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.