December 12, 2014
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Pivot Irrigation Customer Awarded Brownhill Cup
Septermber 5, 2014
Learning how to use our irrigation and manage our farm has really made a difference for us
Written By Bob Freebairn
BOGGABRI cotton growers Andrew and Heike Watson - who have reduced their water usage while increasing their yield - were today awarded the 2014 Brownhill Cup during a ceremony at Commonwealth Bank AgQuip in Gunnedah, NSW.
The Brownhill Cup is one of Australia’s most prestigious agricultural awards and is announced annually in recognition of innovative farming practices that improve sustainability, productivity and profitability in agriculture.
The Watsons were acknowledged for their commitment to ecological and economic sustainability, which includes initiatives ranging from on-farm research and development, to involvement in the Climate Champions program.
The Cup was presented by NSW general manager Regional and Agribusiness Banking, Commonwealth Bank, Tim Harvey, who congratulated the Watsons on combining business and farming innovation.
“Andrew and Heike Watson, their family and the team maintain a focus on ongoing practice improvement to help ensure the success not only of their own business, but of the cotton industry,” Mr Harvey said.
“The Watsons recognise the connection between environmental sustainability, innovation in farming and a strong agricultural economy. By sharing their learnings with the wider farming community they are helping to create a positive future for the industry.”
Mr Watson said managing water usage is a challenging issue and has been central to the success of his family’s 3000 hectare operation.
“Evaporation and seepage are always challenges whenever you store water. Learning how to use our irrigation and manage our farm has really made a difference for us. We have increased the frequency of our watering cycles, which sounds like it should use more water, but it doesn’t. Our water usage has reduced by about 20 per cent over the past 11 years, while our yield is up by about 30 per cent,” he said.
Mr Watson is using moisture sensors and crop canopy heat sensors to help determine when and how much to water the crop. Lateral move irrigation systems, which can increase pasture and crop production while using less water, have also been introduced.
At the same time, the Watsons focus on ‘soft’ chemistry and pest management methods.
“We’ll tolerate a little damage in return for not having to spray so much, and we trust predatory insects to help us control pests,” said Mr Watson.
Trees have been planted and vegetation belts developed to promote predatory insects and insect counts are conducted every week.
All new initiatives on the Watson property are trialled before being fully rolled out, and results are shared with the cotton growing community.
Currently, four fertiliser trials are underway, and work is being conducted to find the right balance between organic and chemical fertilisers.
Brownhill Cup founder David Brownhill commended the Watsons on their achievements.
“Andrew and his team have made a considerable contribution to agriculture, and especially to the cotton sector. Their field trials and on-farm research have contributed to the industry’s understanding of best practice, and they have set the bar high for innovative and sustainable farming practices,” said Mr Brownhill.
This year the perpetual cup was accompanied by a $2000 prize from Commonwealth Bank and the Brownhill family that will allow Andrew Watson to participate in an industry event that aligns with the goals of the Brownhill Cup.
ALWAYS AIM FOR IMPROVEMENT: AWARD RECIPIENT FOCUS
David Browhhill, Merrilong Pastoral Company Spring Ridge, one of the patrons of the Brownhill cup, and Andrew Watson “Kilmarnock” Boggabri, the 2014 awardee, checking a recently acquired lateral irrigator. Continually improving water use efficiency and striving for higher paying crops are important focuses of the “Kilmarnock” business.
“Never be satisfied with one’s farm performance, in all it components”, is a key message from awardee of the 2014 Brownhill trophy, Andrew Watson “Kilmarnock” Boggabri. Another key tenet of their operation is “Learn from others mistakes, focus on looking at any applicable research, and if not available, do the research ourselves”.
Mr Watson, his family and employees, run a highly efficient cotton business, mainly irrigation but also dryland, as well as winter cropping and beef cattle (on separate non crop land). Over his 16 years with the business Andrew and his family have aimed to improve crop performance annually and believe there are many avenues for future gains, combined with aspects like soil improvement and improved profitability.
