Cotton harvest checklist

Sep 06, 2022

Story by Ben White, GreenPoint Ag
Regional Manager, Ag Technologies
As the hot days of September begin, farmers across the Southeast are preparing for harvest. In cotton country, preparation often involves pulling the cotton pickers into the shop and performing general maintenance like replacing worn spindles and moisture pads, adjusting doffers, and generally making sure the machine is ready to operate as effectively as possible.
One area often overlooked is setting up systems to collect data accurately, especially on new — or new to you — machines. Below are some general steps our team encourages to be sure that accurate yield data is collected.
Pre-Harvest Monitor Setup
1. Check general monitor maintenance. Make sure last year’s data has been archived and uploaded to AccuField and then clean off the old data to ensure you have plenty of storage for this year. Make sure that you have your fields labeled correctly, and that old fields have been deleted and new ones have been added to the monitor. To save time in the field, go ahead and preload your brands and varieties for this year’s crop.
2. Ensure that the appropriate machine details are set up properly on all cotton pickers in your fleet. If multiple pickers are running in a field, it just takes one incorrect setting to ruin the yield data. Settings such as GPS offsets, row width, and overall head width should be checked to verify they are correct. This is especially important if this is your first year with a new machine or your first year collecting data. One thing to note here is that, in some areas, pickers are set up to accommodate skip row cotton, so the row measurements between heads may vary, and some row sensors may need to be turned on or off in the monitor. Be sure that the correct widths and sensors are calibrated to match your management practices. We have seen many issues with cotton yield data thanks to incorrect setups in this step.
In-Field Harvest Calibrations
1. Once we get to the field, we want to make sure that we fill out our field documentation in the monitor. With pickers, it’s important to input an estimated gin turnout. From what we have seen, somewhere around 40% is a good place to start. Gin turnout can always be post-calibrated after harvest is complete in AccuField.
2. Before you start the actual yield calibration, be sure to tell the monitor when to start and stop recording data. The main setting that influences this is the header height stop point, which will either start or stop recording data once the head is lifted or lowered past the set point. We also recommend using a setting in the monitor called “combination” which uses the header height sensor and the readings from the microwave sensors in the air ducts to determine when the picker is actively harvesting. 
3. Next, we recommend running the row compensation calibration. This should be performed in as uniform a crop as possible. The purpose of this step is to calibrate each of the individual microwave sensors to a baseline for the yield calibration in the next step.
4. Lastly, we will run our actual harvest calibration. We generally harvest four rolls and calibrate off the cumulative weight, which gives us a good average. Be sure that you are picking your heads up past your header height stop point and that your recording is stopped as you come out of the crop when turning. I also recommend that the calibrations be performed in the longest and most uniform rows available. Stay away from end rows and headlands as this will give you an inaccurate calibration.
Good, quality yield data doesn’t happen by accident. To achieve the most accurate yield data, we recommend that calibrations be performed for each crop variety. If you have different moisture environments such as irrigated and non-irrigated, then calibrations should be performed there as well. If you have any questions or need assistance in collecting accurate yield data, be sure to reach out to the ag technology specialist at your local Co-op.

Find more content like this in this month’s issue of The Cooperator.


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