While harvesting is one of the final steps in the production of cotton crops, it is one of the most important. The crop must be harvested before weather can damage or completely ruin its quality and reduce yield. Cotton is machine harvested in the U.S., beginning in July in south Texas and in October in more northern areas of the Belt. Stripper harvesters, used chiefly in Texas and Oklahoma, have rollers or mechanical brushes that remove the entire boll from the plant. In the rest of the Belt, spindle pickers are used. These cotton pickers pull the cotton from the open bolls using revolving barbed spindles that entwine the fiber and release it after it has separated from the boll.
- Cotton is a crop typically grown only by commercial growers. Some people are trying their hand at growing ornamental cotton non-commercially.
- In the South, cotton picking starts in July. In Northern states, it can go on into November. You’ll know your cotton is ready to harvest when the bolls open up and expose the fluffy white cotton.
- Harvesting cotton is easy (as long as you’re wearing heavy gloves). Just take hold of the cotton ball and twist it out of the boll. Be sure to have a bag to hold your harvest.
“Before you begin to harvest your homegrown cotton, arm yourself appropriately with a thick pair of gloves. The cotton bolls are sharp and likely to shred tender skin.”