Farm Progress

John Deere’s on-board module building harvesters have revolutionized the storage and handling of cotton.

Thomas D. Valco, Cotton Technology Transfer Coordinator

March 20, 2017

3 Min Read
F-mounted antennas read information on radio frequency identification (RFID) tags embedded in cotton module covers.

In the early days of John Deere's round cotton modules, growers would typically group four rounds as a module load, using a module truck to carry the cotton from field to the gin.

Module tags were developed where the lead round module would get the ID tag and the other three rounds would be identified with the same number.

Information about the module was manually recorded and sometimes included additional data such as date, farm, variety, etc., on the tag.  

For many gins, rounds are now the dominant module type.

These modules are being transported from field to gin on flat bed, drop bed trailers, or trailers designed especially for rounds in groups greater than four.

Some growers are going tagless, using the RFID (radio frequency identification) tags embedded in the plastic module wrap to develop an information system. These unique module identifiers have enabled new methods for tracking and managing seed cotton from the field to the gin.

This information can be shared with both grower and ginner to better track and manage modules from field to the module feeder.


It all starts with Harvest Identification — Cotton by John Deere. Currently there are 18 different data points that are stored and transmitted to a database using

Related:Cotton ginners help keep Mississippi River strong

The data points include information such as client, farm, field, variety, machine, operator, field harvest location, harvest date and time, and module diameter. Future data (2017 JD models) will include module weight and moisture content. Using the application program interface (API) this information can be transmitted to the gin and the data can be accessed using the RFID tag.

While a majority of gins are not using the feature to electronically track modules, the concept is growing. To help get this technology moving, Cotton Incorporated has worked with gins to provide RFID readers, and has developed software that allows for a handheld reader to pair the module information with GPS coordinates from the phone that can provide a location.

There are advantages to both the farmer and the gin, as it eliminates module tags, prevents loss of modules, and provides a direct location of the module that can be retrieved using the GPS coordinates. The grower is assured that he will have access to production and quality data to help make management decisions in the field.


Growers have documented the efficiency gains of John Deere on-board module building harvesters. However, we still have not captured the value that these harvesters will bring in terms of information gathering.

Related:Joe Jenkins: Helping farmers be stewards of soil

The machines are already collecting where and when the cotton was harvested, and when linked to the farm management system, it makes it possible for the gin to have access to multiple attributes of the cotton — especially the variety.

With the available data, farming and ginning can be used to make decisions to supplement precision ag technology adoption. Examples foreseen in the future include variety, leaf index, seed moisture content from sensors, and/or prevailing weather conditions at the time of harvest; within-field variation in yield that could be a predictor of relative fiber quality; and expected relative ginning rate (will a variety typically be “hard” or “easy” to gin?).

These data can be used to help ginners make adjustments to maximize grower returns.


About the Author(s)

Thomas D. Valco

Cotton Technology Transfer Coordinator, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Stoneville, Miss.

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