Friday, December 28, 2012

Whatever Floats Your Boat (or Pivot)

Originally posted in the Spring 2012 edition of PivotPoint.

Mud. It’s a reality for most growers at some point during the growing season, and can be a tricky issue for those with certain irrigation needs, soil types or in certain climates. Thanks to the highly effective floatation options offered by Valley, growers no longer have to get stuck in the muck.

Donnie DeLine, a grower in Charleston, Missouri, could be considered an expert in muddy growing conditions. About 2,500 acres of his 25,000 acre operation are dedicated to rice cultivation, which requires high levels of irrigation.

A Valley customer for more than 25 years, Donnie wanted to diversify his operation several years ago and include rice. That’s when he worked with his local dealer, Mid-Valley Irrigation of Missouri, to find a way to beat the battle with mud and make certain valuable watering time was not lost due to a stuck drive unit. Getting stuck in the mud meant his pivots could not move through the entire revolution as required to keep on schedule for the crop water requirements.

“My dealer recommended a 4-Wheel Track Drive and 16.9 x 24 tires, and that’s what we bought,” DeLine recalled.

4-Wheel Articulating Track Drive4-Wheel Track Drive
“Those track drives have really worked out well. I’m pretty sure we could cross the Mississippi river with one of these things if we wanted to!”

According to Wade Sikkink, North America Product Sales Manager for Valmont Irrigation, the addition of floatation results in less rutting and, as DeLine experienced, fewer times the equipment gets stuck and therefore, less downtime resulting in the crop receiving water on schedule – when it needs it. Additional wheels provide additional traction. “The three wheel drive option is a first step for growers wanting to increase traction. This option is used all over the country, in a wide variety of applications. It’s the most cost effective option and for many customers, it is a great choice.”

Two more levels of floatation are also available from Valley for those growers with even greater challenges. The 4-Wheel Track Drive provides two additional wheels to the machine, one in front and one in back, with a metal track wrapped around them. “This is an excellent choice for a grower who wants minimum ground pressure and who applies a high amount of water, like a turf farm. Also, in operations where they water constantly like a dairy, where they dispose of a lot of water, these machines are excellent because they rut far, far less,” explained Sikkink.

The second option is the 4-Wheel Articulating Drive, in which the base beam moves and includes the Valley exclusive non-directional tires. Valley is the only manufacturer that offers a 4-Wheel Articulating Track Drive, something that puts them ahead of other brands. This option can be used with or without tracks.

“This is great for growers that have to drive over terraces and similar terrain,” Sikkink advised. “This really increases floatation.”

DeLine has used his 4-Wheel Track Drive for two seasons; 2012 will be his third. He has seen great success with this addition. “It has really taken care of the issues. I would say that at least 95 percent of our problems are gone using the tracks and the tires,” he stated. “These tracks have really made the irrigation more reliable and we don’t have to pull drive units out of the mud. We can put out the water that the crops need without having to worry about getting stuck.”

“In some of our soil types, or in low spots in the field, we used to see it starting to pond. The tires would slip and we’d be in trouble. Now, even where we need to water an inch or more, even where the ground varies, we don’t have to worry. Those tracks really help.” DeLine continued.

For those who want the advantages DeLine has experienced on an existing machine, retrofits are possible according to Sikkink. A change out of the base beam and purchase of additional components needed for the floatation drive are usually all that are required, as the existing drive train components can generally be used.

For those interested in a new machine but not sure if they will want to add floatation options, another option works well. They can purchase the new machine with the three-wheel base only. They can later simply purchase the wheel and drive components. This saves the labor costs of a full retrofit later.

“It has worked so well for us,” DeLine concluded, “we might diversify even more and introduce this into our cotton crops next year.”

Monday, December 17, 2012

USA Rice Conference | by Kelly Downing

Last week was the USA Rice Conference, held this year in San Diego, CA. The turnout was good; it seems San Diego in December is tough to turn down. The weather was great and there was a lot of good information presented. I was happy to be there, and I hope you got the chance to stop by our booth or hear our brief presentation at the Monday morning breakfast session. Unfortunately, I had to leave after the morning presentation on Monday, due to a death in my family.

In case you missed it, I talked briefly about the challenges we faced in 2012, especially with the weather extremes that occurred in North America. I also reported on some of the results our cooperators got. Specifically, one thing that was very helpful was having flooded fields immediately adjacent to pivot fields in all three locations, and we installed flow meters on all the pumps. This allowed us to compare water use between flood and pivot.

Dennis Robison again got good yields, and this year we were able to demonstrate his water savings. His pivot rice yielded the same as his flooded rice, but he only used about 60% of the water. Chad Price achieved 80% of flooded yields, but used about 50% of the water. Jeremy Baltz got 74% of the yield and used only 30% of the water. These results are not what we want (except for Dennis, of course)—we prefer to use a little more water and get higher yields. However, it is good to reinforce what we have seen in other settings.

