When the first cotton pickers with on-board module building capability came on the market, the half million-plus price tag scared most cotton farmers in the Southeast. Now, the price is still high, but the economics look a little different.

Cotton prices at a dollar a pound make a lot of things more feasible. However, regardless of the price of cotton, many Southeastern growers are finding that the true cost of picking cotton can be less using one of the two currently available pickers with on-board module builders.

Speaking at a recent field day, Belhaven, N.C., cotton grower, Danny Clayton, gave a comparison of costs for a new John Deere picker, a new Case IH picker, both with on-board module builders (OBMB), and a used conventional cotton picker.

Clayton began growing cotton in the mid-1990s and has been an innovator, having owned and used one of the first cotton module builders in the Blacklands area of eastern, North Carolina. Clayton farms about 2,000 acres of cotton, along with soybeans and other grain crops.

“Until you run well over 2,000 acres through a new Deere OBMB annually, it will probably not be cheaper. More efficient, less headache, enable you to grow more cotton… yes — cheaper, no,” Clayton says.   

On smaller acreages the OBMB may be cost prohibitive, at least until used ones start hitting the market. Conventional machines are going to get cheap, Clayton adds.