Monday, July 29, 2013

Smart Irrigation Month | by Kelly Downing

July has been Smart Irrigation Month. I don’t know about you, but I completely missed all of the parades, fireworks displays, and benefit concerts in its honor. I didn’t even see the telethon. Like most of you, I was too busy trying to irrigate efficiently! 

No, this observation gets lost in everything else going on in our busy world. There is value in thinking about the concept, however. Often we get so wrapped up in keeping up with the day-to-day challenges of our operations that we get a little tunnel vision. It is easy to focus so intently on the critical, immediate issues in front of us that we temporarily forget about larger, more general topics. 

The current drought conditions faced by farmers in many areas of the U.S. provide a constant reminder that “smart irrigation” is not just a catchy phrase or a “cause of the day.” It is becoming increasingly obvious that this is, and will be, a critical concept for the future of agriculture. Not just in western states, where the climate is arid, and not just in “traditional” irrigation areas. 

Competition for water continues to increase. Not just competition between farmers; not just competition between states; not just competition between agriculture and industry; not just competition between agriculture and domestic or urban users (irrigating vs. drinking water). We increasingly see competition between agriculture and environmental interests, in the interest of protecting wildlife habitat, endangered or at-risk animal and plant populations. There is also increasing interest in how farm practices hundreds of miles away influence coastal and marine environments, like Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. 

This competition is not limited to volume of water used, either. Protecting and improving water quality is more important now than ever. Water quality will continue to be a hot topic in our cultural, political, regulatory and economic discussions. Let us not forget that quality is a broad term. It can include physical (temperature, particle transport) as well as chemical (nutrient content, pesticides in solution) components. 

All of these issues, especially combined with the constant pressure to increase food production and maintain profitability, make it imperative to find and implement the “smartest” irrigation practices possible. We need to work to increase both effectiveness and efficiency of irrigation. To me, “effectiveness” means that we apply every ounce of water the crop needs to achieve our goals, in the correct amounts and at the correct times. “Efficiency” means we apply not an ounce more than that, with the minimum possible energy, labor and cost. 

I mention all these things not to create alarm, but to spur thought and discussion. I think the great majority of producers are conscientious about all these issues, and good managers include them in their systems as a matter of course. I also think we would all be better served if we keep the discussions among stakeholders (ag, municipal, industrial, environmental) to a reasoned, rational tone, with everyone committed to working together. Sometimes we forget this part. 
Jeremy Baltz's rice field

Of course you knew this would come up eventually, but here it is: one way we are trying to “increase our irrigation IQ” is with our Circles for Rice project. Last week, I had the chance to stop by Jeremy Baltz’s field in Arkansas. His pivot rice looks quite good so far, while he has applied just about half of the water used on a nearby flood field. It will be exciting to see how the rest of the season goes, as we continue to study this “smart irrigation” practice. 

You probably remember the old joke: “It’s hard to remember that your original goal was to drain the swamp when you are up to your {rear end} in alligators.” That is analogous to the situation we often find ourselves in: our goal is to increase efficiency, effectiveness, and profit, but our immediate concern is keeping the crop going and meeting the day-to-day pressures of farming. So, as you fight off the daily “alligators,” try to grab an occasional bucket of swamp water and throw it over your shoulder! 

I will be at the field days hosted by RiceTec, in Harrisonburg, and the University of Arkansas, in Stuttgart, next week. I hope to see you there. Stay safe!

For more smart irrigation tips, visit

Kelly Downing
International Ag Project Specialist

Kelly, a 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.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Valley - The Best Value

Originally published in PivotPoint Spring 2011.

Valley Precision Corner®

Valley 8000 series Center Pivot

Valley dealer troubleshooting control panel
Growers are famous for being shrewd consumers. With every dollar hard earned from real, physical labor, they’re not going to waste it. The bottom line is value. Growers find that value in a variety of ways when they invest in Valley® equipment. That’s made Valley the leader in center pivot and linear irrigation, and their products the first choice of growers all across the country.

