Harvest changes experienced with cotton, peanuts

Published 10:40 am Wednesday, February 29, 2012

By Dell Cotton

While I very much appreciate living in an area that has four seasons weather-wise, it is difficult to decide which of the seasons is my favorite.

I am somewhat swayed by my job and love of the outdoors to give the nod to fall.

Think of the many things that fall brings — cooler temperatures, beautiful tree foliage, the smell of freshly dug peanuts, the blooms of encore azaleas and, of course, harvest activity in our agricultural fields.

The two crops that pay most bills for area farmers are cotton and peanuts. A lot has been made about the resurgence of cotton, but I think peanuts are about to make a bit of a comeback in terms of acreage planted.

We have become accustomed to watching both of these crops progress toward late season development, as the cotton bolls become white and as the peanut vines are turned over to dry in the sun.

I think most of you not only notice that farmers are busy in the field, but also look for the chance to see how the farmer harvests the crop. This year brought changes in the harvesting of both crops, and I’d be interested in knowing how many people saw those changes.

Since cotton made a comeback in our area in the 1980s, you have become accustomed to seeing a lot of huge equipment in fields along with a few workers during harvest. This equipment is necessary to make the modules, which typically line the edges of fields before being picked up by the gin trucks. An average rectangular module contains about 15 bales, or about 7,000 pounds of cotton.

Last year in some fields you may have seen less accessory equipment, but one huge cotton picker that actually produced round bales. These bales could be dropped anywhere in the field and then moved to the desired location.

In comparison, a round bale contains about 2,200 pounds of cotton. Among the benefits of this machine is, as you would think, less labor. Needless to say this picker is very expensive and can only be justified by those who plant a good number of cotton acres, if then.

In the case of peanuts, it was more so what you didn’t see that was the difference. Peanut harvest is characterized by small drying trailers, which are slowly moved down the highway to home where the drying takes place.

The trailer is then slowly moved to the selling points. Last year some of the buying companies supplied truck vans, which went to the field, were loaded with peanuts, and then headed to the plant where the drying took place — fewer drying trailers, less time taken at home doing the drying, and a safer environment for all concerned.

Farmers typically spend an awful lot of time shuffling and drying trailer loads of peanuts, which hold about 7,500 pounds of peanuts. Loading a van directly in the field with 30,000 pounds of peanuts and sending it straight to the dryer saves valuable time.

While harvest seemed the same this year, changes were taking place. You will see them again next fall.


DELL COTTON is manager of the Peanut Growers Cooperative Marketing Association. He can be reached at dcotton25@vcpeanutdma.com.