Monday, March 30, 2015

Training for Valley Dealers – an Insider’s Perspective | by Michelle Stolte

Over the last month, I have attended a couple different classes offered to Valley® dealers by Valley Irrigation.

The first class I attended was Design School, where primarily new, but also some veteran dealer personnel attend to better learn how to design center pivots, corners and linears. In this class, not only did we physically design machines on the computer, but we also learned about limitations for different kinds of equipment, so we can be assured peak performance in the field. An extensive amount of time was spent on the importance of water application and the characteristics of many different sprinklers we offer. 

Service School students are learning
Valley  tower box wiring code and schematics.
The second class I attended a few weeks later was Service School. There were approximately 100 dealership personnel in attendance at this school, some of them here on their first day of work, others who have worked for the dealership for 30-plus years. It was the eighth class our service department offered this season. 

There was a strong emphasis on safety, and then, in the Basic Level (which I, of course, attended!), we focused on wiring and troubleshooting. I gained a much greater appreciation for the work that all of our service people do day in and day out. While I have determined that I probably won’t be our service department’s first service woman, I did learn a lot, have even more respect for electricity than I did before and am glad I attended the class.

Training our dealership personnel is extremely important to Valley, and these are just two examples of the different training classes we offer. We want to make sure that our dealers are the best in the country and the world, so we invest a lot of time and effort in the different education methods we offer them.

I want to thank all of those who led the schools that I recently attended – the programs were top-notch and extremely educational.

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.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

How’s that Pivot Made? | by Jill Zwiener

You may be the owner of a center pivot. Or maybe you’ve just seen them watering crops as you head down highways and country roads across the world. 

But have you ever wondered how they’re made? Here’s your chance to find out! This short video gives you a sneak peek into the manufacturing plants and at the people who create Valley® center pivots. 

You’ll see our cutting-edge robotics, automated lines and the people who make it all happen. 

At Valley we operate with absolute integrity. We strive for continuous improvement, removing waste wherever possible, all while achieving excellence in safety. These aren’t just plants – they’re state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities. 

When you buy a Valley you get quality, dependability, reliability and innovation. We are proud to build the best center pivots in the world for you. 

I hope you enjoy a glimpse into our lives at Valley.

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.

Monday, March 23, 2015

45 Pivots and GPS Technology in France | by Fleur Martin of Irrigazette International

This article was reprinted with permission from the March/April issue of Irrigazette International.

Situated on the boundary of the Landes and Gironde departments, near Sanguinet [in France], Mr. Thierry Nérault’s farm covers an area of 1,460 ha. Mr.  Nérault grows maize under a monoculture system, entirely irrigated by 45 pivots and linear move machines, which are fully automated. 

We traveled to the site with Armel Morlet from the company Valmont®
 Irrigation. The pivot located in the middle is covered in rust: “The water in this part of the Landes has a high iron content, which gives the pivots a rusty colour, particularly when the sprinklers are located above the spans,” he explained. 

The pivot is fitted with two control panels: one old panel, which is no longer operational, and a brand new Valley® GPS Ready control panel: “Since automating the installation the different makes of old panels have been replaced with Valley control panels,” he said. The position of the machines, in most cases, is pinpointed by a GPS device installed in each machine (pivots and linear move machines). 

We returned to the car and drove on to a second site, to a smaller-sized field. At this location, the field is irrigated by one large single Otech pivot with 13 spans. We could see a Valley GPS Ready control panel and an antenna on the pivot, which sends information about the pivot to the farm, by radio. We returned once again to the car and this time we drove on to a circular 98-hectare field irrigated by a single Valley PolySpan
®  pivot of 10 spans. This pivot has a tank, which itself is supplied by six or seven small pumps. The building located near the tank acts as a control room for managing all the pumps used to fill the tank/reserve, as well as the supply pump. 

This type of installation with a tank can be used with all the large pivots on the farm. As far as the small pivots are concerned, they are directly supplied by the borehole pumps. The choice of the Landes region for growing maize, which requires a lot of water, does not pose any great risk; in fact, there is an abundance of water resources. Below the sandy soils of the Landes region there is a plio-quaternary aquifer, with a high iron content, which allows the farmers to have permanent access to a plentiful supply of water.

