The Economics of Cotton Harvesting


When it comes to the economy of the American South, there is no product more integral to its success than cotton. In the years before the Civil War, two-thirds of the world’s cotton came from the Southern States.

The cotton industry became a major driver of the economy, as northern textile mills spun it into cloth for sale, and planters sold it to Europe. But the profits of the cotton business relied heavily on enslaved labor, and a great deal of money was spent on buying slaves in order to grow this crop.


According to Certi-Pik, USA, cotton is one of the most expensive crops to grow. It takes a lot of money to purchase the seeds and fertilizers needed for planting and all the equipment necessary to care for and harvest the crop.

Costs associated with cotton farming can vary greatly depending on the size of the operation, location, and other factors. These costs can include land purchase and leasing, fuel, electricity, and other expenses.

Labor costs are another major expense associated with cotton farming. This can include the cost of hiring laborers to help with the crop’s planting, cultivation, and harvesting.

The amount of labor that is needed for cotton farming can vary greatly depending on the size and complexity of the operation. This can also depend on the methods used for the planting and cultivation of the crop, as well as the types of equipment necessary to complete those tasks.

Other expenses that are associated with cotton farming include the purchase of fertilizers, seeds, and insecticides. These supplies are often necessary to ensure that the crop grows properly and is able to survive any weather conditions that might affect its quality or yields.

These costs can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. These costs can vary significantly from one farm to the next, so it is important to research the cost of these items in your area before you start a cotton farming business.

To reduce the cost of cotton production, it is important to implement sustainable farming practices that will reduce the need for inputs and the need for chemicals. By implementing these methods, farmers will be able to minimize the cost of cotton harvesting and maximize the profit from their operation.

Extension staff who work with cotton producers can help them to improve their bottom line by minimizing the costs associated with harvesting. With the help of tools like the Cotton Harvest Cost Calculator (CHCC), they can provide producers with a quick, user-friendly tool that allows them to determine which harvesting equipment configuration would result in minimizing their harvesting costs, given their individual production scenario.


Depending on the size and quality of the cotton crop, farmers can earn up to $3000 per acre. This largely depends on the quality of the soil and available resources, the specific variety of cotton grown, and the local demand for its fiber.

Profits can be maximized by utilizing cost-effective inputs, improving soil fertility and irrigation techniques, investing in pest control, and promoting production efficiency. Cotton farmers can increase their profitability and boost their bottom line by focusing on these practices.

Maintaining optimum soil health is crucial for cotton farming, as it allows the crop to grow and thrive, ultimately producing a high yield. To improve the health of the soil, farmers can implement farming practices such as no-tillage, cover cropping, and other sustainable methods.

Managing weeds can also help ensure the health of the cotton crop and maximize its yield. To keep weeds under control, farmers can use integrated weed management strategies to prevent them from spreading and competing for resources like water and sunlight.

Weather conditions can also affect cotton farming, making it essential for farmers to be knowledgeable about the seasonal forecast and take the necessary measures to mitigate the risks associated with weather changes. Farmers can also use the Cotton Harvesting Cost Calculator (CHCC) to estimate their crop’s harvesting costs based on their individual production scenario.

Cotton is profitable, but farmers must work hard to earn it. The key to achieving this is to utilize the right production practices and avoid common mistakes that can cost farmers money.

For example, using too much fertilizer or spraying pesticides can deplete the soil of vital nutrients and cause it to produce lower yields. In order to ensure cotton farms operate effectively and efficiently, farmers can invest in good-quality seeds and monitor their inputs to ensure they are using the proper amounts.

Farmers can also diversify their operations to generate additional income streams for the best results. For example, they can expand their business to include other crops like corn or soybeans. They can also negotiate for the best price when they sell their products to potential buyers.


The cotton market is highly influenced by a variety of factors, including crop demand and production levels. The price of cotton is also impacted by the cost of other crops that are cultivated for consumption in place of cotton, as well as the prices of synthetic fiber substitutes.

The demand for clothing and textiles largely drives the demand for cotton. One bale of cotton can make around 200 pairs of jeans or 1,200 t-shirts.

Cotton is grown in many countries throughout the world, including India, China, Brazil, Australia, and the United States. Its cultivation is based on two species of cotton: upland and Pima (extra-long staple).

Global production is expected to increase by 6% in 2021/2022, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with top producers in the United States and China accounting for the majority of global output.

As demand for cotton grows, so does the market for harvesting machinery that can help produce cotton at high speeds and reduce costs. Technological advancements in cotton picker harvesting equipment are increasing their adoption worldwide, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

For example, John Deere introduced a new CP770 cotton harvester that can pick up more than an acre per hour and has improved fuel efficiency. This machine will allow farmers to get maximum cotton harvesting from their fields while reducing their costs and maintenance expenses.

In addition, the market for cotton harvesting machines is boosted by increasing demand for cotton in various end-use industries. These include textiles and apparel, home furnishings, automotive, and more.

This is mainly due to the growing disposable income of consumers in developing countries. Moreover, the market for cotton harvesting is also fueled by government initiatives to promote its use.

The US is the world’s leading exporter of raw cotton, supplying about 35 percent of the total supply. In MY 2016, the United States increased its share of global exports by 9%, and in MY 2018, it increased its share by 15%.

The US has experienced some crop problems this year, including a drought in Texas and Arkansas and flooding in the Midwestern states of Illinois and Indiana. These challenges will impact the US’s 2022/23 crop and, as a result, will likely drive cotton prices lower than previously anticipated.


Cotton harvesting is a complex process that requires farmers to use a variety of equipment. The most common machine used is a cotton picker. These machines use rotating spindles to remove the seed cotton from the open bolls on the plant’s stalk. Another type of harvesting system uses a doffer, or rollers equipped with brushes, to knock open the bolls and strip the cotton from the plant.

The most sustainable cotton production practices focus on using only a small amount of water for every ton of fiber harvested. This helps to reduce the amount of water needed for cultivation and minimizes greenhouse gas emissions associated with cotton production.

Sustainability in cotton land use also depends on soil conservation and management. As global climate change leads to more intense rain events, erosion control becomes an increasingly important issue for cotton growers. Federally approved soil conservation plans help protect erodible lands, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service assists with soil health and conservation tillage practices, which prevent soil disturbance.

A significant part of cotton production involves the extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers. These chemicals negatively affect the quality of soil, water, and air near the fields where they are applied. They can degrade habitats and pollute nearby rivers, wetlands, and lakes that provide drinking water for local villages.

This can have a harmful effect on the lives of those living near the fields and, in some cases, can lead to environmental disasters like floods. Similarly, heavy use of chemicals can lead to a buildup of toxic wastes in the soil and contribute to soil depletion and the spread of disease.

Conventionally grown cotton also exacerbates water scarcity. For example, the average cotton harvest in 2016 required more than 20,000 liters of water. This is more than the daily water consumption of an average American family.

Furthermore, cotton is a fast-growing crop and often requires the use of industrial chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These products can contaminate water, soil, and air around the fields where they are applied, causing immediate and long-term problems in ecosystems surrounding cotton farms.


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