John Deere 7760, A Picking Reveloution

This was originally going to be a post about the process of cotton picking but as I started to write I thought it should be about the John Deere 7760, the machine that has changed the way cotton is picked in Australia.

The John Deere 7760 Round Baler is a textbook example of how a technology can be taken up and embraced by an industry, since its release for the 2008/09 cotton season  it has taken hold in the industry with nearly 100% of operators now using it over traditional methods. This uptake has not even been seen in the USA where many smaller operators (under 4000 acres) still use the traditional picking crew, the success of this machine has been so great in Australia that it has been said that the John Deere Dealership in Moree has sold 16 of these machines in the past year, not because they could only find 16 buyers but because head office capped them at that amount (I can’t confirm this as I haven’t spoken to the dealership, its just the word around town).

The main reason for their success is that they have been able to cut a eight person crew down to two or three as there is no longer the need for a boll buggy, module maker or the many tractors needed to run these machines. Before the release of the Round Baler cotton picking was a very labour intensive process, the picker would pick the cotton before dropping it into the boll buggy being pulled by a tractor similar to a header unloading grain into the chaser bin. The boll buggy would then empty the cotton into the module maker which would then compact the cotton into a module the size of a truck trailer, once the module has been built the module maker gets towed on and a large tarp is fitted across the top to protect it from the rain. The Round Baler reduces the labour required and simplifies the process by making the module on board while still picking the cotton, when the module has been completed it is wrapped in plastic by the machine to protect it from the rain and dirt and dropped out the back. If the picker is still working the row the module can be carried along on the back of the picker while it continues to make another module on board, if the picker completes the second module while still in the field the module on the back can be dropped in the field to be picked up by a loader or tractor and the new module gets the piggy back ride.

John Deere was not the first company to release a module making picker as the Case IH Module Express 625 was released a year before in 2007 but it never took off in Australia, I have only ever seen one on display at Ag-quip in 2008 and as far as I am aware only one has ever been bought in Australia. It had couple of problems that left it uncompetitive with the John Deere 7760, one was that it was never able to get a heavy enough weight in the module meaning you needed to make more modules for the same amount of weight, another issue was that it still needed to have tarps put over it unlike the round baler were it is wrapped in the making process. But the biggest problem with the Module Express was that it didn’t offer non-stop picking like the Round Baler does, it has to stop to empty the module at the end of the row when it was full and then start picking again.

The John Deere 7760 Round Baler has changed the Australian Cotton Industry to the point where in five short seasons it has totally replaced the old methods of picking, thanks to the increase in efficiency, reduced labour requirements and the enhanced protection of the module.  If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below, check out the last post to see some video’s of the of the John Deere 7760 in action as well as the a chain bed truck being loaded with cotton modules.

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If you look carefully you can see a completed module riding along behind the picker

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Defoliation

By now most most cotton producers have finished defoliating their crops, so what is defoliation in cotton and how is it done.

Defoliation is the process where leaves are removed from the cotton plant in order to allow for effective picking, as well as lowering the risk of boll rot, it also promotes even plant development and allows for earlier picking. This achieved through the aerial application of a chemical onto crop, the chemical works upsetting the hormone balance in the leaves of the plant causing the abscission process to begin. The abscission process involves creating an imbalance in hormones and enzymes that cause the cell walls to dissolve causing the leaf to fall off, however if too much chemical is applied to the crop the leaf may die before it falls off leaving it stuck to the plant. To minimize this problem defoliants are often applied in two lots with the first application is to remove the upper canopy and the second application to remove the lower canopy.  There are other factors that can affect the how well defoliation works.

Defoliated cotton on the right next to non-defoliated cotton on the left

For defoliation to work effectively a least seventy percent of the cotton bolls should be cracked, there should be no new leaf growth, most of the nitrogen in the plant and soil has been used up and the application needs to be applied on a warm sunny day. If these these conditions are not met it the poor level of defoliation can cause stuck leaves leading to staining of the cotton and high level of trash.

The plane that that is most often used in Australia to apply the defoliants to the crop is the Air Tractor, while this remarkable plane is mainly used in agriculture different versions of them are also used for fighting fires, aerial surveillance and even aerial attack. They use GPS technology to accurately and evenly apply chemicals to the crop, this helps to avoid the overlapping of sprays and excessive chemical usage.

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below, hopefully if the weather holds out I will be able to write about cotton picking next week and will have some new pictures and video’s to put up as well but until then please enjoy this video I found on YouTube today, it doesn’t involve the spraying of cotton but is still an excellent video. Also if you’ve never visited them please feel free to check out my other sites Farming Photo’s and Cotton Careers’s.

Over And Out

Its been other great season working at Norwood in Moree, we finished the last irrigation on Monday which fitted in well with me finishing up on Friday  So between Monday and Friday it was a mixture of chipping, shed work while flying in the afternoon to build up hours for my licence.

We were chipping because it was a CSIRO plant trial for new varieties of cotton and was surrounded by conventional cotton so neither of them could be sprayed with round up. This means large weeds have been able to grow in the cotton which could damage the cotton picker and  the cotton samples.