45 pivots Linked to the Farm by Radio
We then went to the farmhouse where we were met by the owner’s son, Romain Nérault, as well as his assistant, Eric Gilbert. Originally, this was divided into two farms, the Lucate and Courlouze properties, which explains its present size of 1,460 hectares. 

From left, Romain Nérault, Armel Morlet and Eric Gilbert

Romain Nérault explained: “When my father bought the property three years ago, it was already a maize-only farm, equipped with poorly maintained pivots with the control boxes in a pitiful state.” 

The person responsible for operating the irrigation system would have to arrive at 6 a.m. and he would have to go around the farm and check that the pivots were working properly, one by one. He had to go around the farm three times each day, the last visit being at 8 o’clock in the evening, knowing that he would have to travel 7 kilometres from one end of the farm to the other. The time spent going to and fro was considerable, but essential nonetheless because in the summer the maize simply had to be irrigated. 

“One week without irrigation represented a loss of 10 or 15 quintals of maize," Romain Nérault lamented, “So when we took over the farm, we had the irrigation installation fully automated so that we could visually and constantly check the situation of all the pivots on the screen.”

The installation now has a total of 45 pivots, of which 10 or so are Valley machines, as well as pivots made by Otech and France Pivot. Every time that Mr. Nérault replaces a machine he chooses a Valley pivot with an inner polyethylene lining (PolySpan), to prevent the ferruginous water from corroding the spans (PolySpan is a polyethylene lining that is installed inside the span tubes, protecting them from the corrosive effects of this water with a high iron content). It is also preferable for the pivots to be fitted with sprinklers attached to downpipes to prevent the ferruginous water from wetting the spans, thus protecting them from outer corrosion. 

Of the 45 pivots, six are actually linear move machines. Unlike the pivots, which irrigate in a circular form around a central pivot point, the linear moves irrigate in line, moving up and down the field; these being used on the ire-breaks. The installation also has two hose reels, which allow for the field to be irrigated crosswise. 
The pivot can be set in motion from a standard computer
or a mobile computer system,
and it is possible take action remotely.

Furthermore, 10 or so hectares are irrigated with full cover (sprinkler) systems. This technique allows for the irrigation of the zones that the pivots cannot manage to reach; in fact, with the pivots irrigating in a circle, there are often blind spots, which are not irrigated. Finally, a small “L-shaped” field is irrigated with subsurface drip irrigation. “This is a kind of test”, explained Romain. “In fact, certain complex fields are difficult to irrigate with pivots or linear moves. The aim is also to reduce the amount of water applied per hectare and the consumption of KW/h per hectare.”

Romain Nérault received us in his office with his technical assistant, Eric Gilbert, so that they could tell us about the technique of controlling the pivots by remote control. The whole installation is automated using the Valley GPS Ready technology. This technology allows the user to know the position of the pivots and linear move machines on the farm at any given time. In the office the irrigation operation can be monitored on a large screen with the use of a computer.

Thus it is possible to see the whole installation displayed on the screen. “The pivots are represented by circles or arcs of a circle, and the linear moves are represented by rectangles,” explained Romain Nérault. “When the zone is shaded in grey, this means that the machine is stopped; when the zone is green, this means that the machine is functioning without water and when the pivots are blue, this means that there is water and the pivot is operating correctly. Finally, when the zone is red, this means that there is a problem and we have to step in. Therefore, it is no longer necessary to make a trip to the farm and check the pivots one by one. We only have to take any action when the pivots are broken down.”

When we click on a pivot, the control box appears on the screen, giving the pressure, position in degrees and forward speed of the pivot. The pivot can be set in motion from a standard computer or from a mobile computer system and it is possible to take action remotely.

Thus, automation has allowed this farmer to make significant savings on labor, time and money.

Read the last section of the article, How the Irrigation Season Unfolds.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Valley Single Frequency GPS, a Reliable and Durable Guidance System | by John Kastl

I get a lot of questions from growers with corner machines about the new Single Frequency GPS guidance option from Valley®. Many folks want to know what single frequency is, how it works and how it’s different from other guidance options, so let’ take a look at GPS and when it’s a good choice.

All GPS guidance systems require a highly accurate signal in order to ensure the machine travels consistently along the defined path. Any errors or interruptions in the signal can cause the machine to wander, resulting in a wider or inconsistent wheel track. If the interruption is severe, the machine will stop and wait until the signal comes back, resulting in uneven water application. 

