Thursday, October 31, 2013

Celebrating Halloween, Valley Style | by Shannon Peterson

The Valley® marketing team is divided. Half of us LOVE Halloween, the other half, “meh, take it or leave it.” 

So, the Halloween enthusiasts decided to pump a little spirit into Valley Irrigation with a pumpkin-carving contest. The contest asked employees to send in a photo of their carved or decorated pumpkin or local produce. (Local produce? You’re wondering, ‘What on earth?’ We wanted to open the contest up to our international colleagues who may not celebrate Halloween. Truth be told, we didn’t get a lot of decorated produce entries.) There were three categories: most creative, scariest, and Valley-themed.

After we launched our contest, I noticed several similar competitions on Twitter, including the National FFA and the University of Minnesota. Maybe next year we’ll open the contest up to our dealers and customers. I just know that someone out there possesses the artistic skills to carve a pivot on a pumpkin.

This year, we didn’t get nearly the volume of entries we anticipated. But that’s OK because some of the submissions we did get are pretty amazing.

Here are some of the Valley-themed entries. Enjoy! 

Visit our Facebook page to see the creative and scary pumpkins.

Meanwhile, for those who were wondering, the USDA reported that there were plenty of pumpkins available for carvers this year, although crop conditions varied by region. “Wet spring weather, followed by a hot dry summer, had a negative impact on pumpkin volume in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Conditions in the Midwest and Western United States were much more favorable, and growers are reporting good quality and good size for their pumpkins.” (Thanks to the USDA Economic Research Service for the pumpkin report quoted here).

Have a safe and happy Halloween.

Shannon Peterson
Marketing Content Editor

Shannon joined Valley Irrigation in 2013. She enjoys traveling with her family, particularly to national parks, and she occasionally writes about her travels for Home & Away magazine. Shannon also likes reading, trying new restaurants, seeing movies, and watching Husker football and Creighton basketball. However, she and her husband spend most of their free time chauffeuring their teenage son to activities and chasing their baby daughter.

Monday, October 28, 2013

It's Time to Evaluate Your Sprinkler Package | by Jerry Gerdes

Plugged sprinkler
For most farmers, the irrigation season has ended and harvest is in full swing. Farmers are working hard to get their crops in the bin. For center pivot irrigators, a well-maintained sprinkler package will ensure maximum crop yields and full bins after harvest.

Like all farm equipment, sprinkler packages need to be inspected each year to maintain performance.  It’s best to do the inspection after harvest or in the spring before planting the next crop. There are several key steps that should be performed.
  1. Obtain the sprinkler package report containing the location of the sprinklers and pressure regulators on the center pivot.
  2. Using the sprinkler package report, verify that each sprinkler location on the pivot matches the location in the report and contains the correct sprinkler, pressure regulator, and drop components.
  3. Replace broken or missing sprinkler package components with the correct items per the sprinkler package report.
  4. Once the sprinkler package components are verified as correct, pressurize the machine with water. Verify that the pressure gauge at the pivot point matches the sprinkler package design pivot pressure.
  5. Plugged pressure regulator
  6. Visually inspect all sprinklers for consistent and uniform water pattern performance.  Disassemble sprinklers with poor water patterns and check for plugging and defective sprinkler components.
Often I’m asked how long will sprinklers last.  The life of sprinkler components will depend on the quality of the irrigation water.  Irrigation water with gritty or abrasive material will shorten the life of sprinklers compared to clean irrigation water.  A general rule is that 10,000 hours of operation is the point where a sprinkler package performance could begin to degrade and reduce crop yields.

Uniform water pattern

Jerry Gerdes
Product Manager - Water Application

Jerry, Nebraska-based Water Application Product Manager, contributes years of experience from his time working for a sprinkler manufacturer prior to joining Valley Irrigation. Currently working with different sprinkler manufacturers, Jerry develops the recommendations for the optimum water application package for a grower's operation.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Striving to Help Africa’s Small Farmers | by Shannon Peterson

It’s hard to deny that the effects of center pivot irrigation have been revolutionary. Nowhere is that more visible than in the United States where widespread conversion to center pivot irrigation has transformed agriculture and the landscape.  By using mechanized irrigation equipment, U.S. growers increased their revenue and their crop yields. Farmers grow more food with less water while being released from the drudgery of conventional irrigation methods and putting their labor to better use.