According to Brad Johnson, owner of BRJ Farms near Holdrege, Nebraska, the durability and reliability of a Valley is what gives him peace of mind. With a large number of soybean, corn, and seed corn acres, Johnson knows the vital role reliable irrigation equipment plays. “I’ve been around pivots for a long time, and I’ve chosen Valley center pivots for almost all of my ground. My father and I both trust Valley because we just don’t have breakdowns. We just don’t. These are long-lasting pivots and they’re made well,” he shared.

Johnson understands value. Valley center pivots are engineered, constructed, and field-tested to handle growers’ varying and challenging operating conditions. They are known to have the most durable structure in the market place and have a longer life span than other product brands proven by independent tests. Finally, they command the highest resale value.

Brad’s Valley dealer, Central Valley Irrigation in Holdrege, Nebraska, likes to show growers in his area that the value of Valley machines starts from the ground up. “I like to take growers out to the manufacturing facility about an hour away from us. They see that these structures are made in an environment that is clean and professional. They see the steel when it comes out on a trailer. This is where it starts. Valley is committed to building things right, and that’s where durability begins.” He also shows growers who visit his dealership the stress tests that Valley has published on their structures. “When we talk about the durability of our structures, it’s important that they see the stress tests that have been done to prove the value of this. Valmont Irrigation really invests in these structures.”

Chuck Messersmith of Western Valley Irrigation in Alliance, Nebraska, believes the structural integrity of Valley machines is key. “The overall structure and the strength in engineering in the physical structure of Valley machines are a big part of the value for growers,” he explained.

Messersmith also pointed out that the clean lines and integrity of the span design is also an important detail he points out to growers. “The shape of the pipeline itself, the crown, shows a superior design. The structure is supported uniformly and the stress is more evenly distributed. When customers want to know why Valley machines have a longer life than other machines, I tell them that this is part of the reason behind that long life span.”

Custom-designed pipes and trussing, along with forged truss rods with a larger root radius and head diameter add to this strength – and to the long term value of Valley machines. Welded sprinkler outlets provide the most durable option when compared to other methods and also protect against a loss of water pressure, vital to precision water applications.

Well-made tower control boxes are another feature that adds value to Valley equipment. The main base component of the control box is made of steel rather than plastic. Other machine brands use plastic. All switches and control mechanisms are mounted on steel in Valley tower control boxes., and that increases the tolerance for clearance in the moving parts. The steel helps keep the alignment where it should be and is more durable.

The Valley gearbox is the pinnacle of the Valley drive train and yet another feature that proves industry leadership. It is designed and manufactured at Valmont Irrigation’s manufacturing facility in Valley, Nebraska, so that quality can be ensured. Messersmith, of Western Valley Irrigation, says “The truth about the gearbox is that you don’t have to sell it to growers – they already know that Valley gearboxes are better. They already know the difference!”

Finally, legendary Valley service is a big part of the overall value of a Valley machine to growers, according to Johnson of BRJ Farms. “Service is a huge one for me. The response time from my Valley dealer, Central Valley Irrigation, is amazing. They are there within an hour. It is fixed correctly the first time. The winter program is also awesome. They went through each pivot of mine last year and I went without any service calls during the irrigation season. They are just dependable – the machines and the company.”

Valley dealers are known to have a true caring for their customers. “Our customers are not just somebody we hope will buy something from us, but someone we can work with hand in hand to make irrigation work,” added Messersmith of Western Valley Irrigation.

For more information on Valley equipment, visit

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sprinkler Models for Center Pivots and Linears

Originally posted January 2011.

There are two types of sprinkler models used for center pivot and linear equipment: fixed spray and rotating spray. Both sprinkler types have a wear plate mounted directly below the nozzle (orifice), which discharges the water and creates a 360° water pattern. Fixed sprays have no moving parts because the wear plate is fixed. A rotating spray wear plate rotates either fast or slow, depending on the sprinkler model.

