Technology including yield monitors, remote sensing and computer-assisted irrigation control, is helping farmers across the Cotton Belt increase yield, reduce expenses and improve efficiency.

A panel of farmers, consultants, Extension specialists and research scientists who shared research data and in-field experiences during the recent Beltwide Cotton Conferences at Anaheim, Calif., agreed that cotton yield monitors are not yet as accurate as those for corn and other grains but, even with a few inconsistencies, still provide valuable information growers can use to improve profitability.

Brock Taylor, a cotton consultant from Escalon, Calif., says yield monitor data “looks pretty good compared to other yield measurements.

“We've been practicing precision farming for 20 years,” Taylor said, “and have found that cotton yield monitors provide a tool we can use to reduce costs and document production practice benefits.”

He said farmers using variable rate application technology have to use yield monitors to show advantages. “We can evaluate stand, nutrient, chemical applications, etc., to determine efficacy,” he said. “To maintain the lint yield trend we've enjoyed for the past few years, we have to adopt new technology,” he said.”

Mississippi farmer Kenneth Hood has installed yield monitors on each of his cotton pickers and says the information he gleans from the instruments helps him increase yields.

Hood uses an Ag Leader monitor and a Trimble 132 computer. “With this technology I can locate every inch of a field,” Hood said.

Andrew Thompson, Brooks County, Ga., has used a Farm Scan monitor on 1,700 acres of cotton for the past three years. “We've had no mechanical problems with the monitors, but we clean the lenses every morning before we get started.”

Thompson said the combination of yield monitors and aerial photography has allowed him to identify nematode infestation sites and to evaluate treatment programs.

Yield monitors are only part of what could be termed a technological evolution on Jerry Brightbill's Plainview, Texas, farm. Brightbill adopted technology to “squeeze every bit of effort possible out of every minute worked on his farm.

Brightbill uses technology to control all his irrigation systems, via computer (a Trimble 170), from his office. He can alter water pressure, change speeds, turn systems on or off and trouble-shoot from a computer console.

E-mail: ron_smith@intertec.com