On a global scale, aggressive investments in irrigation, hybrid seeds, and fertilizer during the past 50 years have brought famine and poverty under control in Latin America, China, and South Asia. Yet most of Sub-Saharan Africa has made little progress during this same time period.  Limited investment in technology and infrastructure resulted in limited commercial farming in the region. 

Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 90 percent of the farmers are subsistence farmers. They spend half their annual incomes on food, leaving little money for education, health, and housing needs. (In contrast, only 6 percent of U.S. annual household income is spent on food). 

An exception is South Africa where Valley® introduced center pivots in the 1970s. In South Africa, pivots are used primarily by medium and large commercial farmers, who have experienced tremendous success. The same drivers of this success can serve as a model for small growers, and Valley Irrigation is working to develop a model of shared pivots for smallholder farmers.

Many African smallholder farmers remain poor because they depend on unreliable rainfall, making them vulnerable to drought and climate change. Although these disadvantages could be completely eliminated by irrigation, center pivots are often cited as too expensive for Africa’s farmers. 

However, if small farmers share a center pivot, the cost drops dramatically. Figures 1 and 2 demonstrate the dramatic reduction in cost of a center pivot once the radius of the field exceeds 300 meters.
Figure 1

Figure 2
An association of smallholder farmers, or a large commercial producer serving as an irrigation and crop marketing provider, can own and operate the center pivot in cooperation with the smallholder farmers. This approach puts precise, efficient irrigation technology into the hands of small farmers, and the impact on farm production is dramatic because water is available where and when the crop requires it.  

Widespread use of this model could turn subsistence farmers into profitable commercial farmers by increasing yield and empowering farm workers. That's Valley, leading the way and feeding the world! 

Shannon Peterson
Marketing Content Editor

Shannon joined Valley Irrigation in 2013. She enjoys traveling with her family, particularly to national parks, and she occasionally writes about her travels for Home & Away magazine. Shannon also likes reading, trying new restaurants, seeing movies, and watching Husker football and Creighton basketball. However, she and her husband spend most of their free time chauffeuring their teenage son to activities and chasing their baby daughter.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Kickin’ It Down South at Sunbelt Ag Expo | by Kelly Cox

Taken outside during the Southern boil

In the chicken booth

At sunrise
I love the South. I just do, and I always have. Great food, great landscape, great people. In fact, the South is the only place on this planet where I am OK with being called “ma’am” (people in all other places can only “ma’am” me when I’m either 30 or a mother, whichever comes first).

Though I’ve spent plenty of time down South in my lifetime, last week was my first visit to Moultrie, GA. It was also my first time trying boiled peanuts (…very salty experience…), my first time eating dinner at a Southern boil, and my first time attending the Sunbelt Ag Expo.

Now, I didn’t know what to expect at this farm show, since it was my first time attending. But, I’ve got to say, I had an absolute whirlwind of a time! It was hot (90 degrees, humid), but it was preferable to what my husband described as “stupidly cold” back home in Omaha, NE (I even returned home with a suntan – who else in Nebraska can say that in mid-October?).

Three things stand out to me about this farm show:
  1. Our dealers who attended the show were among the most hospitable people I’ve ever met. Thank you all for showing a Mid-Western girl how a farm show is done in the South!
  2. There was food everywhere, ranging from homemade ice cream to pulled pork to (you guessed it) boiled peanuts.
  3. Chickens, chickens, and more chickens. I found a booth showcasing various kinds of chickens, and, I must say, I’ve never been that close to a live chicken! To be honest, I think chickens are awesomely lurky and I took a ton of pictures.
A surprise from this show was the beautiful Valley® Precision Corner® on cotton just outside the show grounds. One early morning, a few of us got up early and took some photos of the field with the sun rising behind it – what an awesome, yet peaceful, impromptu photo shoot!

For those of you who attended one of our farm show booths this year in California, Kentucky, Illinois, Nebraska, or Georgia – thank you. Thank you for visiting us. Thank you for supporting center pivot irrigation. And thank you for feeding the world.

