It's tough to find a weather story that doesn't predict continued drought for many parts of the Corn Belt in 2003. The continued hot, dry weather again will put a premium on irrigation. And the ag economy, just as tough as a drought these days, will continue to put pressure on irrigating efficiently.
Fortunately, plenty of new products are entering the irrigation market to help compensate for the lack of rainfall. Here are some of the new technologies you might consider to help with irrigation efficiency this year.
GPS technology has entered the Reinke line of irrigation products to be used with the company's Swing Arm Corner (S.A.C.) irrigation systems. The GPS technology eliminates the need for traditional buried wire guidance systems. It is particularly suited for growers with rocky soils, where it's difficult to trench a wire. The guidance system isn't susceptible to lightning, and if field borders change, you simply change the field coordinates in the software program. Reinke dealers handle installation and maintenance of the guidance system.
The S.A.C. is optional on all new Reinke center pivot systems and can be retrofitted on existing Reinke and most competitive systems. Price of the software is $20,000 to $29,000, depending on the system.
A new 230v, single-phase power option allows you to use a standard household supply to power the pivot if you don't have access to 480v, three-phase power. The lower voltage option allows all the same control panel options and is ideal for smaller-acreage farms and suitable for use on the terrain grades on which other Reinke pivots can be used, according to the company. Base retail price: $300/tower.
New software from Rain Bird Corporation, Agri-Products Division, can help you generate cash flows from your irrigation systems. Rain Bird Ag Cash Flow software allows you to estimate overall crop profitability, including the proposed irrigation system operating costs and crop revenue, rather than basing a buying decision on purchase price alone. The software will be released to preferred dealers and will allow them to help farmers calculate the profitability of different irrigated crop scenarios and then calculate the cost of the proposed irrigation system. It also generates a seven-year cash flow diagram. All inputs are easily changed and results immediately recalculated for “what if” scenarios.
“Reliable” and “inexpensive” are two words farmers always want to hear. Rain Bird says you get both with its new cast-iron valves and Cyclik wireless, battery-operated controllers. Using both products provides low-cost automation. The diaphragm valves are offered in sizes from 1 to 24 in., manual operation, remote hydraulic or electric operation, different pressure control configurations, various materials and several end connections. The Cyclik wireless control system includes a control module and field transmitter. The control model connects to the valve's DC latching solenoid and provides on/off control for up to four valves. The 9v-powered controller accepts signals from the field transmitter via an infrared link. The field transmitter can be programmed for up to 85 control modules. Suggested retail price starts at less than $700.
New sensors from Lindsay integrate with the company's GrowSmart control products to link automatic sensing and reporting of multiple moisture levels with remote irrigation management and scheduling. The system helps you schedule irrigation to get maximum crop response with minimum water use. GrowSmart's new Hydra Inject line of injection systems includes a patented Hydra-Cell diaphragm pump with low-maintenance design. The system provides precise, non-pulsing flow for a wide range of materials.
Lindsay designed its Greenfield line of center pivots and pivoting lateral move systems to irrigate smaller field sizes simply and efficiently. The units now are available with 4-in. pipeline and pivot point.
Suggested retail prices: soil moisture sensors, $1,200 to $3,000; Hydra Inject, $3,500 to $10,000. For more information, contact Lindsay Mfg. Co., Dept. FIN, Box 156, Lindsay, NE 68644, 800/829-6805, visit www.lindsaymanufacturing.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.
Data from sensors monitoring soil moisture, temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity, and rain can now be collected with the Auxiliary Link from Valmont Irrigation. With the sensors, Auxiliary Link and the Base Station 2001, you can decide when to start and stop irrigation on multiple fields. You can check system status and generate reports that show water depth, flow rates, location of chemical application and the speed of any pivot. Any type of sensor may be used. Suggested retail price ranges from $1,630 to $3,575.
The company also has announced a limited release of the Pocket Pro, a PDA with cell phone capabilities. You can use the unit to monitor and control center pivots from anywhere. The Pocket Pro is designed for use with the Kyocera 6035 or 7135 and will be available through local Valley dealers. The suggested retail price for the Pocket Pro software is $395; the telephone link for each pivot costs $1,310.
Valley control systems feature component technology that allows you to upgrade without replacing entire control units. The company's newest upgrade, the Pro2, doesn't require batteries, has improved position reporting accuracy and is backlit for easier viewing under all conditions. Suggested retail price for the panel: $3,865.
Precision Mobile Drip Irrigation (PMDI) combines the best of pivot irrigation and drip irrigation into a single system, according to the T-L Irrigation Company. The company developed the technology to offer the efficiency of drip irrigation with the mobility of a center pivot. The system is available on any model center pivot or lateral move system and features drip hose with emitters on 12-in. centers. The hose is spaced every 30, 40 or 60 in., depending on soil type. According to the company, the system provides 95% water application, eliminates wind drift and evaporation, and costs a fraction of the price of subsurface drip irrigation systems. A side benefit of the system is dry wheel tracks.
Also from T-L Irrigation is the Precision Point Control, which allows you to make adjustments at the pivot, by cell phone or through a radio connection. With its new 207-ft. towers, the equipment allows you to design a six-tower, quarter-mile pivot system, rather than the traditional seven or eight towers. The longer span also makes it simpler to design around field obstacles such as ponds.
Prices vary for each item, depending on the type of system purchased. For more information, contact T-L Irrigation Co., Dept. FIN, Box 1047, Hastings, NE 68902, 800/330-4264, visit www.tlirr.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.