The slasher and root cutter was in the shed to have all the blades replaced and the root cutting disks measures and adjusted so they would have the correct overlap allowing them to cut efficiently for the upcoming picking season. This was a slow process made even slower by getting the fork lift bogged, with the heavy rear end and the small tires it made it really easy for the fork lift to fall through the soil causing it to bottom out. A quick tow with the tractor and it was back to work.

Because of all of the rain in the past few weeks we hadn’t been able to do any slashing and the airstrip was becoming over grown along with other some spots. The old tractor had no radio, the only air con was a open door and it struggled to hold the three point linkage at hight but it got the job done and the airstrip cleared.

Now I’m about to start my next challenge; starting university hopefully it’ll go alright but I’ll still be going back to Moree from time to time so I can write about what they’re are doing. In the mean time I’ll be writing about farming issues or other aspects of farming, feel free to leave a comment or check out my other websites Farming Photo’s and Cotton Careers.

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Last Round

That’s it we’re done, irrigation is over for another year, so no more walking the rows, no more starting and pulling siphons and no more raking the trash racks, its also my last week for the season before I head off to start uni. But there’ll still be plenty to do in that week between chipping and preparing rigs for ground prep and getting ready to plant winter crops as well as the many other tasks, so we won’t won’t be letting up any time soon.

The last irrigation was finished in record time but it wasn’t with out mishap though, unfortunately we had we blow out on one of the channels two days into the irrigation but it fixed quickly with the loader. We also arrived one morning to find a pump choking on its own air filter, it was blowing smoke so thick that I thought the pump site was on fire when driving up the driveway, but again it was a quick fix with just a simple change of air filter needed.

The cotton is coming along pretty good with all the lower bolls opening up on the plants, the rest should be open very soon with picking predicted to start in about seven weeks. Defoliation will probably start in late February after the top bolls have opened up, defoliation is a process where a chemical is sprayed on the cotton to make the leaves fall off so contamination is reduced during picking. But when picking time comes I’ll explain all of this in more detail.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately, thanks for reading if you have any questions or want to leave your thoughts please feel free to leave them in the comment section, check out our new page “The Lighter Side” and the new photos on “Farming Photo’s“.

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Its A Bit Wet

Well its not flooding in Moree but its still very very wet and its making it a bit tricky to get around the farm or just get any where, including up the driveway where I had water go over the bonnet of my Holden ute (water wasn’t moving only risk was electronics failure and a short walk in the rain). By around lunch time today we’d had 100 millimetres of rain and counting but it seems to have stopped now, worried that it might keep raining and cut the road I made the mistake of going out to the farm to drop in my time sheet and then decided to stick around and take a few photos.  Three hours later I was still there.

I was tagging along with manager and the other two fellas who had came into work, water was backing up into the cotton fields and had to be moved quickly to stop water logging. It is a challenge that is a lot easier said then done as the backing up water wasn’t just from the rain falling on the fields and the farm but it was also from the water that was rushing across from the neighbouring property. Even with pumps going at full pace and the gates fully open water was still managing to run over the drop boxes and blow out some channels. The majority of gates are hand operated but some need a hydraulic pump that it run off the ute’s gear box, its a great help for opening some of the real big gates on the property. The water also made it a real challenge to get around.

Just going up the driveway was a big enough challenge with the mud and the neighbours run off giving my commodore a bit of trouble (again there was no danger even though it was fast flowing water it wasn’t deep and the only risk was getting bogged and a awkward phone call), but the commodore powered through and made it to the shed. When I got the shed I got it the old 1996 Toyota Hilux, its an old thing and really battled in spots to get through when the speedo was reading a very optimistic 30 kmph, the engine revving over 4000 rpm, steam coming off the bonnet and more smoke coming out the exhaust then a steam engine. We didn’t get bogged but there where a few close calls and we got very close to the edge of some channels at various times.

We eventually got all the gates set up and water was starting to drain, so as soon as we were back at the shed I jumped soaking wet into my ute and heading straight out the gate. With over 100 millimetres of rain we’ll be able to skip an irrigation so I’ll have a bit of spare time on my hands, I got a fair bit of video footage so I’ll probably try and put them together into some sort of video.

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A Bit Of Variety

Wednesday night was the last night of this irrigation cycle with day shift wrapping up the final field Thursday afternoon, so it was an early start on Friday to go chipping. Volunteer cotton from last season was coming up in one of the refugee crops and needed to be removed, the only way to remove it is to chip it out so we had to walk up and down the rows and chip out the volunteer cotton and weeds with a hoe. Its not the best job to do but it needs to be done.

Luckily for me I got asked to change the points (the bits that go through the dirt) on a plough halfway through the morning, I always find it amazing that dirt can wear down metal as quickly as they do so its all ways some thing that need to be watched. While the plough was in the shed we gave it a full check over finding a couple of loose tines and a sheared pin, soon it was all fixed and ready to go back to the field.

The last couple of days have brought rain to the area, its not really what you want to have just after irrigation as it can water log the cotton but it can’t be controlled so you just have to look on the brighter side as it’ll help save a bit of water by putting of the next irrigation for a few extra days. More rain is still predicted for tonight and the next few days and should make it very wet and slippery but again it will help to save water and we may even get a bit of run off.

To see all the sights of the farming world check out Farming Photo’s or The Farm Gallery

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