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.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Harvesting Pride – from the seat of a combine | by Brooke Stover

Grandpa's $1,700 tractor
Harvesting corn
Grandpa Gene
Autumn is signified to me by many things: the changing of the leaves from green to shades of orange and red; the sun starts coming out a little later (making it a bit more difficult for some of us to get out of bed – not me of course, but some); and (something I have come to appreciate) the caravan of combines combing the fields of rural Nebraska.

I was asked to write about the harvest, which I don’t know too much about, but I did know who to ask. So I visited my grandparents farm just east of Fremont, NE. As I drove down the gravel roads through clouds of dust with my camera and list of questions, I thought I knew what answers I was going to get and exactly what I was going to learn. I was both wrong and right, as usual. (I will most likely never admit to that again, so take note.)

After I arrived, I sat down at the kitchen table with my grandparents, and they told me how farming has changed. Their first tractor cost $1,700 and fuel could be purchased for 30 cents a gallon! They told me that, once upon a time, both weeds and crops were picked by hand. I, of course, teased them for that – a lot of horse and buggy jokes ensued, followed by a few about running water. But, all jokes aside, I am proud of where my grandparents started and where they are now. 

So, I was there to ask questions and take some pictures, but then my grandpa asked if I wanted to combine with him. Of course I did – I hadn’t been in a combine since I was eight! 

As we made our way up and down the rows, I could see why my grandfather enjoys farming so much. You can look right behind you and see what you have accomplished. You can see the corn as it flows from the combine to the truck, then look back out at the field and see what’s left.

On the way down row two, my grandfather said, “Grandma asks me when I am going to stop farming.” My grandfather is 76-years-young (he looks, maybe, a day older than 60). “And I told her, why would I quit now when farming is becoming easier?” Smart guy. Then he showed me all the buttons on his combine and told me that GPS could run the combine for him, if he wanted it to.

By the end of the day, I did, in fact, learn something I already knew – that farming has become easier. But I also learned something I didn’t exactly know – the joys of farming and the pride a grower deserves to feel about what he can accomplish on the land he owns. Those are the same reasons I am proud to work at Valley®. We provide products like BaseStation and TrackNET™, which make the grueling and time-consuming tasks of farming just a little bit easier, a little bit more manageable, and a lot more precise, while instilling pride in every grower who calls farming his occupation.

As for my grandfather, well, he’s probably never going to quit farming. Sorry grandma.

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!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Agriculture in Autumn and International Intrigue | by Kelly Downing

Ah, fall. This is my favorite season. The weather cools down, the humidity drops, and conditions tend to be very comfortable. And there is football (American style)! 

As I watch my wife finish her garden activities (from a safe, non-involved distance, of course) and I see the combines roar through the fields sucking in crops and dispensing chaff, it hits me. One of the big reasons I enjoy autumn so much is the feeling of accomplishment we get in agriculture. It really does create a warm feeling for me, seeing the harvest hit the bin after the long growing season of work, and worry. So, I get a good feeling whenever I stand in front of the (literally) hundreds of jars of bounty in my basement, canned by my wife from her garden. 

But, back to reality. I was asked to write about our international efforts. As this hits our website, I will be in Senegal, Africa, visiting a pivot rice project. The farm is just beginning its second crop. The first crop, planted this spring and harvested in August, was definitely a learning experience. 

One of the lessons learned was the importance of adequate weed control. The growers planted into virgin desert soil, where there seemed to be little or no native vegetation. So, it was a little surprising how many weeds grew. The growers also had to work around some limitations in available herbicides. Here is a photo of some weed issues they faced:

This was a major problem, of course, and yields were very poor. However, the growers are committed to making it work, so they formed a relationship with the research team from the University of Missouri’s Delta Center that has been working with them—via regular conference calls—to improve their results. 

The “intrigue” comes, of course, from wondering how things will go in the second crop. While they are still battling the same issues all farmers face, it seems that the relationship with the Delta Center researchers has been beneficial. Early reports are better this time, so I am confident that the second crop will show improvement. 

The important thing, as we all know, is the process. There might be a lucky few who find success immediately, but nobody does their best work the first time they try something. So, the key lesson here is to keep trying, learn constantly, and put those experiences to work. 

I will report later on how things are going, and what I see there. I encourage you to stay in touch with us as well. Tell us how your harvest is going. 

