No good cotton farmer likes to count his bales before they’re picked.

But it might not be too early — even during planting season — to start thinking about ways to map those yields to help increase efficiency and profitability in the fall.

Yield maps can be viewed as both an entrance and the final exam for precision agriculture, says Georgia Vellidis, University of Georgia crop & soil science professor.

Vellidis and other researchers have authored a publication funded by Cotton Incorporated that promotes the use of yield maps throughout the U.S. Cotton Belt.

Farmer-cooperators also contributed to the publication with on-farm case studies.

“The overall purpose is to promote the use of yield maps,” says Vellidis. “We created a booklet focusing on how yield maps can improve on-farm efficiency.

“We used case studies from working farms, and we wanted to show an economic benefit from taking information from a yield map and using it in your management to result in some kind of economic benefit.”

Production variability always shows up in final yield numbers, he says, and yield monitors allow producers to capture this variability and see how they are addressing it in different parts of the field.

Yield maps also allow growers to change their management practices to compensate for areas of a field that may need attention, he adds.

“In 1995, I produced my first peanut yield map in Georgia, and it showed the power of information from a yield map,” says Vellidis.

“There was a direct correlation between where nematode damage occurred and where lower yields occurred in the peanut field. This was clear evidence that the grower needed to apply nematicides.

“But peanuts were only one crop in a four-year rotation. So we started looking at how much yield he was losing to nematode damage and asked him to compare the loss in yield to the cost of a nematicide.