Cotton Focus: Seed Planting And Technology

When cotton seed cost $350 per ton, the rule was to plant heavy and thin the stand later on if you needed to. But when seed hit $500 per bag, you sort of had to find a new rule book.

“Everyone with anything to do with cotton farming is aware that the genetically modified varieties have had a very big impact on agriculture. They have allowed us to improve our weed and insect control,” says Dr. Earl Vories, a USDA/ARS agricultural engineer at the University of Missouri Delta Center in Portageville. “But along with that, the cost has gone up, and there have been a lot of questions about what we can do to make sure we’re not wasting seed.”

So the research hypothesis becomes finding ways to minimizing seeding rates while maximizing yields. The most visible means to that end at the moment is site-specific, variable-rate planting, and the ability to do just that is already available.

“I am very confident in saying that we have the mechanics, the hardware, and even the software in place. If someone wants to variable-rate plant, the technology is there,” says Dr. Edward Barnes, Director, Agricultural Research at Cotton Incorporated.

What we lack, though, is the definitive data required to write the prescriptions. “One of the things that makes it difficult to say exactly how much benefit you can get with precision planting is that cotton is a great compensator,” Barnes continues. “Cotton can absorb a lot of variability in seeding rates, so it makes it very hard to collect the data it takes to make strong decisions on variable-rate planting.”

Vories agrees: “We don’t have economic data that would make us say with confidence that this is the way to go — we’ve only been working on the data for one year.” We as researchers are behind the equipment that is available. The technology to make the adjustments is there. But right now, our recommendations can’t match up with the equipment capabilities.”

Data Quest Begins

Most prescription-based applications of farm inputs starts with soil-type and yield-monitor maps.

“(Farmers) know what’s going on in a field. They know the highest yielding areas, and the lowest yielding areas,” says Vories. “One of the reasons we were able to start work on precision planting is because we are getting so much information from yield maps and Veris EC data.”

What’s lacking at the moment is an understanding of how the relationship between soil types and planting rates impacts yields. Frank Groves, Cotton Verification Coordinator for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension service has completed one year of research, and through a grant from Cotton Incorporated, will begin another three-year trial.

“We are looking at two varieties at low, medium and high seeding rates on variable soil types in three different locations in the state,” Groves says. “Ultimately, what we are shooting for is to be able to have a prescription that will fit each soil type as the planter moves across the field.”

The plots will run across light, mixed and heavy soils. Then each 12-row strip will be planted with one of five seeding rates.

“We are using a variable-rate planter, and we have a prescription, but we’re not changing it according to soil texture in this study,” says Groves. “When we harvest the plots, we’ll be able to lay the yield maps over the zones and see what seeding rate looked best in each soil zone.”

Irrigation can also impact prescriptions. For instance, there would be one seeding rate for areas of a field covered by the main span of a center pivot, another rate for the area covered by the end-gun, and yet another for areas not watered at all.

“Once we synthesize all of the information, we’ll be ready to go,” Barnes says. “Ideally we want a turn-key system that, based on the data points on soil type and yield, will give a farmer a variable-rate planting prescription that a researcher would be proud of.”

Groves agrees: “Absolutely. That is what we want to wind up with. With seed cost being what it is, ultimately our goal is to plant only as many seed as you need to.”