I also talked briefly about the recent hubbub regarding arsenic in rice. As I mentioned, we sincerely believe that rice grown in the U.S. is absolutely safe to eat. The research study published last spring ( indicated quite emphatically that rice grown under sprinklers has greatly reduced arsenic content, as compared to flooded rice. Much more research is needed, of course, but this is certainly a topic of interest.

As we see how this develops, perhaps a niche market will arise, where pivot-grown rice shows a price premium due to consumer preference. One of our cooperators, Campbell Coxe of Carolina Plantation Rice, is vertically integrated. He grows, processes, packages, and sells his own rice, and he has segregated the pivot rice he grew in 2011 (he only had one pivot, so rotated out of rice on that field this year). It will be interesting to see if this opens any new marketing doors.

Regardless of where all this goes, our focus remains: we want to help producers grow more crops, more profitably, while conserving resources. In the case of rice, we simply want to make sure everyone understands that this is a legitimate, profitable practice. It is not for everyone, but it might be for you—who knows? Regardless of your position, I hope you have a wonderful, blessed Christmas season and a great year in 2013.

Let’s talk again soon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tips to Winterize Your Mechanized Irrigation Equipment

Technician servicing a center pivot
For those growers in the Northern hemisphere, winter is only weeks away!  Before it gets too cold out, or the white precipitation known as snow starts to fall, take the time to winterize your center pivot and linear machines.  Below are some tips that will help you winterize your center pivot or linear.  For more tips and information, contact your local Valley dealer.
  1. Move your center pivot/linear to a different location for the season so that there is a less likely chance of wind or rodent damage.
  2. Close all large openings in the machine to protect against rodents.
  3. Drain water from the pumps (to the lowest point they can hold water), gearbox, and center drive and make sure the gear lubricant is at the proper level.
  4. Fill deep wheel tracks to reduce stress on irrigation, tillage, and harvest equipment.  If your wheel tracks are very deep and becoming a nuisance, consider at this time replacing the machine's wheels for another floatation option.
  5. Inspect and replace worn motor contactors, and lock down power supplies.
  6. Check for broken or worn sprinkler components and replace them if needed.  Take this time to consider a newer sprinkler package that may be more efficient.
  7. Check the pressure in your tires, as well as the overall condition of the tires, and tighten lug bolts.
  8. Flush the span pipe line and clean out the sand trap.
  9. Check for worn U-joints and replace if needed.
  10. Check your flow meter or ask your dealer to measure your actual flow output; adjust as needed.
  11. Based on your findings, it's always good to create a list of items that need worked on for each machine!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Great Arsenic Panic of 2012 | by Kelly Downing

There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about rice, particularly with the release of reports by both the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Consumer Reports magazine concerning arsenic concentrations in rice and rice products. A brief check brings up articles in newspapers (Boston Globe), magazines (Consumer Reports), television (ABC News) and the web (Huffington Post). The studies have elicited widely divergent recommendations. For example, the FDA recommends no changes in rice consumption until more information is available. Consumer Reports, on the other hand, recommends limiting rice consumption, especially for infants and children. 

When we see such widespread coverage, especially given the somewhat hysterical nature of some stories, it is easy to react emotionally. I prefer to take a step back, view the phenomenon through the lens of calm, rational thought, and apply some scientific logic before responding. If you have a few minutes, let’s think about this issue together. 

First, I must admit to being a bit of a contrarian; when I see these stories that imply a grave health risk associated with rice (or any other modern food) consumption, I wonder why life expectancies are increasing, not decreasing, during these times of “industrial food production”. Seriously, I really believe that many of the things we worry about today are concerns simply because of the great advances in scientific testing achieved in the past half century. It is now pretty easy to test for various substances down to the parts-per-million (ppm), parts-per-billion (ppb) and even parts-per-trillion (ppt) levels. As a result, we tend to discover the presence of more and more potentially risky elements in sensitive areas. 

However, I also recognize that just because we did not know something was present, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a serious concern, especially with something as toxic as Arsenic. One problem in assessing the real level of risk posed by arsenic in rice is, there are no established “safe” levels for food products, including rice. Also, there has not been a lot of study done to establish whether arsenic poses a bioaccumulation threat, like lead does, in the human body. 

With all this in mind, I prefer to use some common-sense guidelines. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recommends a limiting inorganic arsenic intake to 15 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per week. With this limit, a 70 kilogram man (155 pounds) would be allowed 1.05 micrograms per week. So, although there can be significant variability, if we think about the average arsenic content of American rice (0.2 ppb), a 155-pound man would be at immediate risk if he consumes more than about four cups of rice per day. Since Americans typically consume much less than this, the risk is probably not extreme, especially in the short term. Personally, I haven’t been at this weight since junior high school, so I have a little more leeway! 

