About half of the nation’s cotton growers are practicing precision agriculture. PrecisionAg.com reports that the use of precision technology among cotton growers grew from just 18 percent in 2001 to 48 percent in 2005.
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.
The report also suggests that a growing shortage of labor has influenced growers to look to precision as an alternate means of improving productivity with less man power. PrecisonAg.com says growers are most interested in John Deere‘s ITEC Pro – or Intelligent Total Equipment Control.