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It’s Time To Adopt Precision Technology


Precision technologies being created for today’s farmers sustain the old adage that the only true constant is change. For cotton producers who have never tried one or more forms of precision farming technology, the time to do so is now.

“While precision farming may not be for every cotton producer (especially if fields lack sufficient yield variability), the time is right for many producers to invest in this technology while there is opportunity for increased income due to high commodity prices,” says Ed Barnes, director, agricultural research, Cotton Incorporated.

Research is actually underway to develop a tool to help producers decide when their operations and bottom line could benefit from a precision farming management system.

Several cotton industry market analysts are forecasting stronger cotton prices by 2009, and if cotton acreage returns to capitalize on the forecasted bullish market, farming with precision technology could pay for itself in the form of reduced input costs alone – as these costs continue to escalate.

The First Step – Multiple Options

A yield monitor is needed to evaluate the impact of any variable rate application, and there are currently three commercially-available yield monitors. One utilizes microwaves to detect seed cotton flow rates, and the other two are light-based sensors that detect the flow rate of seed cotton in the chute.

“All of these yield monitors detect seed cotton flow, so gin turnout is needed to translate to actual lint yields,” Barnes says.

While a yield monitor is usually the first precision farming technology for most producers, some of them are being attracted by the idea of incorporating GPS-controlled “self-driving” and/or GPS guidance systems for their tractors. This plays an especially important role if a producer is farming on one or more forms of reduced tillage systems where he wants to replicate specific traffic patterns for tractors, sprayers and harvesters.

Integrated Communications

One of the most often repeated complaints from farmers about precision farming technologies is the lack of compatibility between tractors, implements and corresponding software from multiple vendors.

The term “plug and play” has be-come a generic reference to a computer system’s ability to recognize immediately and operate an additional device. Thanks to increasing participation in a world-wide movement toward standardization of all farming equipment, called ISOBUS, producers could one day “plug and play” all makes and models of precision farming technologies.

This ISOBUS initiative, which began in Europe, is based and centered upon the International Standards Organization’s ISO 11783.

“ISO 11783 is the protocol to which manufacturers of farming equipment and technologies around the world are urged to comply,” states Barnes.

“In just the last few years, equipment has started to become commercially available that meets this standard,” he adds.

NAIITF (North American ISOBUS Implementation Task Force) is the American version of the ISOBUS initiative. Visit NAIITF.aem.org.

Cotton Incorporated is currently sponsoring more than 25 projects involving precision technology across the Cotton Belt.

The Cotton Board, which administers the Cotton Research and Promotion Program conducted by Cotton Incorporated, provided information for this article.

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