In recent years irrigation cotton has seen average yield on their property rise by around 22 percent, from just below nine bales/ha to around 11 bales/ha. In the same period the amount of water required to grow the crop has decreased on average by around 15 percent or nearly one mgl/ha. These figures vary greatly from year to year depending on rainfall and temperature but are a definite long term trend.
However Andrew Watson stresses that individual paddock yields by other farmers as well as themselves have been as high as 16 bales/ha. His immediate aim is to average this type of yield across the farm provided it can be done at improved gross margin.
Properly conducted trials (randomised replicated and statistically analysed) looking at ways to improve crop performance, crop efficiency and as well improved soil quality is a major part of the farm business, and integrates with research conducted by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation, other researchers and private companies. For example ongoing research is focusing on improved correction of current and likely future nutrient deficiencies like potassium and phosphorus.
Testing a range of products to address deficiencies is also being researched. For example, while more expensive, potassium nitrate is proving far more profitable than other fertiliser forms of potassium. Chicken manure is showing a lot of promise in addressing deficiencies as well as possibly improving soil quality. Trials are sometimes ongoing for several years to measure long as well as short term effect.
A lot of effort goes into improving irrigation water use efficiency. For example the Watson’s have like several innovative cotton irrigation growers replaced or are replacing furrow irrigation with lateral sprinklers.
Andrew Watson says on their around 550/ha annual irrigation cotton crop careful use of laterals (for example frequent applications) is 20 percent (for some neighbours up to 50 percent) more water use efficient, as well as better for the crop, than furrow watering. Water logging is a lesser problem and cotton uses deep as well as top soil water more effectively. Monitoring soil water is important with new heat seekers (that assess heat within the crop and therefore detect likely water stress) being trialled.
Other water savings are being made such as using “harvested” water when available as soon as possible, even if this means for building soil reserve levels in the fallow phase, and reducing water storage and channel losses.
Andrew Watson and father John have for 30 years conducted variety trials for CSD, The sole Australian cotton breeder. These and other trials give them a close look at new varieties and a role in liaising with breeders for the type of plant growers require.
Mr Watson credits new cotton varieties with 50 percent of yield gains. Improved technology and management changes contribute the other 50 percent gains. Carefully understanding each variety is very important and has agronomic and management of water consequences. For example a very high yielding variety can be lower in seeding vigour and needs great care with sowing depth and management of seedling disease.
Bob Freebairn is an agricultural consultant based at Coonabarabran. Email email@example.com or contact (0428) 752 149.
Valmont Irrigation Announces Addition to GPS Product Line
August 15, 2011
Valmont Irrigation, the Leader in Precision Irrigation, has expanded their Valley GPS product line. Valley GPS Guidance for corners and linear irrigation equipment is now compatible with both John Deere® Starfire™ and Trimble® GPS products.
“We have been very pleased by the popularity of Valley GPS Guidance for corners and linear irrigation equipment” said Scott Mauseth, Valmont Irrigation Advanced Technology Product Manager. “Being compatible with both John Deere GPS and Trimble GPS base stations means even more growers can take advantage of the Valley GPS Guidance for their irrigation equipment. Compatibility with the GPS systems growers already use on their tractors and combines significantly lowers the costs associated with implementing GPS Guidance for their irrigation equipment.”
Kurt Dunker, who farms corn and soybeans, started using Trimble RTK Guidance on his farm four years ago. Though he has been a longtime user of Valley irrigation machines, until this year he was not able to use his existing Trimble RTK GPS base station with Valley GPS Guidance on his irrigation equipment.
“We have had really good luck with Trimble, and once you start with a GPS company, you don’t want to switch,” Dunker said. “We’re eager to use the Valley RTK GPS Guidance with Trimble this year on a new machine with a corner arm, and we’re considering future installation on existing irrigation equipment.”
