Technology makes perfect economic sense to Todd, Shawn and Tyson Knight.

In the past few years the Abernathy, Texas, cotton and sunflower producers have  added a module picker, GPS technology, stacked gene cotton varieties, subsurface drip irrigation and computerized irrigation they can control with a cell phone.

All that technology provides more than just gadgetry, they say. Each innovation increases production efficiency, reduces costs or improves yield.

“It just makes economic sense,” Todd says. Todd and Shawn are brothers and farm together. Tyson is Todd’s son and farms on his own but shares equipment, including the John Deere module picker they bought last year, with his dad and uncle.

Sticker shock for a machine priced in excess of half-a-million dollars makes a lot of cotton farmers considering an upgrade delay purchase of a cotton picker that builds modules on the fly. But the Knights consider what they gain in efficiency.

More efficient

“We replaced three module builders, two eight-row strippers and three bale buggies with one machine and saved labor and time,” Todd says. “It takes about an hour in the morning to get it set up and we need to make only a few adjustments.”

It’s also not hard to run. “We run steady at at 4.2 miles per hour,” Todd says. “With a stripper we have to watch closer.”

The module picker holds enough plastic to wrap 22 rolls of picked cotton.

They’re getting better grades. “We’re not picking up the bark like we were with strippers,” Todd says. “We got a good bit of bark stripping cotton.”

Switching to a picker was a logical transition, they say. “We started growing picker cotton five or six years ago and have been getting a good premium for high quality cotton,” Shawn says.

Turnout is also better, 38 percent compared to 33 percent with strippers. “We can pick about 120 acres a day,” Tyson says, “about the same as with two eight-row strippers.”

“Last year we were thorough picking (some 6,000 bales) by Thanksgiving,” Todd says