Water Patterns and Runoff

Rotating sprays produce a large wetted diameter (50' to 70') that creates a low-intensity water pattern; this is a major advantage of rotating sprays. This type of sprinkler works very well on medium to heavy soil types and reduces water runoff. Fixed sprays have a wetted diameter of 15' to 40'. This type of sprinkler works well on light soils where runoff may not be a big issue.

Plate Design

There are a variety of plate designs available to you that can very the droplet size of the water pattern; various designs are available for both rotating and fixed sprinkler types. By selecting a plate that produces smaller water droplets, you can also reduce the water pattern intensity. Smaller water droplets can easily lead to lower application efficiencies from evaporation and wind drift losses. Please note that climate conditions must be considered in the plate selection.

Fixed spray and rotating spray sprinklers are designed to operate at a low pressure in order to minimize energy (pumping) costs. Design operating pressure for fixed sprays is 6 to 30 PSI and pressure for rotating sprays is 10 to 30 PSI.

Learn more about sprinklers and other water application technology for center pivots and linears on!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Circles of Green in the Toasty Northwest | by Jill Zwiener

A couple weeks ago, I had the chance to visit Washington state and Oregon. The toasty 105° temps kept me warm and the green circles from the Valley® center pivots that were seen in almost every direction kept me smiling! It made me think of our billboard on Highway 275 just outside Valley, NE, which reads, “This is Valley Country.” There were Valley machines everywhere! These growers in the Northwest sure know what they’re doing!
Valley pivot with Precision Corner arm
We met with over 15 growers, and there was one thing they all had in common – their love for Valley. There were two products in particular that they raved about….VRI (Variable Rate Irrigation) and BaseStation (remote monitoring and control of center pivots). When discussing BaseStation, we heard the same message over and over….“Now that I have it, I’ll never go back!”
Grower using Valley BaseStation 
We saw a variety of crops – potatoes, wheat, corn, alfalfa, beans, onions, rhubarb, asparagus, radish, and grass seed. The variety of crops and the varying landscape were fun to see.

If you’re ever in the Pasco, WA, area, you need to stop by the Country Mercantile for a little pit stop. It’s definitely my kind of place! They have homemade ice cream, chocolates, fresh fruit and canned/jarred goodies. And, my favorite part had to be the free salsa samples! If only I wasn’t getting on a plane the next day I would have bought a few tubs of it to enjoy! But don’t worry…I didn’t leave hungry. I had a monster ice cream shake which I couldn’t even finish…now, if you know me, that’s a rarity!
The best chocolate shake EVER!
Fun fact: 
Workers in the area harvest asparagus by hand. They use a knife, cut the spear, and fill their buckets with the superfood. They often work in the dark hours of the early morning to beat the heat.

Grower picking asparagus

Jill Zwiener
Brand Manager

Jill joined the Valley Irrigation team in 2011. She loves country music, fountain soda, food, college football, and the ski slopes of Colorado. She enjoys using photography to freeze the precious bits of time with her family into pictures that she can cherish for years.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On Location: Grower Trip to Washington | by Michelle Stolte

Greetings from lovely, steamy Pasco, WA. Last week, my co-worker, Jill, and I were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit the Pasco area to check out various fields, talk with growers, and see the different irrigation equipment in use in the Northwest. I am happy to say that many growers in this part of the country have realized the value and potential of center pivot irrigation and are using this equipment to make their operations as profitable as possible. As for our Valley® customers, besides being amazingly hospitable, they are very progressive, adopting the use of Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) and the BaseStation remote management tool. 

I periodically get to travel to farm fields in different parts of the USA (even to fields in a select few countries), but I have never seen anything like what I saw on this trip. The diversity of crops is extremely impressive, with crops varying from onions to mint to asparagus to lavender. I don’t remember the last time I had to constantly ask “And what is that crop?” Coming from Nebraska, you learn to recognize corn and soybeans pretty quickly, but not a whole lot more. 

