9540 A Wireless Cotton Module Tracking System: Improvement and Field Testing

Thursday, January 8, 2009: 8:15 AM
Salons E/F (Marriott Riverwalk Hotel)
Andrew J. Sjolander, J. Alex Thomasson, Ruixiu Sui and Yufeng Ge, TAMU - BAEN Dept., College Station, TX
Precision agriculture has enabled many producers to increase their crop outputs as well as decrease their production costs.  In the cotton industry, however, the potential of precision agriculture has not been fully exploited due partly to the process by which cotton is harvested.  In recent years yield monitors have been created for cotton harvesters, to give producers a better idea about which areas of their fields are producing higher amounts of cotton.  A wireless module tracking system was created by Texas A&M researchers to relate specific harvest-area locations inside a field with individual modules of cotton.  A number of field tests showed that the system performed quite satisfactorily; however, it was user intensive, increasing labor requirements and the chance of human error while operating the system.  By incorporating load cells and pendulous sensors the existing system was automated and the need for human interaction greatly reduced.  Enhanced software functions enabled the sensor outputs to automatically trigger a wireless signal transmission when cotton was being dumped.  This improved system was tested during the 2008 cotton harvest at the Texas A&M’s Research Farm near College Station, Texas.  The system worked consistently well, and data were accurately stored within the system over the four day harvest period.  During the harvest, two problems with the newly automated system were discovered.  Undesirable wireless signals from communication devices in the area were repeatedly detected and recorded by the system’s wireless transceiver; however, these signals did not adversely affect the operation of the system.  A problem more significant to system operation, the harvester’s basket had trouble contacting the load cells correctly due to the amount of play in basket position during field operations.  Both of these problems are being addressed, and further testing will be conducted in the High Plains area of Texas in late 2008.