Mapping Your Profit
Picking in Central Queensland has started in January this year; the introduction of Bollgard III in Australia has definitely altered the cotton season as we know it. What has not changed however is that we are all eagerly anticipating some good results on our yield monitor. But how do you measure your results? Bales of lint per hectare, dollars per hectare, kilograms of lint per megalitre of water and kilograms of lint per unit of N applied are some examples of how yield can be measured. But what reflects your efforts most accurately and shows where you can make improvements next season?
Broadacre cropping, with the cotton industry leading the way, is moving more and more towards the variable rate application of inputs. Fertilisers and chemicals are not needed in equal amounts across most fields and in order to use these inputs more effectively, they are applied with varying rates. It is common for example to vary the rate of nitrogen that is applied in a flood irrigation field in order to counter the nitrogen wash-down that occurs when irrigating. If a field has uneven biomass development, growth regulators can also be applied through a variable rate script so that the field will start to develop more evenly. As these and other variable rate applications become more and more common, it gets harder to see how profitable a specific part of a field is. Yields might be lower in some places but, if you applied less inputs there, are they also less profitable?
As the targeted application of inputs increases, the emphasis on different soil types present within a field increases. Some soils have greater potential than others and by applying blanket rates of fertiliser, some parts of a field with different soil types might not have sufficient nutrients while other parts will receive more than it can utilise. The solution here is pretty obvious; apply your fertilisers using a variable rate script. The question that comes next though is how do you make sure that you are making a fair comparison between different zones within a field when analysing your yield data?
It is for this reason that some growers within our industry are starting to look towards dynamic profit mapping. Dynamic profit mapping takes into account the costs associated with all inputs that are applied in different rates throughout the season and then overlays this with the yield map. One obvious key element is still missing here: fibre quality and how it changes across the field. Fibre quality can have a massive impact on profits and for a profit map to be (more) accurate, this should be taken into account. When technological advancements allow us to map fibre quality, just like we can already create protein maps when harvesting grain for example, the sky is truly the limit.
Although the technology to achieve all this is not where we would like to see it yet, it seems to be the direction where we are headed and I am quite excited to discover how this will allow us to identify our next profit gains.
If you want to know how you could start moving towards your next big profit gain, please reach out to me on the details below.
Written by: Reinder Prins. Reinder Prins is the Market Development Manager for Cotton Growers Services and as such is responsible for the Precision Agriculture initiatives within the organisation. Reinder can be contacted on +61 427 - 808 489 or via e-mail on