I’ve never seen a cotton field first hand. Not up close and personal anyway. I’ve seen a few from afar while cruising the interstate in Arizona, but that doesn’t really count. Last week I was lucky enough to be in North Carolina attending the AgChat Foundation Conference along with my cotton loving friend Janice Person. After the conference Janice was able to wrangle a few us on a trip to be given a tour of a farm just outside of Charlotte. You know I took a few photos while I was there, so let’s take a look at some cotton farming!
Here our kind host has picked a boll off one of his cotton plants to show us how the plant matures. When the time is right the boll will split open to reveal the fibers inside.
Janice holding a boll cut open to show us the fibers inside.
This farm also plays a part in developing new varieties of cotton with Deltapine. These family farmers participate in Deltapine’s New Product Evaluator program in which farmers test new varieties on a farm-scale basis.
Cotton was flowering during our visit. These flowers will pollinate and become bolls as the plant matures. I learned that the plants flower from the bottom up, and that the bottom flowers will be present quite some time before the plant has flowered all the way to the top. Before the days of modern harvest equipment the bolls would be harvested by hand multiple times as each new set of bolls matured. I can imagine that would be and intensive and back-breaking process.
Flowers come in pink as well. Our group was told these produce pink cotton in much the fashion that brown cows give chocolate milk. Wink, wink.
I’ve always wanted to run a cotton picker at least one time! I really enjoyed seeing this machinery in person, and this farm has two of them! They even happen to be the correct color. Please ignore the red combine in the corner.
This is where the harvest action begins. All those spindles inside each row of the picker pull the fibers off the plants.
What you see here is a really big deal. A recent revolution in the industry. I’ve read about these units, and now I’ve seen one for myself. These new pickers now have the ability to build their own modules, or bales, of cotton while continuing to pick more. This eliminates machinery from the cotton harvesting process. One machine is now taking care of the picking and the baling, so now all that’s left is to load up a truck and head off to the gin for processing. One very interesting item of note I learned on my visit. The majority of the weight in a bale of cotton is in fact seed and plant material. Less than half the weight of a bale is actually fiber. That’s not a problem though because at the gin all of those components are separated and they each have their own use. Cotton seed is a popular feed for dairy cows.
What the….? How did #FlatRyan find his way into this cotton?
I’m so glad I was able to see a cotton farm. This excursion wasn’t part of the schedule initially so thanks to my friend JP for putting it all together! Janice has been blogging about cotton for quite some time now so I suggest learning all the basics via her Cotton 101 series.