It is also important to discuss how recent research seems to indicate that the arsenic content of rice can be “managed”. Arsenic content in rice is a function of natural soil arsenic content, so the amount accumulated in grain depends to some extent on where it is grown. In addition, flooded conditions cause greater arsenic uptake by crops than aerobic conditions. In fact, a recent research study, performed at the University of Sassari in Italy, found that irrigating rice with sprinklers can reduce arsenic content by about 50 times! Note that this is not 50%, but rather, arsenic content 50 TIMES higher in rice grown under flood. Obviously more research is needed, but this study certainly seems to be well done, and the results are significant. If you are interested, you can find the report here:

Since Americans don’t generally eat very much rice, a more pressing issue in most cases is, how much arsenic is present in the drinking water? The Environmental Working Group has a web site that can help people assess the quality of their drinking water. If you are interested in this, you can try this web site:

I am sure this topic will get more and more attention as time goes on. Public reaction will certainly guide the response, especially as food companies listen to what their customers want. As I have said previously, we are not out to convert all flooded fields to pivots, nor am I interested in disparaging a proven production method like flooding rice. However, under some conditions growers may need new alternatives for growing rice, and pivot irrigation is a viable alternative. These conditions may include expanding into non-traditional soils, adding a new crop to a rotation or, as we are beginning to see, pressure from our customers who may want us to use different management methods to limit arsenic content. 

The key is, we should keep our options (and our minds) open and be prepared to adapt.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Variable Rate Irrigation

Here to Stay, or Just a Fad?

Originally posted in the Spring 2012 issue of PivotPoint.

Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) is touted as one of the latest improvements in irrigation management. From helping growers to use water more efficiently to preventing runoff, VRI has been promoted as an excellent investment. 

But is this just a fad? Jake LaRue, Director of Global Applications and Projects for Valley Irrigation, says this technology is not just a passing fancy, but is here to stay. “No solution that can help manage resources significantly better is a fad. Growers point out benefits that include reducing their yield variability across the field, helping to maximize the value of their limited water supply and even helping to control runoff.” 

According to LaRue, depending on how prescriptions are applied and the goal of the grower, using this technology may increase total yields, optimizing the productivity of the management zones in the field. However, LaRue sees VRI helping growers to maximize more than just yields: it helps to maximize profitability, the end game for every grower. 

“Putting irrigation where it will do the most good, controlling runoff and deep percolation, maximizing the value of seed, fertilizer and other inputs all help drive up profitability,” he explained. 

As for the future of VRI, LaRue advises growers to look at the current use of variable rate fertilization, spraying and seeding. “Variable Rate Irrigation is the next logical step,” he concluded. 

For more articles from PivotPoint, click here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Article on Variable Rate Irrigation

An article was recently published on about Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI).  A Valley customer who currently uses VRI on his operation in Nebraska, USA, was interviewed about using this technology.

In addition to precisely irrigating his fields, the customer stated the following about VRI: “Interestingly enough, variable-rate irrigation appears to be another management tool for controlling white mold,” he says. “By using the VRI in conjunction with moisture probes, we were able to keep the top layer of soil a little dryer so it didn’t accelerate the development of mold spores.”

To read the article in its entirety, please visit

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Drought & Water Permits

Drought and low water level conditions have imposed many challenges to growers throughout the United States, particularly in the state of Texas. Because of these conditions and the resulting water restrictions, many growers who rely on irrigation have not been able to produce a crop this year.

Recently, the Colorado River Authority issued new water permits to rice growers for the 2013 growing season. The permits allow growers to use two feet (or 24”) of water per growing season, which is not enough water for flood irrigators to raise a rice crop. Using traditional flood methods, these growers need at least 40” of water each year. The good news for rice growers is they now have options; a profitable rice crop under a center pivot or linear machine can be produced with that allotted amount – 24”! 

Valley dealer Scott Conover quoted a center pivot for rice production to a grower in Edna, TX. Scott stated that the inquiry was a result of the new Colorado River Authority water permits.

Since 2008, Valley Irrigation has demonstrated new techniques in rice production in more than 40 production rice fields and 20 research sites worldwide. With that expertise and a patented process for growing rice with a center pivot or linear, Valley Irrigation can supply rice growers with the technology needed to produce a profitable rice crop using as little as 50% or less of the amount of water needed to flood irrigate the field.

Monday, October 15, 2012

It's been a few weeks since our last Recipe Card posting!  In light of this autumnal time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, this week's Recipe Card features Wild Rice and Turkey Stew, originally posted by Nif on

photo by wicked cook 46
Yield: 6-8 servings
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 lbs skinless, boneless turkey breasts
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery heart, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

In a slow cooker, combine rice, turkey, onion, and celery. In a separate bowl whisk together broth, flour, garlic, Italian seasoning, and pepper; add to slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 5 hours or until turkey is cooked through and the rice is open.  Serve with fresh parsley. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Harvest Time | by Kelly Downing

It is finally here—harvest season, when all our hard work begins to pay off. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Dean Schieffer’s field. The precise reason for my visit was to remove our soil water sensing equipment from the field, so he can harvest when he is ready. It was a good thing I got there—he cut the rice on Thursday, September 6!

