Monday, December 23, 2013

See You Next Year

Our bloggers are taking some time off for the holidays. We'll see you in the new year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Jump into Social Media and Connect With Your Favorite Brands | by Kelly Cox

Does anyone remember MySpace and your default friend Tom? Well, it’s still around, but has essentially become a niche social network for musicians. I’m pretty sure I still have a MySpace account floating around somewhere, but, without knowing it, it was the first social network I ever dabbled in because it was the “cool thing to use in high school.” That…and AOL Instant Messenger. Different topic for another day.

Facebook was released my freshman year in college. At that time, you had to be a college student with a proper .edu email address in order to create and use a Facebook account. As hard as it is to believe, that was nearly 10 years ago, and Facebook is now open to anyone 13 or older.

The point of my brief history lesson is this: social networks have been around way longer than many people realize. They have been paving the way for new methods of communication for 20 years – no, joke, I looked it up (! They are not something to be afraid of; they are something to embrace.

From a marketing perspective, I know that social media is an incredibly valuable tool; it allows us to show you the people behind our brand and prove that we’re not a bunch of robots. Looking at social media as a consumer, I see that it gives me an easy way to connect and engage with the companies and brands that I just love (Starbucks shout out!). Why is this kind of engagement important?

  • I am the first to learn about new products and promotions.
  • I get exclusive coupons just for engaging with brands on their social network(s) of choice.
  • I have an easy way to ask the company a question regarding its products and services.
  • I have an easy way to complain to the company regarding its products and services.
  • And…(drum roll, please), I get to talk with other people who are just as passionate about that brand as I am, which also allows me to read new product reviews from real people.

There are literally hundreds of social networks that exist today, and not every social network is right for everyone. Different channels allow for different types of messaging, and one of those may be right for you. For those of you who have not yet braved the social media bandwagon, here are a few social networks we suggest you look into first.

  • Facebook – delivers pretty much unlimited messaging, including text, pictures, videos, and events. We have found this social platform to be our most engaging (i.e., the place our followers prefer to Like, reshare, and comment on our posts, as well as ask questions about dealerships and employment opportunities). If you are looking for the social network that is your one-stop shop and the place where you may have the most opportunity to make your voice heard, we recommend you join Facebook.
    • How are WE using Facebook? We use Facebook to share longer pieces of our news releases and blog posts. This has also become our social network of choice to share photographs.
    • Follow

  • Google+ - very much like Facebook, message-wise. If you are a Google junkie, this is the social platform for you!
    • How are WE using Google+? We use Google+ much the same way we use Facebook – to share pieces of news, as well as photos and videos. We joined Google+ to cater to those who are hard-core Googlers.
    • Follow

  • Twitter – delivers very short, to-the-point, real-time messages (called Tweets) that are limited to 140 characters. Many ag companies and ag media use Twitter on a daily basis to share their latest news. If you don’t have a lot of time to poke around the internet, then this may be the social network for you.
    • How are WE using Twitter? We use this social network to share real-time updates from our trade shows, as well as news releases, blog posts, and new pictures and videos. We love to share other companies’ Tweets, including many from our own dealers.
    • Follow

  • YouTube – delivers video. In fact, it reaches more adults than cable TV, which is no surprise with the invention of the smart TV. If you are a visual learner, we recommend jumping on the YouTube train!
    • How are WE using YouTube? To share our videos, of course! We have a plethora of informational videos on our products, as well as irrigation tips and tricks. We have also flagged many ag-related videos we think you will also enjoy.
    • Follow

  • Pinterest – delivers pictorial representations of articles, tutorials, and ideas. This is the fastest growing social network today, which is why I wanted to give it a nod. Valley Irrigation is currently not on Pinterest, but that shouldn’t stop you from checking it out! This is a great place to get ideas for your business and personal life, as well as find pictures of ag. Pinterest allows you to create boards that relate to a single topic. So, if you’re the type to organize your thoughts, this may be the place for you to hang out.

Social media offers you a place to engage with the humans behind brands – companies aren’t comprised of a bunch of robots (well, for the most part). Jump on a social network today to communicate with the people behind your favorite brands; make that network your one stop shop to be the first to learn about new products, technology, and promotions. And, you may be surprised just how fun it can truly be.

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. She considers herself a wine connoisseur (though, 3 buck Chuck is delicious!) and has a love of painting, dance, and singing.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Stuck Pivots, Flats, Ruts….Help! | by John Kastl

I get a lot of questions from growers about what they can do minimize wheel ruts, or at least keep the machine from getting stuck. It’s a simple question, but the answer is complicated!

So, let’s consider some of the factors that affect wheel tracking. These include soil type, crop, how many hours you irrigate per year, amount of water per pass, and your level of tolerance for wheel tracks. Because of all these variables, Valley® offers a range of flotation solutions that cover nearly all situations, including everything from 14.9-24 and 11.2-38 Non-Directional and 18.4-26 Radial Tires, to 3-Wheel Basebeams, Track Drives, and Articulating Drives. There are also independent suppliers offering plastic wheels, steel wheels, you name it!

