pressure door and the spindle tip should be maintained. If the gap is too wide, the seed cotton may be dropped behind the pressure door.

Check the doffer-to-spindle clearance with a feeler gauge. Often, doffers are raised too high, which can decrease the speed at which the cotton is picked and cause unnecessary wear to doffer lugs and spindles. The lugs should barely touch the spindles in the highest bar. Attempting to lower the doffer column before checking this may result in increased wear to the bushings and doffers and poor doffing. In some cases, lowering the doffer column will not improve doffing appreciably and will only accelerate the wear of the doffers, spindles, and support bearings.

Hydraulic Issues

Cotton harvesters use a variety of hydraulic systems to control the picker drive, the hydraulic walking system, and the height control mechanism. These are all mechanical-electronic-hydraulic coupled systems and need to be considered together. Various studies have been conducted on individual parts of these systems and on separate issues, but not much work has been done on integrated optimization approaches to the overall system.

A common problem with cotton harvesters is that the traction wheels become choked by crop debris or weeds, preventing them from moving. This can cause the picker to stop picking and can also damage the traction drive. A number of techniques can be used to reduce or eliminate chokes, including beginning the day with clean row-unit cabinets, lowering spindle cleaner application rates, and using a slower ground speed.

Another problem that can occur is when the lift hydraulics do not function properly, which leads to poor picking of small bolls and a low crop pick-up rate. This can be caused by a lack of maintenance or a lack of proper lubrication. To solve this issue, it is recommended that you use the proper lubricant and follow the maintenance schedule for your machine.

The mechanical-electronic-hydraulic system of a cotton picker needs to be designed in order to improve its reliability, response speed, and displacement error. The hydraulic system of the cotton picker consists of a signal acquisition device, control system, and lifting mechanism. This system is complex, and the pressure in the chamber without a piston, response time, and displacement error need to be optimized.

In addition, the air conveyance of the cotton picker can be affected by the condition of the compressor door, ducts, and other components. A service technician should check to see that the duct air velocity is correct, as it is essential for accurate picking and for keeping the hoods clear of dust. The duct air velocity should be approximately 5,000 feet per minute, and this can be measured in the straight duct at the midpoint between the row-unit and the cotton discharge. The service technician can suggest the appropriate airflow for your cotton harvester.

Electrical Issues

Cotton harvesting is an arduous task for both humans and machines. The abrasive nature of the crop’s fiber makes it difficult to work by hand. As a result, hand harvesting has become a rare event. It also creates issues for mechanized cotton harvesting as the machine can’t handle the high volume of fiber that needs to be picked. There are many mechanical and electrical problems that can arise with a cotton harvester.

In early 1935 John Rust of the Memphis Cotton Company proclaimed flatly, “The sharecropper system of the South will have to be abandoned.” His mechanical cotton picker could do the job of 50 or more hand pickers and reduce labor requirements by 75 percent. He expected to put the machine on the market within a year.

The mechanization of the cotton industry was a gradual process, owing to the cheap cost of labor in the Depression. Professional agricultural men saw that the mechanization of cotton picking would not happen overnight, as it did for other crops. They predicted that it would take ten or fifteen years for mechanical cotton picking to reach maturity.

Several different types of cotton harvesting machinery were developed. One of the earliest was the stripper type that harvested cotton by drawing open bolls into a stationary slot or toothed wheel, which separated the lint from the vegetable material. Another type of cotton harvester, the picker type, plucks or picks open bolls with spindles or fingers while causing minimal damage to the plant’s foliage and unopened bolls.

Pneumatic cotton harvesting utilizes suction or air blasts to extract cotton from the plant. It is often combined with other machinery, such as a tractor or a threshing machine, to perform the task more efficiently.

Cotton harvesters must be properly defoliated before they are used to avoid fire hazards. Fires can start if the machinery is overheated or if the moisture content of the crop exceeds a safe limit. It’s also important to make sure that all the cables are correctly connected. If you smell burning, immediately stop the harvester and alert an emergency contact. Incorrectly lubricated machinery may also cause fires, as can improper use of sodium chlorate or other desiccant materials.

Fuel Issues

Cotton harvesters can burn up to 12,000 gallons of fuel per day, so you must ensure that the engine is always running in the best possible condition. Check your fuel log regularly and replace old gas and oil to keep the engine running as efficiently as possible. The fuel filter should be cleaned, and the oil pump inspected for signs of wear. In addition, the engine must be kept cool to reduce internal friction and heat.

During World War II, American farmers began to use mechanical harvesters that eliminated the need for human labor. The development of the first automated cotton picker helped to transform the economy of the South and set the stage for civil rights movements that led to the end of Jim Crow laws.

The earliest pickers were powered by steam. Later, steam-driven machines were replaced by motorized units that used either gasoline or diesel. The modern diesel-powered cotton harvester is the most popular type of machine used for picking.

There are a variety of problems that can occur with these machines, including chokes and fires. A combination of factors, such as brittle crops and dry conditions often causes chokes. When these conditions cause limbs and stalks to break off, they can block the row-unit cabinets and prevent them from closing. Techniques that may help reduce chokes include starting the day with clean row-unit cabinets, lowering spindle cleaner application rates, and using smaller, more frequent grease applications.

Fires in cotton harvesters are dangerous and can quickly destroy the entire machine. If you notice a fire, it’s important to unload the basket or module chamber as soon as possible. A fire can spread quickly, causing the hydraulic lines and tanks to rupture. In addition, the flammable materials in the module chamber and surge hopper can also serve as additional fuel for the fire.

Keeping your cotton harvester in tip-top shape will help you get the most out of your investment. Regular inspections and maintenance will help you avoid costly repairs in the future. In addition, John Deere offers Connected Support, which helps you monitor your machine and receive expert alerts.