Dean experienced a lot of very challenging conditions and situations this year. His yield was not excellent, but it was a little better than it could have been, considering all the tribulations. Here is a photo of the field from my visit on August 27:

rice field
You can see some major cracks in the soil, indicating extremely dry conditions. Dean experienced some equipment problems very late in the season, which caused his center pivot to get stuck. This means he was unable to water properly during the critical grain-fill period, which really affected his yield. I believe he has finally got the field, pivot, and management system set up to be more successful next year, if he chooses to try again.

Our cooperators in the Delta are in the midst of harvest, as well. Dennis Robison and Chad Price in Missouri harvested their rice last week, with good results. Again, circumstances caused some problems. The remnants of Hurricane Isaac swept through the region the weekend prior to harvest, so they had to deal with lots of lodging problems. They were very happy with their results, especially considering the storm damage. I have yet to see “official” results, but the two primary concerns seem good. First, the yield seems reasonably good. Second, the pivot yields should be very close to the yields in adjacent flooded fields. Jeremy Baltz in Arkansas has stopped irrigation, and should be able to harvest in the next few days.

The other good news is that we were able to demonstrate significant water savings. For these cooperators, we installed flow meters on each pivot and also on the adjacent flooded fields. Comparing pivot rice to its flooded companion, Jeremy saved 65% and Chad saved more than 40%. Dennis also saved more than 40% compared to flood. In addition, he had a field of furrow-irrigated rice (“row rice”), which used more water than either of the other two treatments (almost 40% more water than the flooded field). So, in his case, the pivot actually saved nearly 60% of the water required for furrow irrigation.

I am going to be out for a couple of weeks—a long-awaited vacation with my lovely bride. When I return I hope to have some final data for you, to wrap up this rice season in the Northern Hemisphere. 

I wish you a bountiful crop and safe operations. We will talk again when I get back!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Road Trip | by Kelly Downing

It has been a few weeks since I checked in, so I guess I owe you all a little update. When last we “spoke,” I was planning a visit from two rice researchers from Brazil. The Embrapa researchers arrived in Memphis, TN, on Sunday, August 19. We began our “rice road trip” (after the obligatory pilgrimage to Graceland) at the University of Arkansas’ Rice Research & Extension Center at Stuttgart. There were excellent conversations with both University of Arkansas and USDA (Dale Bumpers Rice Research facility) professionals.

I really enjoyed the entire trip, and this stop was a great example of why. I almost always learn a lot whenever I can manage, and it was a great opportunity to catch some morsels of knowledge as they flew by.

Of course, there were a lot of discussions about traditional rice production methods and problems common to all areas - especially weed control and resistance issues. Of course, with my particular interest, I was very interested in the discussions with the Brazilian researchers regarding the effects of pivot-irrigated rice. Early research indicates that rice grown in unsaturated conditions contains significantly lower amounts of arsenic than flooded rice. I was also fascinated by the research being done by Embrapa on the production of greenhouse gases under the two systems. It seems to me that pivot-grown rice should show a significant advantage in this area, so we will watch these studies in the future.

From there we moved on to the RiceTec facility at Harrisburg, AR, and spent some time with Greg Simpson. Greg is a great person and a very knowledgeable rice guy. Our guests really enjoyed getting to know him (and his wonderful family) and see the operation. Greg is also able, due to his breadth of experience, to discuss common practices and problems in a wide range of conditions and situations.

We visited the rice field of Jeremy Baltz, near Pocahontas, AR. Jeremy had some good-looking rice - almost ready to harvest! This is a shot of the Embrapa visitors at the field:

Embrapa visitors at rice field

Of course, we spent some time with our cooperator Dennis Robison (since he was available), who was still irrigating. Most of his field looks pretty mature, but he is trying to finish up some spots that were not quite ready. One little advantage of pivot rice is he can do this right up to harvest in order to maximize yield and still maintain decent field conditions for harvest. Here is a photo of them with Dennis:

Embrapa visitors with Dennis Robison

We also got the chance to visit a couple of family rice farms and managed to attend the University of Missouri Rice Field Day at the rice research facility near Glennonville. They really do a great job supporting rice producers there, both with this facility and at the Delta Center in Portageville. The presentations were excellent and, unfortunately for my diet, so was the lunch!

We saved the Delta Center for our last professional stop, and had a great meeting with the staff there, including Agronomist Gene Stevens, Engineers Earl Vories and Joe Henggler, and David Dunn, director of the soil analysis lab. The Brazilians gave a brief presentation on the work they are doing, and the Delta Center staff reciprocated. Again, it was a good opportunity for me to learn. 

After this intense week, our friends were scheduled to leave from St. Louis, MO, on Sunday, August 26. We were able to spend a good day there Saturday, visiting “The Arch” and the Missouri Botanical Gardens. It was a real thrill for them to get to the top of the Arch, and it capped off what they classified as an extremely productive, valuable week.