Traditionally, the way to minimize these problems is to use a Dual-Frequency, Dual-Constellation, RTK GPS receiver and a fixed correction or reference station. Unfortunately, this type of system is expensive and requires an annual subscription fee to a local RTK Correction Service provider or the purchase of an additional costly reference station. However, thanks to advances in GPS technology, Valley has developed a cost-effective Single Frequency, Dual-Constellation, RTK GPS guidance system.

OK, Dual/Single Frequency…Dual Constellation…RTK. What the heck do all these terms mean and what difference do they make????

Good questions. Let’s start with RTK. RTK is short for Real Time Kinematic. It refers to a GPS system that uses a signal from a fixed reference station to provide real-time corrections to the GPS guidance unit. This is the most accurate type of GPS system available and can tell you your position down to plus or minus 3 inches.

Dual Constellation refers to the number of satellite systems being used for GPS guidance. The two largest, worldwide systems are the GPS constellation, operated by the U.S. government, a
nd GLONASS, operated by the Russian government. Each system has its own set of satellites orbiting the earth, providing position signals as they pass overhead. During a 24-hour period, the total number of satellites available at any point on the earth varies as these satellites pass by. 

For RTK accuracy, a minimum of five satellites are needed. Should the GPS receiver “see” fewer than five satellites, the guidance system will stop and wait; so, the more satellites available, the more reliable the guidance. That’s the benefit of dual constellation; there’s more satellites overhead, 24/7/365. You can see the difference for yourself at All Valley GPS guidance options use both these systems for maximum reliability, whereas others only use the GPS constellation.

Finally, let’s discuss single and dual frequency systems. Dual-frequency systems use both the GPS L1 (civilian) and the L2 (old military) frequency for fast start-up times and year-to-year accuracy. In addition, using two frequency bands makes it easy to compensate for transient interruptions in the GPS signal (cycle slip). However with the advances in GPS technology, such as advanced cycle slip correction, the new Valley single frequency system provides fast start-up times and track-on-track guidance accuracy during the growing season.

Single Frequency GPS guidance is a great choice for many growers with corners, but is especially useful in fields that have underground obstacles such as drain tile, gas lines, rocks or other obstructions that make burying a guidance wire difficult or expensive. It’s also a great solution in areas where frequent lightning strikes can damage buried wire guidance. Finally, unlike buried-wire guidance, if you ever plan to move the corner to another field, or expand the existing field by taking out a row of trees, you haven’t buried part of your investment in the ground. The entire guidance system is contained on the machine, making it easy to relocate or change the path. No need to re-bury wire, just have your dealer change the guidance path in the GPS guidance computer. And, best of all, single frequency GPS guidance costs about the same as installing buried wire.

Many growers tell me they don’t like to pay an annual subscription fee for their GPS guidance system. With Valley Single Frequency, no subscription fee is needed, because the reference station is included at no additional cost.

I recommend that you take a closer look at the Valley GPS Single Frequency Guidance option. You’ll see it’s a cost effective solution that provides reliable and durable guidance for your corner machines.

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 gearboxes, to name a few), helping to 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!

Monday, March 16, 2015

We Love Farmers, Not Just on National Ag Day | by Shannon Peterson

When you’re a farmer, every day feels like Ag Day. But this week it’s official. National Ag Day is Wednesday, March 18. There are celebrations and events going on around the country to recognize your contributions.

At Valley
®, we’re proud to work with growers around the world; growers who play a vital role in feeding the world and sustaining future generations.

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, farmers will become even more important as the world population is projected to increase 40 percent by 2050.

Right now, only 20 percent of the world’s croplands are irrigated, but that irrigated cropland produces 40 percent of the global harvest. Plus, yield on irrigated farms is 100 to 400 percent higher for most crops.

These figures make it clear that growers who irrigate make an even greater difference. 

Thank you for all you do for me, my family, my colleagues, for Valley and for the future.

So, why are you proud to be a farmer? On National Ag Day, turn to social media and tell the world why you are Agriculture Proud. Use #AgProud and #AgDay2015 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And search those hashtags to see what others are saying.

I also found a couple Facebook pages worth checking out, to see how much farmers are appreciated:

If you find other sites or blogs, share them with us in the comment section below.

And, while we're talking about appreciation, here are a couple other ways to spread the love.