I have also come to realize that maybe I am becoming a bit of an agriculture geek, because I think the scenery out here is absolutely beautiful. This area of Washington is very dry, averaging 5-7 inches (130-180 mm) of rain a year, but when you look out at the hills and see green circles in a sea of dry, brown land, it is a beautiful sight (pictured above). And unlike the majority of Nebraska, these circles are NOT on flat ground. The terrain is rolling, so you may only see half of the circles coming down the front side of the hill while the other half is on the back side. If you have ever see Salvador Dali’s painting “The Persistence of Memory,” which features melting clocks, that is exactly what the center pivot circles out here reminded me of. This picture isn’t the best as the triple digit temperatures created a bit of a haze, but hopefully you can at least get the idea. 

Many thanks to our tour guides, Shane Shiplet and Jonah Lindeman, as well as to our local dealer, Valmont Northwest. This has been a great, educational experience for me!

Michelle Stolte
Global Marketing Manager

Michelle has been at Valley Irrigation for over 10 years and is finally no longer a newbie! She has spent her entire time at Valley in the Marketing Department (international and domestic) and loves every minute of it. Michelle enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband. She also likes reading, swing dancing (although she isn't really that good...), and warm weather.

Monday, July 8, 2013

On Location: DropSpan Photo Shoot in Nebraska | by Brooke Stover

Heli-Cam taking off!

Look out! Valley® has jumped on the bandwagon and is using drones to take photos and videos!

Last week, I worked with Don Fiedler of Sky Heli-Cam to snap some aerial images of an installed Valley DropSpan™ in Nebraska. Don built the “drone” himself and uses an attached camera to take aerial photos and videos; his Heli-Cam can fly over 400 feet above the field, which is quite the site to see! While Don drove the drone, I watched the footage on a monitor to make sure we got various angles of the machine.

It was a perfect morning to be out in Nebraska (57° on July 1 - can't go wrong!). I felt a little guilty about the perfect weather while coworkers Michelle and Jill experienced 100°+ weather in Washington on the same day!

Check out our Facebook page for more images from this photo shoot.

Brooke Stover
Global Marketing Coordinator

Brooke has been with the Valley Irrigation Global Marketing department since 2011. She spends her free time taking pottery classes; though she thoroughly enjoys this, most of her stuff is a bit lopsided. Brooke also loves to read and listen to Frank Sinatra. She enjoys traveling and has been to 11 countries with the goal to make it to six more in the next six years!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

2013 Valley Field Days | by Kelly Cox

In years past, we have hosted field days dedicated to rice production under center pivots and linears. This summer, we are expanding the focus of our field days to include sessions on other crops and irrigation equipment! Below are the our field day dates, locations, and topics.

Friday, July 26 | Ames, NE

Time: 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Location: Taylor Farms | 1969 Country Rd 14 Blvd | Ames, NE 68621
Topic: Corn and Soybeans

Monday, August 26 | Fair Oaks, IN

Time: 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Location: Fair Oaks Dairy | 856 N 600 East | Fair Oaks, IN 47943
Topic: Wastewater Management

Monday, September 9 | Minden, NE

Time: 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Location: CSS Farms | 2016 32 Road | Minden, NE 68959
Topic: Vegetables and Potatoes

For a list of presentation topics and speakers, and to register for one or all of the field days, visit

We look forward to seeing you this summer!

Kelly Cox
Global Digital Marketing Manager

Kelly joined the Valley Irrigation Global Marketing Department in 2008. Her love of all things geek (steampunk furniture, anime, Doctor Who, and science fiction/fantasy literature, just to name a few) helped shape her appreciation for technology and the web. Kelly is a newlywed and new homeowner, where she shares her geekery with her husband and cat Kiba. She considers herself a wine connoisseur (though, 3 buck Chuck is delicious!) and has a love of painting, dance, and singing.