How is the adoption of precision agriculture evolving in the Cotton Belt?
Precision Agriculture’s impact in cotton production has increased dramatically over the past few years. In fact, from 2001 to 2005, the number of cotton producers practicing precision agriculture rose from 23% to 48% according to the Cotton Incorporated Annual Report.
What is driving the increase?
There are a number of reasons for this increase. First, changes in farming practices requires more precision and repeatability, such as the use of subsurface irrigation and strip-till. Guidance products with high levels of accuracy such as real-time kinematic (RTK) with sub-inch repeatability provide the accuracy needed for repeat passes over the same guidance line.
Second, rising input costs encourage the use of products that reduce overlap. AutoTrac (automatic steering) reduces pass-to-pass overlap which on average reduces input cost by 5-10%, and GS2 Rate Controller and Swath Control (automatic boom section control capability) products reduce inputs applied to previously covered acres. On average this is an additional 3% reduction in seed and pesticide costs.
Third, the growers are looking for increased efficiency of products applied based on site-specific information. Variable rate applications are being utilized to vary seeding, defoliant, growth regulator, and fertilizer rates. This can either be manually adjusted, or prescriptions can be created based on a wide variety of sources, including soil type, fertility analysis, yield data, aerial imagery, or crop advisor.
Fourth, there has been a decrease in labor availability that has driven producers to find methods to increase their productivity. The use of precision agriculture products not only increases efficiencies, but reduces the fatigue of the day-to-day operations.
Finally, producers that are using these precision tools are utilizing yield mapping tools to monitor the results. This data is necessary to make the management decision involved with precision agriculture, and monitor their success.
What Deere technologies are growers most interested in?
The iTEC Pro — Intelligent Total Equipment Control — is a new Pro Module from John Deere that automates the sequences in an endturn, including the turn itself. When paired with AutoTrac, iTEC Pro assumes control at the headland, allowing you to remain hands free as it automatically decreases your ground speed, lifts the implement, steers the tractor into the next row, and re-engages the implement. All of this is based off of GPS distances from a boundary. This feature increases the consistency and efficiency of end turns.
Swath Control Pro was introduced for planters in August 2007. This takes the same technology that was used with sprayers for controlling boom sections, and expanded it to control planter units. When Swath Control Pro is enabled, it will turn implement or sprayer boom sections on and off based on GPS.