Monsanto’s Farm Mom of the Year contest is accepting nominations through March 31. 

  • Do you know an amazing farm mom? One who works tirelessly to support her family, farm, community and the future of agriculture? Nominate her for a chance to win a $10,000 grand prize here.

Valent is sponsoring the Relentless Spirit of the American Farmer contest, which could earn your local community $1,000. 
  • Share your story or the story of your neighbor, your family member or friend. What makes this person relentless? How has their determination and drive shaped who they are and how they farm. The deadline is March 21. Learn more and submit an entry here

Through the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program, your loc
al public school district could win a grant to enhance its math or science programs.
  • Nominate your school district to apply for a $10,000 or $25,000 grant here by April 1. Nominated school districts can then submit grant applications through April 15.

Shannon Peterson
Marketing Content Editor

Shannon joined Valley Irrigation in 2013. She writes and edits materials about irrigation equipment. Shannon enjoys traveling with her family, particularly to national parks, and she occasionally writes about her travels for tourism magazines. She also likes trying new restaurants, seeing movies, and watching Husker football and Creighton basketball. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Top 10 Ways to Get Your Pivots Ready for Spring

You may not need your center pivots during planting season, but they need a little attention before you fire them up. Here are some tips to get your equipment ready for irrigation season.

Drive Train
To maximize the life of your drive train and keep it operating trouble-free, periodically drain any water that accumulates in the gearbox and center drive, and make sure the gear lubricant is at the proper level.

Wheel Ruts
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 higher floatation tire, adding a floatation drive unit option, or modifying the sprinkler package to reduce water application to the wheel tracks.

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

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, and corner rollers.

Sprinkler Package
Water application is at the heart of what you do, in order to do this as best possible; sprinkler packages need to be properly designed and maintained to a high degree of accuracy. Generally, sprinkler packages should be replaced 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 that could maximize uniformity and application efficiency, and help alleviate application issues such as runoff, ponding and soil sealing.

Energy Efficiency
When done properly, you can minimize water pumping costs by reducing the machine’s operating pressure to a point that still produces enough pressure to operate the sprinkler package satisfactorily. Monitor pivot pressure regularly and ensure it remains adequate (as designed) throughout the season.

Tire Pressure
Maintaining the correct tire pressure is vital to the operation of irrigation equipment; the correct tire pressure ensures that floatation for a particular tire is maximized and the rolling circumference is consistent to what Valley uses on timer chart calculations. Be sure to periodically check tire pressure and adjust it to specification. Also, don’t forget to tighten wheel lug nuts and evaluate the overall tire condition. All tires lose pressure over time and lose or gain about 1 PSI per 10 degrees F of temperature change.

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

Evaluate your equipment for worn u-joint inserts and ensure driveshaft shields are in place for safety.

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.

Do you have other tips? Share them in the comment section below.

Reprinted from

Monday, March 9, 2015

Behind the Scenes with Mike Husen

Behind the Scenes at Valley® is a series showcasing the people behind the pivots.  

Mike Husen graduated from Milford Technical College in Milford, NE, and went to work for Honeywell in Minneapolis. He was given the heads up about a layoff, so he took a chance and returned to Nebraska. An employment agency steered Mike to Valmont for an interview and he was offered a job. He relocated to Fremont and the rest is history. 

Mike has been with Valmont® since 1969!

Mike is a load manager and parts tech advisor for the customer service department working with quality assurance. His job is to chase down missing parts and to help support the aftermarket parts team with technical challenges.

Mike spent his first 19 years in engineering where he managed a team of nine and ran the print room. He has also worked in the water application group, order management and aftermarket parts.

Why has Mike stayed at Valmont for 45 years? It’s a combination of passion for his job, work ethic and pride. 

“Bob Daugherty took a chance on me and I am constantly trying to repay him every day,” Mike said.

He also loves the people at Valmont and has made many friends and connections over the years, including a lot of great Valley dealers.
This year will bring big changes to Mike’s life and to Valmont, as Mike makes plans to retire. What will he do next? Live life! 

“Home is my hobby. I do a lot of work on my house,” he said. “Grandkids are important. I like to be outside, and I have a farm to take care of.”