Dunker explained that the compatibility with Trimble GPS base stations will make conversions from buried wire to Valley GPS Guidance easier, as it doesn’t require the same labor and maintenance as buried wire. Dunker said another advantage of GPS Guidance is that he can install a corner machine on rented ground without the commitment of a buried wire.
Mauseth added that the Valley GPS Guidance options provide growers opportunities to put more acreage into irrigated production.
“What we’re seeing lately is the desire to get every acre into irrigated production. In some fields, using the conventional buried wire is just not possible due to sub-surface rock, drain tile, underground pipelines, etc.,” Mauseth said. “Valley GPS Guidance solves all of these issues.”
Mauseth added that supplying GPS Guidance products to the market is no trivial task. “GPS is still a rapidly evolving technology. Our dedicated Valmont Irrigation engineers and industry leading GPS partners allow us to confidently provide GPS Guidance solutions to the market and will let us continue to provide GPS solutions to growers well into the future.
For more information about GPS offerings with Valmont Irrigation, producers can contact their local Valley dealers.
Valley Irrigation to Introduce Control Panel at Farm Progress Show
September 9, 2010
Valley TouchPro control panel
VALLEY, Neb. (Aug. 25, 2010) — Valley Irrigation will introduce its new TouchPro™ control panel at the 2010 Farm Progress Show Aug. 31-Sept. 2 in Boone, Iowa.
The Valley TouchPro control panel with Touch technology is designed to simplify control panel programming, while giving producers the option to personalize main screen controls to display irrigation information that is important to their operations.
“The TouchPro panel was designed to simplify programming of control panels for pivot irrigation,” said John Rasmus, Valley Irrigation controls product manager. “The TouchPro is a natural progression from the current computerized panels.”
The Valley TouchPro control panel has improved control features, including a graphic view of the pivot, end-gun positions and wide boundary irrigation positions. This new interface helps growers more quickly and confidently make water management decisions.
Bryant Knoerzer, a grain and livestock producer from Elwood, Neb., has been helping Valley Irrigation field test the TouchPro panel for several months.
“I’m very impressed with the ease of operation,” Knoerzer said. “The TouchPro panel is very easy to understand. You just press a button and it’s run visually. That helps visualize differences in degree changes, so if someone puts in a wrong degree setting, it’s more easily caught.”
Knoerzer added that he can customize the main screen, helping prevent the accidental changing of settings. “I can change the screen layout to show controls I want to see,” he said. “I can hide other buttons so settings can’t get changed on me.”
Unlike other touch control panels on the market, the TouchPro panel is designed to handle the challenges of outdoor agricultural environments, including extreme temperatures, high humidity and transient voltage requirements. Rasmus explained that these design specifications will provide growers with uninterrupted performance and years of trouble-free operation.
The TouchPro panel comes with a five-year industry-exclusive warranty and is compatible with the Valley Irrigation BaseStation and Tracker lines of products.
Producers can see the new TouchPro panel at the Valley Irrigation Farm Progress Show booth, No. 1023. Following its launch at the Farm Progress Show, information about the TouchPro panel will be available at local farm shows through spring 2011.
Valley Irrigation to Display the New Bender30™ at Farm Progress Show
September 9, 2010
VALLEY, Neb. (Aug. 25, 2010) — Valley Irrigation will display the new Bender30 option on a full size 8000 series pivot at the 2010 Farm Progress Show Aug. 31-Sept. 2 in Boone, Iowa.
The Valley Bender30 option increases the number of acres a grower can irrigate at a low cost. With the ability to bend any drive unit at a 30-degree angle, a grower can easily wrap a tree line, feed lot or avoid obstacles in the field allowing for maximum irrigated acres.
By bending his Valley center pivot at the third regular drive unit, Joel Bergman from Loomis, Neb., was able to pick up additional acres next to his cattle yard. “The Bender30 allowed me to wrap our existing center pivot up next to the feed lot picking up a rather large triangle of land that otherwise would not have been irrigated,” Bergman said.