With all these options, how do you choose? Start by talking with your local Valley dealer, visit with your neighbors to learn what works in your area, and consider the following examples to determine what is best for your particular situation.

Let’s say you can live with deep wheel tacks, but don’t want your machine to get stuck and don’t want a wide wheel track that could damage your harvesting equipment. In that case, an 11.2-38 tire is an excellent option. It keeps the basebeam higher off the ground, giving you more rounds until the wheel track deepens. It also provides a few more inches of crop clearance.

Maybe you just need to reduce the wheel track depth, so you don’t get stuck later in the season. In this instance, the Valley-exclusive Champion Hydro ND tire from Firestone is a great option. Unlike regular tractor tires, the Champion Hydro ND tires have a non-directional tread that provides excellent traction and keeps the mud in the wheel track, minimizing rut depth throughout the season. In addition, these tires use a special rubber compound to delay dry rot, so they last longer in the field.
Champion Hydro ND tires

If you need some additional traction to power your way through a tough spot in the field, a Valley 3-Wheel Basebeam is a great solution. The third center tire provides additional traction when you need it. It’s compatible with all of Valley’s tires and can be used on Standard and High Profile drive units. If you’re not sure you’ll need it, order your machine with the basebeam-only option. Then, if you need it later in the season, it’s simple to add the third gearbox and tire.

If your corner steerable drive units have problems with deep ruts, Valley recommends the 18.4R26 Radial tire. This tire can be inflated to only 10 psi, giving it a very large footprint and a low, 11 psi ground pressure that really helps eliminate ruts.

Perhaps you have a really difficult field where you need maximum flotation and traction. In those situations, Valley suggests the Track Drive for most fields and the Articulating or Articulating Track Drive for rough ground (such as when you have to cross a ditch).

“OK, but I’m tired of fixing flat tires, what about those steel and plastic wheels?”

Valley started with steel wheels on the old water drive machines and understands the problems associated with hard wheels, especially the lack of “give.” We’re constantly evaluating various “airless tire” options, but to date we haven’t found a product that doesn’t cause deep wheel tracks or cause wheel gearboxes to fail. One grower told me he’d rather fix an occasional flat than break gearboxes or get the pivot unstuck every time it goes around.

Remember, the most important thing you can do to minimize ruts is to ensure your tires are inflated to the proper pressure. Too much pressure can cause deep ruts and shorten the life of the tire. Also, take a look at your tires at the end of the season, especially on machines that are 8 to 10 years old. If there are deep cracks in the tire and you can see the white fabric plies at the bottom, it’s time to consider replacement. It will pay off next year with fewer flats and problems with your machine. Likewise, proper maintenance of the wheel track in the off season and packing the track at the start of the season are important to minimizing problems throughout the year.

John Kastl
Product Manager - Equipment

John joined the Valley Irrigation Engineering Department in 2000 after having spent 11 years at General Electric Aircraft Engines. Today, he manages the equipment products for Valley (center pivots, corners, and gearbox, to name a few), helping develop the next generation of Valley Irrigation machines. John enjoys photography, home renovation, and travel. On his third birthday, John watched the first moon landing!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

One Trade Show, 27 Buildings Full of Booths | by Michelle Stolte

Last month I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the Agritechnica Show in Hannover, Germany. While I have been to my fair share of trade shows, this was unlike any other show I have been to just in terms of its sheer magnitude. My first reaction was “Holy cow, this show is huge!” It boasted 27 buildings chock full of exhibitors – 27! It is estimated that this show brought in nearly 450,000 visitors from 88 countries over the seven days it was open.

This was the first year Valley had its own booth, which represented our company very well. We focused our attention on a demonstration of BaseStation3, our state-of-the-art remote management product that will be release in early 2014, and Valley Ag Solutions. Valley Ag Solutions helps growers from start to finish by not only providing irrigation equipment, but also delivering services from feasibility studies and crop consulting to engineered pump solutions and farm management software.

Interest in Valley and in irrigation in general was great, and we considered the show a great success. We met with many existing customers, as well as those new to irrigation. We also were able to see old friends from years past, which is always a nice bonus to attending trade shows.

If you have never attended Agritechnica and find yourself in Germany on November 10-14, 2015, find your way to the show. You will be amazed by the size and the number of exhibitors. If you can’t find what you are looking for here, I am not sure where you will be able to find it! If you have been to the show, or work the show every two years, I am sure you already know a really good foot masseuse!

Michelle Stolte
Global Marketing Manager

Michelle has been at Valley Irrigation for more than 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, December 9, 2013

Who Wants to Stop Checking Pivot Tires? | by Shannon Peterson

A farmers’ work is never done. Smart growers know the off-season is the time to find and fix problems, to prevent in-season shut downs. They also know it is cheaper to maintain equipment than it is to fix it after a breakdown.