And, remember to be safe. Get adequate rest and make sure your equipment is in good shape. I know things are hectic right now, and everyone is trying to finish. Just don’t cut safety corners to save a few minutes. We need you all out there next year, too!

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, October 10, 2013

Pump Connect Simplifies Pivot Operation | by Wade Sikkink

New technology and improved farm equipment would seem to have made a farmer’s job easier, but the reality is that it’s just changed what farmers have to do. Farming is still a hard job. There are so many things vying for a farmer’s time that he needs to use these new technology products just to keep up.

Because fewer and fewer growers are farming more and more acres, today’s farmer has to become an expert not only in his crops, but in the technology and automation necessary to make a modern farm successful.

For example, a typical farmer today could be farming 2,000 acres essentially by himself. If his farm is irrigated, that means he’s keeping track of 12 to 15 center pivots and the pumps that supply those pivots. If those pivots and pumps are checked a couple times a day, that could be more than 50 separate stops during the farmer’s day. Yikes! Automating some of that work can make a huge difference in the amount of time a farmer has available in any given day.
Pump Connect

Valley® Irrigation has been a leader in remote control and monitoring of center pivot irrigation equipment for decades. With products like Valley Basestation and TrackNet™, farmers can fully control and monitor their pivots remotely. Now, Valley Water Management is introducing Pump Connect™ to automate the operation of pumps supplying center pivots and other irrigation equipment.

Pump Connect is radio system that wirelessly connects a center pivot control panel to a pump control panel. When installed, Pump Connect will remotely start a pump when the center pivot calls for water. Now, all a grower has to do is go to his pivot , start the machine with “Water On,” and the pump will start automatically, saving the grower a trip to the pump site. If the pivot shuts off for any reason, such as “Stop-in-Slot” or a safety shutdown, the pump will stop automatically.

Here’s an experience a grower in Georgia recently had with Pump Connect. The grower stopped by the field to check his pivot, which was running fine. Twelve hours later, he stopped by again and the machine was stopped. About an hour after his first stop, one of the towers had gotten stuck in a wheel rut and the machine shut down. Pump Connect shut off the well when the pivot shut down. The grower was quick to point out that without Pump Connect, the well would have continued to run for the next 10 hours with the pivot not moving, making a huge mess!

Pump Connect is available for a variety of pivot/pump combinations. Not only can you wirelessly connect one pivot to one pump, but with the Multi versions of the product, you can connect a single well to multiple pivots, or multiple wells to a single pivot. In Texas, we have farmers using Pump Connect to control multiple wells pumps that feed a ditch to supply a linear. Pump Connect also can be used on engine-driven pumps to shut the pump down when the pivot shuts down.

Farmers today are as busy as ever, even with the advent of new time-saving technology. Pump Connect gives growers an easy, affordable way to automate the operation of the pumps that supply their pivots and provide them with peace of mind when the pivot shuts down. 

For more information on the new Pump Connect from Valley Water Management, contact your local Valley dealer, or visit

Wade Sikkink
Director - Valley Water Management

Wade joined Valley Irrigation in 2008 as a Product Manager. He has spent a lot of time in the field working with dealers and growers on developing new products. In 2012, Wade changed roles to lead a new division within Valley Irrigation focused on pumping systems for center pivots called Valley Water Management. 

When he’s not working, Wade enjoys hunting, fishing, and spending time with his wife and three children on their acreage in rural Nebraska.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Proof Positive Span Cable…Proof Will Put Thieves Behind Bars | by Julie Bushell

Over the past several years, I’ve been particularly frustrated by an issue that needs to be stopped, not just on principle, but for the integrity of crops and the agricultural market: span cable theft.

The countless stories of lost crops, pivot damage, lack of evidence, and no prosecutions spurred in me a sense of responsibility to take action. How can we not just deter theft but put thieves behind bars? ………. Proof!

And proof is the answer! In November 2012, Paige® Electric Company and Southwire® introduced Proof Positive® Span Cable. This cable is manufactured with a marker tape containing TraceID codes unique to every three inches. These codes are registered in an online database ( upon purchase and can be traced back to their rightful owner. The database provides 24/7 accessibility to scrap dealers and law enforcement, allowing for immediate proof of ownership and prosecution. Proof Positive has a distinguishing bright yellow jacket that sets it apart from standard black span cable and also serves as a deterrent.