Sometimes, especially in busy times, we tend to think of projects like this as a bother or a distraction. However, seeing how much they valued the opportunity to interact with their U.S. peers and other rice professionals, I was reminded of how valuable this type of exchange can be. It was impossible not to see how much these guests gained personally from the relationships they formed with U.S. researchers, growers, and industry professionals. I assume that there were also some benefits to their hosts—I know I benefitted immensely.

As we enter the heart of the harvest season, I wish you a bountiful crop and safe operations. Let’s talk again soon.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Recipe Card | by Kelly Cackin

photo by Marg (CaymanDesigns)
I've been craving the sweets, as of late (strict wedding diet and all that), and I came across this very tasty-looking recipe that's a twist on the traditional rice cereal treat!  This week's Recipe Card features Latte  Rice Cereal Treats, originally posted by Marg (CaymanDesigns) on

Yield: 26 bars
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes 
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 (10 ounce) package marshmallows
  • 6 cups crisp rice cereal
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips or 1/4 cup candy coating, melted

Melt the butter in a large saucepan on low heat. Add the instant coffee and vanilla, stirring well.  Add the marshmallows; cook until they are completely melted and the mixture is well blended, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Add the cereal; mix well.  Press firmly into greased 13x9 inch pan.  Cool completely.  Cut into bars.  Melt white chocolate chips and drizzle over the bars.  Allow the chocolate to cool and harden.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Circles for Rice Update | by Kelly Downing

What a great day! This could be read a couple of different ways. I could be talking about the Canadian air mass came our way last week, which will finally brought a significant respite to our long, hot summer here in Nebraska. Even more welcome are the increased opportunities for a little rainfall in this parched area.
No, the “great day” to which I refer is the center pivot rice field day we held at Dennis Robison’s farm near Neelyville, Missouri last week. We had a really good turnout— participants including rice professionals, farmers and some international rice growers interested in seeing for themselves how this stuff works. In addition, the weather cooperated; for an August day in southern Missouri, it was remarkably…well, I wouldn’t say “comfortable,” but “not miserable” would certainly apply! It was cool enough in the morning that the presentations (in the shade) were not too hot, and by the time it started to really heat up, we were eating a delicious lunch and getting back into air-conditioned vehicles.
We had a few presentations on various topics, including fertility issues, irrigation scheduling, weed control, and how this fits into the rotation Dennis uses on this field. We also tried to address some common myths that keep people from considering this technology, and answered questions. Two years ago, on this field, Dennis grew 186 bu/ac rice, and the rice this year looks every bit as good as that crop did. We will see how it turns out. Dennis has done another great job this year, and the rice looked wonderful. He estimated three or four weeks to harvest, and he certainly has a lot of rice in his field.
Some of you probably know that there are two Kellys here; the grumpy old man (me) and the bright, talented young woman (Kelly Cackin). The talented one was there, taking photos, so I will leave it to her to supply some photos, video, or other links in a separate post, so you can see a little bit of what went on.
I am back in that neighborhood this week, hosting some rice researchers from the Brazilian research organization Embrapa. We will visit with rice researchers and farmers in Arkansas and Missouri, including another visit to our cooperators’ fields in this area, so I will try to give you another update then. We will visit both flood and pivot fields, so we should get some good information on conditions for both. The Embrapa researchers are active in both flood and pivot rice research, and hope to forge some relationships with their peers here. These professional collaborations can benefit growers in both countries, so it will be good to see how things develop.
As we get closer to harvest, I hope this turns out to be a great year for you; stay cool and be safe. I look forward to talking with you again soon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Circles for Rice Field Day Recap | by Kelly Cackin

John Robison, Valley Irrigation
The Valley Irrigation Circles for Rice team hosted the 4th Annual Circles for Rice Field Day on August 7, 2012, in Neelyville, Missouri, USA.  Rice farmer Dennis Robison hosted a group of 50 people at his rice under center pivot field Tuesday morning.  2012 marks the second year Dennis participated in the Circles for Rice program, 2010 being the first.

Speakers included John Robison (Valley Irrigation, Crop Specialist), Kelly Downing (Valley Irrigation, Ag Specialist), Jerry Gerdes (Valley Irrigation, Water Application Product Manager), Matthew Rhine (University of Missouri Delta Research Center, Research Associate), Marc Cummings (consultant), and Dennis Robison (rice farmer).  Ellot Raffety from Mid-Valley Irrigation also said a few words to open the Field Day.

Presentation topics included:
  • Overview of center pivots and linears
  • History of the Circles for Rice project
  • Pivot Irrigation vs. Flood Irrigation
  • Pivot-Irrigated Rice Myths
  • Machine Requirements
  • Weed Control
  • Irrigation Scheduling
  • Fertility Management
  • Grower's Experience
We at Valley Irrigation would like to thank all of the 2012 Circles for Rice Field Day participants for joining us in Missouri last week!