One of the likely tasks on your off-season list is checking the tires on your center pivots. Of course, you’ll be checking those tires again before the planting season, and during the growing season, and again during the season, and again, and again.

Checking tires takes time you really don’t have, especially during the irrigation season. As a testament to that, most flat tires aren’t noticed until the irrigation equipment stops, ruining the tire, gearbox, and sometimes the rim. And a flat tire means repairs that can cost $1,000 to $1,500 and downtime during the peak irrigation season when water is critical to maximizing yields.

So, while you’re thinking about taxes, budgets, planning, and off-season improvements, think too about a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Recipient of a 2012 World Ag Expo Top-10 New Products award, Valley® TPMS alerts you when there is a low-pressure situation and pinpoints the exact location of the tire.

The technology is widely used in the automotive and over-the-road trucking industries. A sensor on the tire’s valve stem measures tire pressure and transmits the information to your Pro2 control panel. You can see the information at the pivot point or remotely on your BaseStation™.

Identifying a slow leak before you get a flat tire lets you schedule preemptive maintenance at a time and location that is convenient for you, rather than fixing a flat in the middle of your field.

Investing in TPMS means you won’t waste time manually checking tires, which not only increases your productivity, it frees up some time for you. Although I suspect you’ll find other work that needs to be done.

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.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Happy World Soil Day!

Originally published on Soils Matter, Get the Scoop.

In honor of World Soil Day, we are sharing a blog on the importance of soil and how it cleans our water.

Q: How can soils filter or purify water, such as for drinking water purposes? There are just so many chemicals and bacteria in the soil that you would expect the opposite.

A: If we put some soil in a glass column and pour "dirty" water through it, the water will come out cleaner than when it went in. The soil, in other words, is a reactor. It has the potential to clean up dirty water by a variety of methods. So how does soil do this?

There are three basic ways. The soil is a physical filter that removes particles suspended in water; it is a chemical reactor that removes dissolved chemicals from water; and it is a bioreactor that transforms and degrades chemicals by the action of soil microbes.

The soil is the largest filter on the planet. The size of the pores in soil (which is based on the amount of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter that make up the soil) determine how effective the soil is at filtering out particles. A finer textured soil (more clay) with many small pores is a better filter. Yet, a soil can be too fine with too many small pores, so that water does not efficiently flow through the soil. A perfect soil has a distribution of pores of different sizes that can both filter water and allow adequate movement of water through soil.

The soil is the largest chemical reactor on the planet. The soil has a net negative (-) charge that triggers the removal of positively (+) charged ions in the water which moves through the soil. These (+) ions are removed from the soil solution much like a magnet with a (-) charge attracts another magnet with a (+) charge. The figure to the right shows how ions like calcium, magnesium, and potassium are attracted and held on soil surfaces. Still other chemicals are removed by the soil by becoming part of the soil structure through a process called covalent bonding.

The soil is the largest bioreactor on the planet. Within the soil, bacteria and fungi transform and decompose chemicals. The nitrogen cycle is especially dependent on the soil reactor. Microbes change organic forms of nitrogen into the ion, ammonium. More microbes change ammonium to nitrate, and even more microbes change nitrate into nitrogen gas, which then enters the atmosphere. Similarly, if the soil "sees" an organic pollutant, microbes go to work transforming and decomposing it, so eventually it becomes carbon dioxide and water.

The net effect is that the soil provides a service to society. It cleans the water that makes its way to rivers and streams. It helps keep the water clean for us to use and for wildlife to survive. If we don’t take care of the "largest reactor on the planet" we may destroy the service it provides and hurt our environment in the process.

By Nick Comerford, a University of Florida soil scientist and Soil Science Society of America member.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tis the Season for Giving | by Jill Zwiener

The holiday season is upon us and that means shopping, baking, and gift giving. It's also the time of year when we think of the less fortunate. Maybe they are struggling to feed their young children, perhaps they are sick and are having difficulty paying bills, or maybe they are starting over because they lost everything they owned in a fire. At Valley® Irrigation, we believe in giving back year-round. 

The largest organization we support is the United Way. The United Way of America is a non-profit organization – with more than 1,200 local United Way offices throughout the country – that coordinates a coalition of charities pooling their efforts in fundraising and support. The issues United Way offices focus on are determined locally because of the diversity of the communities served. However, the main focus areas include education, income, and health.

In addition to employee pledges, Valley raises money for the United Way through a parking space auction, a silent auction, book fairs, selling opportunities to wear jeans or shorts, hosting a Fun Day with contests, and selling raffle tickets for prizes (such as football and concert tickets) throughout the year.

In addition to the United Way, Valley employees  also give to other programs such as Toys for Tots, The Salvation Army, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Planet Water, and the American Lung Association.

You know, they say that what you give comes back to you tenfold. I am a firm believer of this. What’s your favorite way of giving back?

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.