Leave a Reply

Variable Rate Application Stories
Variable Rate ApplicationVariable Rate Fertigation System Expands with Mobile Connectivity
September 10, 2018
Building on the success of its Reflex Variable Rate Fertigation system, Agri-Inject has taken fluid injection to the next level Read More
John Deere ExactApply
AmericasSciFi in Ag: Self-Reacting Spray Nozzles to Fight Dicamba Drift
September 5, 2018
Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Variable Rate ApplicationSeeing is Believing in Precision Agriculture: A Tale from the Field of Common Sense
February 27, 2018
Do you remember your first time? You know, that first variable rate application (VRA) map of one of your farmers’ Read More
Sensors/IoTWhy Are Service Providers Slow to Adopt Crop Sensors for Nitrogen Management?
February 20, 2018
Recently, we have seen important discussions about key aspects of precision agriculture. One of these articles, about the value in Read More
Trending Articles
Data ManagementAre You Using Your Soil to Its Full Potential?
September 14, 2018
Harvest is progressing across most parts of the U.S. and those growers who aren’t already harvesting are gearing up to Read More
Imagery/SensingAgtech: 10 Things I Hate About You!
September 4, 2018
Before you get bent out of shape from the title, remember if you’ve read my articles before you know I Read More
Kansas State University
Industry NewsKansas State University, Topcon Form Precision Ag Research Partnership
August 30, 2018
Kansas State University and Topcon Agriculture are collaborating to develop tools and systems to advance precision agriculture and support farmers. Read More
Blockchain building block graphic
Specialty CropsIs Blockchain the Future of Food Safety?
August 24, 2018
When the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) was standardized in 1982, permitting the worldwide proliferation of interconnected networks and eventually the Read More
WinField’s Joel Wipperfurth On Empowering Data-Driven Decisions
InfoAg ConferenceOne on One with Joel Wipperfurth, Winfield United
August 15, 2018
Winfield United's Joel Wipperfurth discusses ag technology trends and topics during last month’s InfoAg Conference. Read More
Industry NewsUrtheCast to Acquire Geosys from Land O’Lakes in $20 Million Deal
August 15, 2018
UrtheCast Corp. and Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced they have entered a binding term sheet for the purchase of Geosys Read More
Latest News
AmericasFarmers Edge Announces New Retail-Facing Precision Ag P…
September 25, 2018
Farmers Edge announced the launch of a new solution designed exclusively for agricultural professionals to enhance their relationships with customers Read More
EventsAgricultural Robotics Take Center Stage at FIRA 2018
September 24, 2018
The future of agricultural innovation will continue to rely heavily on collaboration and exchange of ideas among all industry players. Read More
Corn field sunset
Decision Support SoftwareLand O’Lakes SUSTAIN Launches Ambitious Digital S…
September 24, 2018
Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN today announced its plan to roll out the Truterra Insights Engine, an interactive on-farm digital platform that Read More
Business ManagementIvy Tech, Farmers Partner to Help Precision Ag Educatio…
September 20, 2018
Harvest time has taken on a new meaning for some Wabash Valley farmers, and Bobbi Hunt-Kincaid hopes her family’s first Read More
Sensors/IoTThe Answer to Agriculture’s Daunting Challenges – Soil …
September 20, 2018
According to the United Nations, 9.6 billion people will live on planet Earth by 2050. Feeding these mouths will require Read More
Data ManagementRainfall Revisited: Accurate Observations and Beyond
September 18, 2018
As a provider of weather analysis and forecast services to the agricultural industry, one of the most common questions I Read More
Business ManagementWhy Is Funding a Challenge for Women-Led Agtech Compani…
September 17, 2018
When it comes to women-led agtech companies the funding discussion never seems to cease. In June after the The New Read More
Mobile Phone in field
Decision Support SoftwareWhy Are 570 Million Farmers Not Yet Using Agricultural …
September 17, 2018
Until recently, using agricultural apps and software was a rare practice among growers. This is now changing. The mass adoption Read More
Data ManagementAre You Using Your Soil to Its Full Potential?
September 14, 2018
Harvest is progressing across most parts of the U.S. and those growers who aren’t already harvesting are gearing up to Read More
Grower Services & SolutionsDeere-Granular Collaboration Produces New Profit Maps T…
September 14, 2018
The newest development from the ongoing John Deere-Granular product development and marketing collaboration is Profit Maps, now available to farmers Read More
DronesOpinion: Combining Two Pluses with the WingtraOne UAV
September 13, 2018
For the every-day consumer interested in UAVs, there is an ocean of products from which to choose. This includes the Read More
AsiaShould Agri-Input Manufacturers Outsource E-Commerce to…
September 12, 2018
Editor’s note: Venky Ramachandran is a contributing writer for’s sister site, This article was originally published on LinkedIn. Now, Read More
Industry NewsValley Irrigation Adds Remote Irrigation Management Opt…
September 11, 2018
Valley Irrigation, an industry leader in smart irrigation solutions, has announced enhancements to its remote management technologies. Multi-Year Licensing In Read More
Variable Rate ApplicationVariable Rate Fertigation System Expands with Mobile Co…
September 10, 2018
Building on the success of its Reflex Variable Rate Fertigation system, Agri-Inject has taken fluid injection to the next level Read More
Industry NewsTeralytic Earns Ag Data Transparent Certification
September 10, 2018
Soil analytics company Teralytic has completed the Ag Data Transparent certification, affirming that their data use is private, secure, and Read More
Business ManagementTop 20 Two-Year Colleges for Precision Agriculture
September 10, 2018
Earlier this year, I compiled a list of the 25 best colleges for precision agriculture. It was quite the process. Read More
Industry NewsRaven, Topcon Announce Slingshot API Agreement
September 6, 2018
Raven Industries and Topcon Agriculture announced today a licensing agreement for Topcon Agriculture’s use of the Slingshot Application Programming Interface Read More
Tablet Grower
Data ManagementThe Power of Predictive Analytics in Agriculture
September 5, 2018
Years ago if we would have been told computers, data, and technology would be scattered around every farm there may Read More