To register for a license-free copy of the exclusive Valley Irrigation Rice Production Guide, please visit

Friday, August 3, 2012

Recipe Card | by Kelly Cackin

photo by diner524
This week's Recipe Card features Brown Rice Casserole, originally posted by SusanRW on

Yield: 6 servings
Preparation Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 16 minutes 
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 (12 ounce) can beef consomme soup
  • 1 (12 ounce) can French onion soup
Melt butter in microwavable casserole dish.  Add rice, consomme beef, and French onion soups. Cook in microwave for 8 minutes.  Stir and cook for another 8 minutes, or until tender.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Circles for Rice Update | by Kelly Downing

You might recall I had a wedding to attend on July 7. On Monday, July 9, I flew to China for the rest of the month. Among other duties, I met with researchers at Ningxia University, who are working with us to study the implementation of center pivot rice in their province. Like the USA, China is faced with some significant challenges in the water resources arena, and they are keenly interested in finding ways to conserve water use and improve irrigation efficiency.
Fertility problems
My visit to Ningxia began on July 18, with a visit to the center pivot rice field established this spring. I must be blunt: it is a disappointing field. This field has seemed star-crossed from the beginning. There were delays in ordering and, as a result, installing the center pivot, and further delays in getting power and water supplied to it, so planting was delayed. Finally, the farmer temporarily abandoned the idea in favor of just getting the crop in the ground; he planted and flooded the crop as in his typical operation. There have also been problems with weed control and fertility (see photo).
As a result, we do not expect great results at harvest. The crop has not quite reached panicle differentiation, so some of my co-workers stayed a couple of extra days to help install and operate a chemigation unit, to apply some N fertilizer. Also, there was a crew hand-weeding the field (see photo), so nobody has completely given up. Mainly, we are using the problems experienced this year to guide our efforts toward success in 2013.
We did have a good meeting, to discuss what went wrong and begin the process of correcting the problems for next year. I think the take-home lesson here is: seldom do we succeed in our first attempt at anything. That’s why babies start learning to walk while they are still in diapers—it gives them a cushion to land on when they fall during their early attempts! So, we are not too discouraged, because we can learn and improve. However, the caveat is: we MUST learn from our mistakes.
Hand weeding field
It is said that wisdom comes with age. However, that is not necessarily true—I know some people who prove that sometimes age comes alone. So, the burden is on the team to identify and rectify the issues that led to a disappointing result this year. This project is a collaborative effort between the university, the local government and the farmer, so one of their challenges will be to establish an effective, efficient management system to improve performance. The good news is that motivated, intelligent people who work together can accomplish great things.
I have a couple of other things to attend to this week here in China, before heading home. I am helping to host some Brazilian rice researchers the first week of August, in Arkansas and Missouri. I hope to see you at our field day on August 7 near Neelyville, Missouri. 
If you have been reading these postings, introduce yourself!  Have a great week, and watch out for heat stroke!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Recipe Card | by Kelly Cackin

photo by Simply Fresh Cooking
This week's Recipe Card features Mediterranean Chicken and Artichoke Stir Fry, originally posted by Simply Fresh Cooking on

Yield: 4 servings
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes 

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 12-16 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Mixed Italian herbs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaf, julienned
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped


Bring a large pot of water to a boil (about 4-6 quarts). Add rice and boil for 30-40 minutes, or until rice is tender. Drain and set aside. Cut chicken into thin strips. Lightly season on cutting board with italian herbs, salt, and pepper. Mix chicken with tongs until meat is coated evenly with seasonings. In a large non-stick skillet heat 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside. In the same skillet, heat remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add green pepper and saute for 30 seconds; add onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Next, add garlic, lemon juice, and artichoke hearts; cook and stir until artichoke is heated through. Stir in chicken, basil, and parsley. Serve over rice.


Recipe Card | by Kelly Cackin

photo by Simply Fresh Cooking
This week's Recipe Card features Mediterranean Chicken and Artichoke Stir Fry, originally posted by Simply Fresh Cooking on

Yield: 4 servings
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes 

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 12-16 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Mixed Italian herbs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaf, julienned
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped


Bring a large pot of water to a boil (about 4-6 quarts). Add rice and boil for 30-40 minutes, or until rice is tender. Drain and set aside. Cut chicken into thin strips. Lightly season on cutting board with italian herbs, salt, and pepper. Mix chicken with tongs until meat is coated evenly with seasonings. In a large non-stick skillet heat 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside. In the same skillet, heat remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add green pepper and saute for 30 seconds; add onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Next, add garlic, lemon juice, and artichoke hearts; cook and stir until artichoke is heated through. Stir in chicken, basil, and parsley. Serve over rice.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Circles for Rice Update | by Kelly Downing

Hey, everybody. It has been a while since my last update, and even this one is not extremely timely. Things have been a little hectic for me the past couple of weeks, as my lovely bride and I were busy marrying off our youngest, Joe, to the beautiful Katie on July 7. I have to admit, I wondered a bit at their judgment, planning an outdoor wedding in Nebraska in July! Everything went well, except for me fighting off a heat stroke.

