Case IH has finally unveiled the “worst-kept” secret in the cotton industry: a new six-row picker that builds half-size modules and can drop them in the field, in tact, in less than a minute.

The Case IH Module Express 625 was formally introduced before a crowd of more than 150 producers, ginners, dealers and media representatives at a ceremony at Perthshire Farms near Gunnison, Miss., Oct. 5.

To say the history-making event was a long-time coming would be an understatement, according to two producers who have tested the Case Module Express 625 for several years.

John Deere is also developing a module-building picker, but is not ready to comment on it publicly, a spokesman said.

“This should have happened two years ago,” said Jimmy Hargett, a grower from Alamo, Tenn., who helped provide the initial design for the Case IH machine. Hargett calls the module builder/picker the fourth major innovation in the cotton industry behind the gin, the mechanical picker and the module builder.

“It should have happened two years ago, but there’s a lot to be said for making sure it is reliable,” said Kenneth Hood, one of the owners of Perthshire Farms who also has been testing versions of a module-building picker for several years.

Although impatient to get the picker on the market, Hargett, Hood and Sykes and Mike Sturdivant Jr., producers from Glendora, Miss., who also helped test a 625 prototype, were clearly proud of the massive six-row picker that unloaded a “half-size” module in front of a large circus tent at the ceremony.

Hargett had a 1.5-foot by 2-foot section of the concrete shop floor he used to draw one of the initial sketches of a cotton picker unloading a module in the back of his SUV at the event. He saved the piece of slab when he replaced the floor in his shop.

“Several of us have been waiting for this for several years,” said Trent A. Haggard, global marketing cotton industry director for Case IH, who called it the ‘worst-kept’ secret in the cotton industry. “I want to thank you for your patience on this story.”

“We rarely have an opportunity to do something like we’re going to experience in the next 24 hours, to see history in the making,” said Jim Walker, vice president in charge of Case IH’s North American Agricultural Business, who attended the event along with Randy Baker, the president of Case IH Agricultural Equipment.

But few were any happier to see the new Module Express 625 go through its paces than Jesse H. Orsborn, platform manager for cotton and application equipment for Case IH. Orsborn has been working on bringing a module-building picker to the market for 30 years.

“When the first module builders came out, one of our customers said we ought to be doing that on the picker,” said Orsborn, a native of Belzoni, Miss., who introduced the picker to the audience. “We looked at a lot of concepts from hay-bale type arrangements on down.

““We conducted the first trials in the mid-1970s, but the intensity wasn’t there because everyone had plenty of labor. It has really intensified in the last 10 years. These days, everyone tills the land lightly, plants, sprays and harvests. The labor that used to do all the other tillage operations and the harvesting simply isn’t there anymore.”

e-mail: flaws@farmpress.com