The Valley Bender30 will easily retrofit existing center with no structural changes required to the machine, even bending at multiple locations on one machine.
“The Bender30 may very well become one of our most popular pivot options,” says Wade Sikkink, Valmont Irrigation product manager. “With few additional parts, a Valley dealer can retrofit an existing pivot or design a new machine to maximize irrigation potential. Optional water shut-off valves will shut off the sprinklers on the stopped spans while the bend continues to irrigate.”
With the focus on Precision Irrigation, Valley Irrigation continues to outperform the competition with an exclusive speed-up timer function on the Bender30. This feature improves the center pivot’s water application while in the bent position.
Producers can see the new Bender30 option at the Valley Irrigation Farm Progress Show booth, No. 1023. Following its launch at the Farm Progress Show, information about the Bender30 will be available at local farm shows through spring 2011.
Valley Irrigation to Introduce New VRI Control
September 9, 2010
VALLEY, Neb. (Aug. 25, 2010) — Valley Irrigation will introduce Valley VRI at the 2010 Farm Progress Show Aug. 31-Sept. 2 in Boone, Iowa.
Valley VRI is the irrigation industry’s first line of variable rate irrigation (VRI) controls integrated directly into the existing irrigation controls.
“Valley VRI puts irrigation management decisions in action,” said Jake LaRue, Valley Irrigation international projects and products manager. “This improves efficiency and lowers production costs, which can, in turn, increase a producer’s profits.”
There are two different levels of VRI control: Variable Rate Zone Control and Variable Rate Speed Control.
Valley VRI Zone Control
VRI Zone Control
VRI Zone Control allows maximum precision irrigation via individual sprinkler or span control. This is done with up to 30 different VRI zones controlled through Valley VRI tower boxes and the Valley Pro2 control panel at two-degree increments around the field. VRI Zone Control provides the highest precision possible, and is available now.
VRI Speed Control
When programmed for VRI speed control, TouchPro, Pro2 and Select2 panels allow variable rate control for every 5-degree section. Variable Rate Speed Control will be available in late 2010 and will come standard in new TouchPro, Pro2 and Select2 control panels.
The key element of the Valley VRI is the VRI Mapping program. For both the VRI Speed Control and VRI Zone Control, this user friendly computer program allows the operator to use soil texture, topography, Veris® maps, yield maps or other specific field maps to develop irrigation prescriptions.
Valley VRI installed on center pivot
Earl Vories, Ph.D., agricultural engineer and lead scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service in Missouri, has been researching the mechanics of VRI for five years and thinks the technology is important to the future of irrigated crop production.
“Mid-South soils are highly variable within a single field,” Vories explained. “Without VRI, producers have to set irrigation rates based on an average soil type, or pick the most limiting condition.” This practice compromises potential yield on other soil types within the same field.
Jimmy Moody, a cotton, soybean, corn, wheat and rice producer near Dyersburg, Tenn., participated in the field testing of Valley VRI Zone Control and saw its benefits firsthand. Valley VRI helped him effectively irrigate a particularly challenging field with soils ranging from Sharkey clay to very coarse sand. Based on that experience, Moody looks forward to using Valley VRI on additional pivots.
“I have variable soils from sand to silt loam to clay. With Valley VRI,” Moody said, “I’m not going to be applying too much water to my cotton crop in heavier soils in order to get enough water on my sandier soils in the same field.”
Vories added, “Precision operations have taken a hold on other facets of ag. It doesn’t make sense to precisely apply other inputs and not water. I think you’re going to see a big increase in adoption of VRI technology between now and five years from now.”
Producers can learn more about Valley VRI at the Valley Irrigation Farm Progress Show booth, No. 1023. Following its launch at the Farm Progress Show, information about Valley VRI panel will be available at local farm shows through spring 2011.