Anyway, the preceding week l was able to visit the rice field of our cooperator in Texas, Dean Schieffer.  In general, his rice looked pretty good—vigorous growth and well-tillered. On the West side of the field, there were still some weeds, but this area had just been sprayed. The East side had been sprayed a few days earlier, and it looked much better. I have since heard that the West side also improved dramatically. There was a little leaf burn on the tips of the rice plants, but that was probably due to the herbicide treatment, and is likely not serious.

I was a bit concerned that the soil was so dry, but Dean needed to let it dry a bit so he could get the sprayer through the field. It looked to me like the crop was getting ready to enter its reproductive growth stages, so Dean and I talked about increasing the irrigation frequency, and he seemed ready to do that. I looked at the data from the soil sensors today, and it does appear pretty wet, but that may be due to four inches of rain, as much as anything!

Rice field | TX
At any rate, according to what I saw and what I have since heard from Derrol Grymes of RiceTec, the crop looks good and we are very optimistic. I hope to hear more from Derrol this week, and I will pass along his impressions. I have included a photo to this post, to give you an impression of the field conditions, as of June 28. The most critical thing going forward, now that he has all his fertilizer applied and the weeds under control, is to keep the root zone well-watered as the grain develops.

Currently I am in China—we are working on a couple of projects in Inner Mongolia, and part of my trip will include visiting a rice under center pivot field in Ningxia Province. I will let you know what I see in my next report.

Don’t forget (or, if you hadn’t heard about it, be aware), our Rice under Center Pivot Field Day will be held at Dennis Robison’s farm on Tuesday, August 7. His farm is located near Neelyville, Missouri, virtually on the Arkansas state line South of Poplar Bluff, MO. We will start with my favorite breakfast — doughnuts then have a few speakers through the morning and a free lunch. Go to the to get directions, see the program, and register. Remember, your early registration helps us plan so there is plenty of food (and FABULOUS gifts)!

Let’s talk again soon. Have a safe July, and try to stay cool.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Recipe Card | by Kelly Cackin

fried rice
Last week, my soon-to-be husband and I went to a hibachi grill to celebrate our anniversary.  The fried rice was nothing less than amazing!  So, last night, we decided to try to replicate this popular side dish at home!  The ingredients below are exactly what we used; however, feel free to experiment with different rices and vegetables!

Yield: A other way to put it!
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes

  • 4 cups of RiceTec rice (or other non-instant rice)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 bottle of low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil (or other preferred oil)
  • Water

Cook the rice thoroughly in a very large sauce pan or skillet, as directed on the package. While cooking, finely chop 1 large carrot; set aside.  In a separate skillet, scramble the eggs; set aside. Once the rice is cooked, add the carrot, eggs, soy sauce, and oil.  Simmer for at least 10-15 minutes, to allow the flavors to meld together.  Carrots should be slightly crunchy, but not raw.

What We Paired With It:

Teriyaki chicken,  fresh mango, stir-fried yellow squash and broccoli

Friday, July 13, 2012

Circles for Rice Update | by John Robison

Turn on your speakers!

Hi, John Robison here, at Chad Price's pivot rice location. We're looking at a simple machine here: three drive units, a full-circle, diesel powering, a Classic panel. This is Chad's second year (continuous rice) at this particular location. Last week, we were at green ring, so now we're moving into joint movement, and at this point in the growth, fertility and irrigation are of paramount importance. Chad is doing a fantastic job of staying on top of that, and it really is a beautiful field out here. It's looking really good.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Circles for Rice Update | by John Robison

Robison's field
Dennis Robison’s rice field in Neelyville, Missouri, USA, is still looking great. His Irrometer® WATERMARK (soil moisture monitoring equipment) chart shows poor numbers on his hillside location.  These numbers represent the driest areas of his field. There are a few areas in the field that do show stress before the rest of the field. Since the soil moisture transmitter site does not accurately represent a sizable portion of the field, I will be installing another transmitter this week.

To help combat the soil moisture disparity in the field, I installed Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) Speed Control software on Dennis's Valley Pro2 control panel last week.  With use of the VRI Speed Control, we aim to see more consistency in the field's hillside. With the software update required to use VRI Speed Control, Dennis also acquired Cruise Control™, which will improve the accuracy and ease of management for fertigation and chemigation.

Chad Price's rice field in Arkansas, USA, is experiencing some issues with pigweed. However, the crop still looks good, and should be profitable for Chad.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Recipe Card | by Kelly Cackin

photo by Tasty Tidbits
The second Recipe Card of the week features Spinach Parmesan Rice Bake, originally posted by user Kittencalskitchen.   

Yield: 8 servings
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach (cooked according to the package directions, then hand squeezed dry to remove excess moisture)
  • 2 cups cooked white rice (cooled), or 2 cups brown rice (cooled)
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, or 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese, or 2 cups Swiss cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion or 2 large green onions, chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk or 3/4 cup half-and-half cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • Seasoning salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, for topping
  • Grated mozzarella cheese

Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Generously grease 11 x 7-inch baking dish.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, mixing very well to combine.  Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Bake (uncovered or covered) for 25 minutes, or until set.  Top with mozzarella cheese the last 5 minutes of baking. 

