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.