Proof Positive Span Cable’s first birthday is approaching, and we have much to celebrate. The Institute of Scrap Recyclers Industries (ISRI) has become one of Proof Positive’s biggest fans. ISRI requests that scrap dealers around the nation participate in the End Copper Theft™ campaign, which offers marketing dollars and free publicity every time a prosecution is successful. Schnitzer, the nation’s largest metal recycler, also has publicly announced its support of Proof Positive technology and was instrumental in arrests in Georgia. Insurers are excited about the product and may issue a premium discount if it is installed on a pivot. Brownfield Ag News featured Proof Positive span cable in a news story and aired it nationally through the radio waves.

As we all know, stopping an epidemic like theft requires a group effort, and a group effort it has been. The support for Proof Positive has been overwhelming and incredibly inspiring. I look forward to countless prosecutions and the eradication of theft in an industry that I love and am proud of: agriculture.

Valley® Irrigation is doing its part to End Copper Theft and protect crops as the only center pivot irrigation manufacturer currently offering Proof Positive Cable Span to its dealer network. So contact your local Valley dealer today, or watch the Valley Proof Positive video, to learn more!

Julie Bushell
Paige Electric Company

Julie is a guest writer for the Growing the Conversation blog by Valley. She has been working for Paige Electric Company for almost 10 years. Her love of agriculture keeps her inspired and always turns customers into friends. She hopes that someday one of them will gift her with a huge, profitable ranch. In the meantime, she enjoys hiking with her two giant dogs, Lennox and Kira, and testing new recipes in her kitchen.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fall Maintenance Tips

Drive Train
Wheel Tracks
Sprinkler Package
Depending on where you are located in the United States, harvest is either right now, very close to starting, or already complete. Before the snow comes and buries your field for the winter, be sure to take time to give your center pivot or linear a checkup so that it's prepared for the next growing season.

To help you through this post-harvest maintenance process, Valley® offers this list of 10 maintenance tips.

1. Drive Train - To maximize the life of your drive train and keep it operating trouble-free, drain water from the wheel gearbox and center drive, and make sure the gear lubricant is at the appropriate level.

2. Wheel Tracks - Be sure to fill deep wheel tracks during the off-season to reduce stress on irrigation, tillage, and harvest equipment.  To help prevent future tracking, consider changing to a different type of tire, adding floatation, or modifying the sprinkler package to reduce water application to the wheel tracks.

3. Motor Contactors - Damaged motor contactors can reduce the life of the drive unit motor, so be sure to inspect and replace worn contactors.

4. Tire Pressure - Tires are vital to the operation of irrigation equipment. Be sure to check the pressure and tighten the lug bolts, as well as evaluate the overall tire condition.

5. Sprinkler Package - Sprinkler packages should be changed at least every 10,000 hours of operation.  Regularly check for broken or worn sprinkler components and replace them as necessary.  Also consider running a new sprinkler design which could maximize efficiency for soil and crop type.

6. Energy Efficiency - You can minimize water pumping costs by lowering pressure when possible.  To ensure that water is being used efficiently, check the machine's water pressure at the pivot point.  For sprinkler packages with pressure regulators, check the line pressure at the last tower.

7. Pivot Alignment & Pipe Flushing - Ensure the tower box microswitches are set properly.  Improper settings can cause pivot misalignment, which results in nuisance shutdowns.  Flushing your pipeline and cleaning your sand trap is essential, especially if you either have water quality problems or your irrigation water contains sand.

8. U-Joints - Evaluate the equipment for worn u-joint inserts and ensure driveshaft shields are in place for safety.

9. Electrical Connections - Be sure to power down the equipment before checking any electrical connections.  Once the power is off, check for loose connections or loose cord grips in tower boxes.

10. Moving Parts - Steel moving on steel without proper lubrication can lead to unnecessary wear and tear on irrigation equipment.  Be sure to grease all moving parts, including the pivot point bearing, towable hubs, corner rollers, and legs.

For more information on how you can make the best of your investment with irrigation machine maintenance, contact your local Valley dealer.