Have you tried this dish?  Give us your review in the Discussion Box below!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Save the Date! 2012 Rice Field Day | by Kelly Cackin

Well, it's that time again!  Valley Irrigation announces the 2012 Circles for Rice Field Day - here is your Save the Date!  This year, the event will be hosted at Dennis Robison's rice field in Neelyville, Missouri, USA.

Date: Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Location: (click to view map) Neelyville, Missouri, USA
  • Registration @ 8:00 AM (breakfast pastries and drinks will be available)
  • Program Begins @ 8:30 AM
  • Lunch On Us! @ Noon
    • Enjoy lunch with the Circles for Rice team and Field Day presenters
RSVP: This Field Day is open to the public, but we do ask that you RSVP by Monday, July 30, 2012, to help us plan Lunch On Us!  RSVP via:
Speakers Include:
  • Dennis Robison | Rice Farmer
  • Kelly Downing | Valley Irrigation
  • John Robison | Valley Irrigation
  • Fred Ferrell | Mid-Valley Irrigation
  • Marc Cummings | Consultant
  • Matt Rhine | University of Missouri Delta Research Center
Presentation Topics:
  • History of Pivot-Irrigated Rice
  • Pivot vs Flood Irrigated Rice
  • Pivot-Irrigated Rice Myths
  • Machine Requirements
  • Weed Control
  • Irrigation Scheduling
  • Fertility Management
  • Comments from the Farmer
  • Question and Answer
Remember to follow @ValleyPivots on Twitter for weekly updates on the rice under center pivot fields! We hope to see you in August!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Recipe Card | by Kelly Cackin

Well, we skipped this segment last week - so, we'll be posting 2 Recipe Cards this week!

One of this week's Recipe Cards features Indian Spiced Rice, originally posted by user Anu.  
Yield: 6 servings
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh gingeroot
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon red chili powder (or, to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/4 cups uncooked basmati rice or jasmine rice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup dry lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 tablespoon butter (optional)
In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, and cook, stirring frequently until they have softened.  Sprinkle in the ginger, garlic, cardamom, nutmeg, red chili powder, and cumin.  Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the rice to the saucepan, and saute the rice with the spices for minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the lentils and salt into the saucepan.  Add 3 cups of water into the pan, stir.  Place the potatoes into the pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil, cover the pan, and turn the heat to low.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Place the bell pepper, peas, and raisins into the saucepan.  Stir well, then cover the pan again.  Cook for 10 minutes more, or until the rice, potatoes, and lentils are cooked.  Stir in the butter, if desired.  Serve hot.  Happy eating!

Once you try this recipe, let us know what you think!  Post your reviews in the Discussion Box below.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Circles for Rice Update | by Kelly Downing

Although I haven’t been able to visit any of our rice cooperators’ fields lately, I have been talking with the folks who have. Derrol Grymes, of RiceTec, visited Dean Schieffer’s farm today, near Bryan, Texas. As we have seen the past couple of weeks, Dean has a little weed pressure; there is a bit of fall panicum, but it is nearing the end of its growth stage, and we expect the rice to out - compete it for the rest of the season. You might remember there was a little bindweed (small-stem morning glory) in the field. They are preparing to apply a tank mix of Stam, Aim, and Storm. This is a bit tricky, since this rice field abuts some other crops, including grain sorghum and cotton. Even with the weed pressure, Derrol likes the look of the rice, so we will continue to monitor progress. 
In the Mid-South, our rice specialist John Robison has been checking fields weekly, and reports that the fields there all look very good. The rice is vigorous and seems to be tillering well. They have had a little rain the past week or two, which helps everybody. 
Dennis Robison and Chad Price, who have grown rice with pivots previously, are well into their irrigation programs, and applying a bit of fertilizer. Jeremy Baltz, as you recall, had a severe sandstorm right after planting (fortunately, prior to emergence), but since then the rice has grown well and looks good. Having a pivot has helped to control blowing sand since that early event, and his crop is growing well.
I don’t know about your part of the country, but this has been a warm, dry spring here in eastern Nebraska. We finally got a nice rain (2” – 3”) this weekend, and now it is in the 90s, so everything is growing fast. My wife’s garden is really producing—she has had bumper crops so far (radishes, lettuce, peas, cabbage) and the later stuff (sweet corn, green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers) is really coming on, too. Unfortunately, the same goes for the grass in the lawn. Normally, out on our farm, we don’t have to mow much in the summer, but this big rain will keep us (okay, her) busy mowing for at least a couple of weeks!
As warm as it has been, I have to remind myself that, technically, summer hasn’t even begun yet! So, as we approach the beginning of the season, I hope your crops are doing well, and your weeds aren’t. Have a great (and safe) summer, and stay in touch.
We will be sure to post photos of the rice under center pivot fields when we can get them. I would also be interested in hearing how things are going with your crops—both flood and pivot-irrigated. How do things look in your neighborhood? Are there any particular problems that are unique this year?