Yield mapping may help cotton farmers manage inputs more efficiently and reduce production costs, according to a Cotton Incorporated researcher.

Ed Barnes, director of agricultural and environmental research for CI, said adoption rates for yield monitors in cotton have lagged that of other crops. “But new on-board, module building harvesters are better designed for yield mapping,” he said.

Barnes was a featured speaker during a precision agriculture session at the recent Texas Plant Protection Association annual conference in Bryan.

“The technology is getting easier, and there is money to be made with yield monitoring in cotton,” he said.

Barnes said yield maps are important tools and may help cotton farmers: 1) evaluate the success of the previous year’s variable rate application plan; 2) develop variable rate application plans for the coming season; 3) facilitate on-farm evaluation of varieties and management practices (such as plant population and tillage systems); and 4) estimate the profitability of a field or areas within a field.

“Yield maps integrate what happens in season and what happened in past seasons,” Barnes said. “We can now get good yield maps with strippers. We can get good information with the yield map, and that’s especially important if we don’t have a field history.”

He said zone management is an advantage with yield mapping. “We can identify variability within a field and find the low production areas that may always be low.”

He said the good areas may vary based on management, but some low areas will always produce poorly regardless of rainfall or producer inputs. “We can apply field-level decisions to zones.”

With management zones identified, with the help of yield maps, farmers can apply variable rate application technology to each zone.

“We can determine if a part of the field should be put to other uses. We can cut back on inputs or take those areas out of cotton. That may allow producers to reduce costs so they are not wasting money. As production costs increase, we can save even more.”

Barnes said current software systems used to process yield monitor data, “need to be simplified. But yield monitor data should be collected now so there is a history to build on as the technology becomes easier to use in the future.”