How Farming Data Tools Can Benefit the Entire Cotton Supply Chain
November 9, 2021

Using the Technologies Available on Many Harvesters Can Increase Yield, Productivity and Quality

Precision agriculture is changing how cotton growers across the United States make their farming practices more sustainable while increasing yield. However, many may not understand the potential value of the data being recorded by modern machinery already on their farms. Used correctly, cotton farming data has the power to automate cotton module tracing, improve yields and profitability, and support sustainability efforts.

RFID’s Potential in Cotton Module Tracking

Round cotton modules have composed most of the cotton processed in many regions of the U.S. for over a decade. RFID cotton module tracking has been a key feature of the industry’s most popular round module harvester this entire time. Yet habit and a lack of standard systems mean that most cotton growers and ginners don’t use RFID to track their cotton modules.

Spray paint and numbering systems unique to each gin still rule the day, and even in gins and on farms moving toward RFID tracking, tracking systems differ greatly between gins. In 2018, the American Society of Agriculture and Biological Engineers created the Seed Cotton Module Identification System to create RFID systems across cotton harvester brands. Pairing such a system with the USDA’s Permanent Bale Identification could trace every bale back to the farm, reducing the burden on producers to collect the data required for participating in sustainability programs.


Visit our Cotton Traceability webpage to learn more about what makes U.S. cotton 100% traceable and traceability’s power to benefit all members of cotton’s supply chain.


How Using Farming Tool Data Could Increase Yield


Not only can some harvesters trace a cotton module through its life cycle, they also record information about each module, including:


  • Weight
  • Moisture content
  • Harvest, wrapping and unload locations


Linking this information about each module to the quality measures at the gin can help growers create fiber quality maps of their fields. Collecting such information across multiple growers would create a kind of “virtual variety trial” where researchers can help determine how popular cotton varieties perform over multiple soil types, production systems and environments.


As more gins begin using RFID tags to track modules from field to module feeder, fiber quality maps might become common practice for producers. Quality parameters like mic and length could be correlated with yield variability in the field, allowing high-resolution-quality maps. In a partnership with Cotton Incorporated, Quail Forever uses these kinds of yield and soil maps to identify fields consistently losing money that might be converted to conservation refuges.


Read more about one cotton grower partners with Quail Forever using precision agriculture to boost productivity and quail conservancy.


How Cotton Incorporated Helps Streamline Cotton Farming Data


In 2018, Cotton Incorporated funded a demonstration project with the USDA-ARS gin lab in Lubbock, Texas, to create tools to track cotton modules solely using RFID tags. For the project, participants only entered the ownership information once, and researchers tracked the cotton from the harvester through the ginning process without adding other tags or spray paint. The project created multiple open source codes and software tools freely available to gins and growers, including:


  • RFID Module Scan: An Android app that can scan a cotton module’s RFID using your mobile device’s camera.
  • Cotton Harvest File: A tool for gins to retrieve HID files through John Deere’s API.
  • RFID Gin Data Management: A master database to track a module’s progress from the field to the gin yard to the module feeder.


Also, recognizing the power of standardized research to transform our knowledge of cotton production, Cotton Incorporated teamed with the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Partnerships for Data Innovations (PDI) to create the Agricultural Data Application Programming Toolkit (ADAPT). ADAPT serves as a sort of Rosetta Stone for agricultural data from multiple software tools and research studies, so researchers can make apples-to-apples comparisons and recognize industry-wide trends.


Read more about our work with the USDA to standardize cotton research data at the Cotton Research Data Standardization and Centralization website.


Cotton Incorporated partners with the USDA to help make using data easier for cotton producers as well as ginners, researchers and companies throughout the cotton supply chain. Connecting cotton farming data by tracing cotton modules using RFID is one of the first steps to using farm data to its fullest potential.



The work we do is possible because of collaborations with researchers like these and partnerships with people all throughout the value chain. Ready to commit to sustainably produced cotton? Become a Cotton LEADS partner today. Interested in doing even more? Contact us for ideas to get the most out of sustainable cotton and your partnership with Cotton LEADS.

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