Yield monitors — fairly new for cotton farmers — are being put to good use, says Calvin Perry, agricultural engineer at the University of Georgia.

“When you show farmers yield maps,” he says, “most of them can tell you why the yield differs across the field.”

The payback, however, comes in being able to use the maps to help manage inputs.

“A lot of things pop out in yield maps that would otherwise go unnoted,” Perry says. “It really hits home when you show a farmer an area where he's losing money. It makes a farmer take notice and make changes.”

Perry says yield monitors for cotton are more expensive than those for grain crops like corn, wheat and soybeans.

“A yield monitor for a typical grain combine would cost about $4,500,” he says. “A four-row cotton picker yield monitor would cost around $6,500, and a six-row system about $8,000.” These prices don't include the GPS receiver, which would cost about another $800.

It's easier for large-operation farmers to justify the cost of a yield monitor, he says. But smaller farmers may realize savings on future input costs, too.