Attention, cotton farmers: Sharpen your pencils. For the second time in five years feedback from a survey will be used to help cotton industry analysts better gauge trends in precision farming.

Cotton Incorporated, along with six universities throughout the South and Southeast, are sponsoring the survey that will be randomly mailed to farmers later this month or in February.

The survey will be mailed to farmers in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana and Virginia.

Jeanne Reeves, associate director, Agricultural Research, Cotton Incorporated, said the initial survey helped analysts better understand the type of farming that continues to gain in popularity thanks to ongoing advances in technology.

Out of the thousands of surveys delivered in 2001, about 20 percent responded. Sponsors are hoping for at least that percentage of response again.

The upcoming survey has expanded its range of input from farmers in six states to 11 states, with plans to conduct the same basic survey next year with one addition: Texas cotton farmers.

“We look forward from the survey response to get an accurate analysis of precision farming, to get a handle on what is going on,” Reeves said.

She emphasized that the survey is not aimed at discerning opinion about which brand of precision-related farming equipment is better than another brand. The true objective, she said, is to better identify the demographics of precision farmers.

“We are trying to determine what farmer has adopted to it and what farmer has not adopted,” she said.

Roland Roberts, professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Tennessee, said it would be vital for farmers who do not apply precision farming technology to participate in the survey.

“Their input is key to our research initiatives so we ask that they take the time to complete it to the best of their ability,” he said.

Analysts are also interested in learning from the survey which kind of precision farming — from use of global positioning satellite systems to grid soil sampling — growers value to be the most/least effective. They also want to learn which systems farmers have determined are economically viable.

“This information will allow us to better understand the areas where more research and/or extension activity is needed to insure farmers receive the most from precision technologies,” Reeves said.

e-mail: abell@primediabusiness.com