Thursday, March 5, 2015

What is a Boomback? | by Jerry Gerdes

The term boomback doesn’t seem like it would be related to center pivot irrigation. But boomback products have been used on center pivot and linear move equipment for more than 30 years. Their function is to reduce the sprinkler package Instantaneous Application Rate (IAR) on the soil. This will eliminate or reduce water runoff, increasing the application efficiency of the equipment.
Boombacks on a complete span

The IAR, typically measured in inches/hour, of a center pivot gradually increases from a very low value near the center point to a high value at the end of the machine. Another way to describe IAR in terms of rainfall is the area near the center point is a light drizzle and the area at the end of the machine is a heavy rainfall. If the IAR exceeds the soil infiltration rate, runoff will occur.

Studies done by research facilities show that using Boombacks can reduce runoff. The recent study “Efficacy of Boom Systems in Controlling Runoff under Center Pivots and Linear Move Irrigation Systems” published in Applied Engineering in Agriculture by Troy Peters, an extension irrigation specialist at Washington State University, found that boombacks can reduce runoff by 24 percent. (Find the full study here.)

Field conditions with heavy soils and/or slopes are examples where boombacks are frequently used. A typical installation will have boombacks fitted on the last 25 to 33 percent of the center pivot length.

A boomback is designed to place a low pressure sprinkler 12 to 15 feet (length depends on the manufacturer) away from and perpendicular to the span pipeline. This effectively increases the footprint of the sprinkler package water pattern 24 to 30 feet, decreasing the IAR.  Boombacks can be installed using one per sprinkler position, alternating them on each side of the span pipeline in successive sprinkler positions, or two boombacks per sprinkler position, one on each side of the span pipeline at each sprinkler position.

Part circle sprinklers with Boombacks
Another function of boombacks is to use them with part circle sprinklers near a drive unit. In this application, the boombacks are all placed on the same side of the span pipeline opposite the direction of travel.

For part circle center pivots and linear machines, double boombacks are available with specialized control hardware to turn on the correct sprinklers based on the direction of travel. 

Keeping water away from the wheel track area as the machine moves through the field, will reduce rutting and the possibility of drive wheels getting stuck.

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.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Visiting Our Growers | by Matt Ondrejko

One of the great things about my job is having the opportunity to spend time with our Valley® dealers and growers talking about products, business and their general outlook on things. 

In early February, I was fortunate enough to be invited down to southwest Indiana to spend time with Scates Valley Irrigation. The Scates team services growers in Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky, and boy does the team do a great job. 
Scates Valley Open House

I spent one day visiting large growers from the Scates territory, all farming 10,000 acres or more. It was awesome to hear firsthand how Valley products have made a difference in their operations for many years and often generations. The area is a hotbed for irrigation, and the growers certainly know the power of getting water efficiently and effectively to the crops. This area tends to be heavy in soybeans and corn and has very sandy soils due to its proximity to the Wabash River.

The really interesting thing for me was the amount of farms using remote management products such as Valley BaseStation™
 and AgSense® Field Commanders®. Even though most of the center pivots are in relatively close proximity to each other, on average a 5- to 10-mile radius, the benefits of using these products are too valuable to ignore. One grower told me that he was able to eliminate putting 200 miles per week on each of his trucks because he didn’t have to physically go to every machine, every day. Instead of driving out to every machine every day, he could plan his day and week in a more methodical way. While the upfront cost of these products is a large investment, the payoff is swift, and the tangible benefits are quickly realized.

The acceleration of technology and its benefits continue to seep in to farming. Whether it is remote monitoring solutions for irrigation, soil moisture monitoring or bin management, technology makes farming more efficient and creates true economic benefit for these growers.

Scates Valley Irrigation hosted an Open House while I was visiting that attracted more than 100 local farmers interested in learning about these technologies and discussing “what’s new” in the industry. The sophistication of growers continues to evolve, and finding solutions to their needs is what keeps me up at night. What a great trip!

Scates Valley Open House

Matt Ondrejko

VP Global Marketing

The one word that can sum up Matt is "enthusiasm!" He likes to be on-the-go and have fun along the way. Matt loves music and the 1980s era. He is a child of the MTV generation and has a deep appreciation of all music genres (specifically, he is a huge Dave Matthews Band groupie). Matt has traveled to more than 70 countries around the world and enjoys learning about different cultures and people. He spent three years living with his family in Leuven, Belgium, trying to enjoy as many of the 700+ beers they brew there.