Thursday, April 18, 2013

Getting Ready for 2013 | by Kelly Downing

Isn’t it amazing how our perspective can change in such a short time? A year ago, the final month of winter seemed more like mid-spring. Our growing season started early and that pattern continued through the fall. In eastern Nebraska, our growing season was a full month ahead of “normal” conditions all summer long. Temperatures were abnormally high, and rainfall was frightfully scant, so crops matured earlier. Also, harvest was early and low (for dry land crops, anyway).

This spring isn’t horrible, but it seems like the winter is dragging on forever, when it is probably just a return to a more typical pattern. We are starting to see what we should expect: relatively warm periods intermixed with “regressions” into the 40s and freezing night time temperatures. As I try to remind my wife, it isn’t an unusually long winter, it is just what we should expect during the first month of spring.

It was nice last week to finally get into the field a little bit. I installed flow meters at Jeremy Baltz’s fields, in preparation for the growing season. Jeremy is helping us gather data for our crop insurance project. We will add his 2013 data to the others on file and use them to support an application to provide crop insurance for this production practice. Getting crop insurance coverage for pivot-grown rice has been a topic of interest for several growers. Valley Irrigation has been working with other interested industry partners for several years, and we are hopeful that we can file a successful application by the end of the year.

Flow meter installed on Jeremy's field

Part of this process is collecting some results that compare traditional practices with pivot irrigation. We have had some good luck with paired tests, and Jeremy’s fields will add to that collection. He has a flood field and a pivot field near each other; we will monitor relative yields, water use and other factors, and use these data to support the application. We welcome information like this from others, if you can share it.

The trend we have seen in the recent past continues—corn and soybean prices remain high enough to make those crops preferable to rice, at least for many growers with the flexibility to choose. It seems to the casual observer, though, that this trend is finally beginning to shift. If we really get all the acreage predicted into corn this year, and rice acres continue to shrink, there could be some good opportunities by next year. As usual, I will reserve my final predictions for the 2014 growing season for approximately December 2014!

In the meantime, I hope the weather treats you right, and I hope you have a safe, productive planting season. Stay in touch, and let us know what is going on in your area.

Do you have questions about irrigation rice with center pivots and linears? Click on the Comments link below to leave us your question!

Kelly Downing
Global Irrigation Specialist

Kelly, Nebraska-based Irrigation Specialist, spent 10 years working on soil and water research projects for a major agricultural university, involving a variety of crops. His work focused on irrigation management, but also included other topics. 
Since joining Valley Irrigation, he has worked in the fields of Service, Product Management, Product Reliability and Sales. Kelly focuses on developing projects in irrigation field management and providing recommendations for the Circles for Rice project. Kelly has traveled to several countries providing technical support, such as soil moisture monitoring and irrigation management training.