Harvesting cotton was once a labor intensive process accomplished by hand. Worldwide, 99 percent of the cotton harvest is now done by machine. Two types of machinery are used to harvest cotton for large cotton producers with many acres of cotton.
Plant your crop of cotton and allow it to grow through the summer. Apply defoliants once your cotton crop is reaching maturity. These will allow the plants to come erect as they drop their leaves and also assist the cotton bolls to fully open which makes harvesting easier. Harvesting will be done with either a cotton picker or with a cotton stripper. These are both large pieces of machinery which are driven down the rows of the field while harvesting the cotton.
Using a cotton picker; or spindle picker to harvest your cotton will result in a large cube of cotton lint mixed with seed, which will be ready for further processing. As the cotton picker traverses the field rotating rows of barbed spindles in the machine will remove the seed-cotton from the plant. This will then transfer to the doffer which rotates in the opposite direction and blows; or doffs; the cotton to a collecting basket. Once the basket is full the seed-cotton is transferred to the module builder which acts like a large trash compactor that compresses the seed-cotton into a large cube. This can then be stored in a warehouse to await cleaning with a cotton gin.
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The cotton stripper machine removes the top portion of the plant as you drive down the rows of the field. the lint is removed from among the plant debris by a process of agitated screening, which results in the excess plant matter being removed and the lint being transferred to a basket at the rear of the machine. The plant debris falls to the ground as the lint is screen off. This results in cleaner lint after the initial picking but not as compact a harvested product.