agtech tools for cotton farmers

2 Agtech Tools Every Cotton Farmer Should Use

By Cole Condra, Curtis Cribben, & John Orlowski

Are you frustrated by the lack of agtech available to cotton producers? 


Agtech has been trending upwards for a while now. In fact, according to G2 Crowd, 15% of small farms will leverage precision ag technology in the next year. The goal is to aggregate and analyze data while coming up with useful shortcuts to make farming more efficient.

But cotton producers haven’t had the same access to data collection technology as other corn and soybean growers.

Luckily, we’re finally heading in the right direction. Now, cotton farmers can use yield monitors for spatial yield mapping and electronically track modules in the field and beyond.

Your trusted advisor and you can analyze your data to make better decisions for next year’s growing season. Here’s what you need to know about this new technology for cotton farmers. 

How Do Cotton Yield Monitors Work? 

Cotton yield monitors work by using light waves to approximate the mass flow of cotton coming into the harvester. 

Generally, yield monitors use two types of sensors: transmittance and reflectance. Both sensors emit light waves into the cotton ducts on a cotton picker. 

Transmittance sensors have a detector on the opposite side of the duct. The amount of light detected is inversely proportional to the amount of cotton being harvested. When more cotton is going past the detector, more light is blocked, indicating a higher yield at that point.

Reflectance sensors are similar, but instead of measuring the amount of light blocked, they measure the amount of light reflected off the cotton in the duct.  More cotton means more light is reflected, which directly correlates with increased yield.  

When properly calibrated, the data collected by the yield sensor can be tied to GPS coordinates, creating an accurate yield map for each field.

As with corn and soybean yield monitors, several issues can affect the quality of the spatial yield data produced by the cotton yield monitor. You can correct these issues in grain yield monitors by back-calibrating the data based on actual yield data from scale tickets.  Similarly, cotton data can be back-calibrated using data from the finished modules.

How Does Electronic Module Tagging Work? 

The traditional process for tagging modules involved spray paint and a paper tag to identify the grower, farm, field, and any other data (such as variety) associated with each module. It’s a time-consuming process with the possibility of human error.

New technology uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging from John Deere, eliminating the need for a manual process. Current cotton pickers and strippers read the serial numbers off the RFID tags that are pre-imbedded into the module during wrapping. 

agtech tools for cotton farmers

When the serial number comes up, and the module is ready to be wrapped, it’s sent to the harvester’s application controller to be combined with the grower, farm, field, variety, time, date, and GPS location of where the module was wrapped in the field.

Once this process is complete, the controller creates a .txt file that’s stored in the monitor. You can export the data files from the monitor and use it for record-keeping, data cleaning (such as post-calibration), and data analysis.

If RFID tagging is being used, you can hone in on various performance factors, such as fertility and irrigation rates. You can also determine how these factors affect certain varieties by knowing exactly where each bale came from in the field. 

Even without RFID tagging, harvest data from the monitor can help you determine seeding rates and which varieties to plant based on performance.

Conclusion – Make the Most of Your Data

When you adopt technology, such as yield monitoring and electronic module tagging using RFID, your opportunity for improved data analysis and decision-making will increase. 

Ready to make the most of the data your cotton yield monitor and module tags are producing? Give Growers at call at 984.500.3797.