Irrigation technology is evolving beyond water application

— “X-Tec HS (High Speed) is an updated version of Valley Irrigation’s X-Tec VR engine that promises to find users across the country,” he said. “Like the X-Tec before it, the high-speed version is a long-lasting, constant-motion system that will likely appeal to growers who need light, rapid watering to germinate small-seeded plants, or those who need the ability to run a light “We have already sold a high profile machine to an apple grower who wants to use it for spring frost protection where quick light misting of water is required.”

Caughey said that with the widest range of irrigation tires, the HS motor can move nearly 96 feet per minute, and on a seven-span machine, that means a full circle in 90 minutes. This compares to about a four-hour drive for the existing X-Tec engine.

He said the current system is primarily designed for fields with a slope of no more than 5% due to torque limitations.

“We’re moving the sprinkler 10x faster, but we’re not using 10x the power, so there are torque limitations associated with hauling heavy loads in high gear,” he explained. “The 3hp HS motor is rated for an output speed of 343rpm compared to the standard X-Tec which runs at 34rpm and develops 0.6hp.”

Caughey said about 80 X-Tec HS machines were sold in the first two months following their September 2021 release.

LINDSAY CORP.

The big news from Lindsay Corp. for 2022 is a major redesign of their current remote pivot control program, FieldNET, to give users more intuitive access to the growing number of center pivot functions that contribute to both machine health and asset health.

“The revision is now underway and will likely be commercially available to growers after beta testing is complete during the 2022 growing season,” said Reece Andrews, product manager for FieldNET and Zimmatic Controls. He said the redesign is a continuous improvement on FieldNET, which was first released in 2007 to give irrigation systems a more user-friendly approach to today’s growing portfolio of pivot technology.

The new FieldNET user interface is also where growers will bring Lindsay’s Smart Pivot to life, Andrews said. First announced in November 2020, the Smart Pivot is designed to support healthier crops and more sustainable farming practices while reducing farm downtime and saving farmers labor costs and time.

“Our new Smart Pivot platform brings about a new generation of products and will change the way farmers irrigate over time as technology evolves with new sensors and features,” he said.

“Equipment downtime is a costly thing when you’re farming, and growers have asked us if FieldNET could be used to send them a message, ‘Which tower has been shut down?’ We want to give them what they want,” he continued. “Also, we want to help them identify the root cause of the problem, whether it’s a component failure or field conditions, and Smart Pivot will be able to do that.”

Andrews said the backbone of the Smart Pivot is a system of tower sensors that monitors pointing angles in relation to other towers.

“Using this information, a machine learning system can be used to send the customer the information they want about the location of a possible fault, saving them valuable time in locating the problem,” he explained. “Faster diagnosis means less time on site to get the machine back up and running. All of this helps increase overall productivity, especially in times of labor shortages.”

Additionally, Andrews said the system could be used to measure current draw from traction motors to indicate potential system problems in components like gearboxes before they fail.

“We are also able to add monitors to pivot tires that not only measure tire pressure, but that can be preset to take the machine back to the nearest service street for repairs before it destroys a tire or other component if the pressure is low. “

The Smart Pivot also provides more efficient access to a growing number of crop-related sensors available for monitoring crop and soil conditions, insect and disease outbreaks, and the gold standard of irrigation efficiency – irrigation scheduling. In 2017, Lindsay introduced the industry’s first cloud-based automated irrigation planning tool, FieldNET Advisor.

“The potential water savings in a single field with FieldNET Advisor can amount to millions of gallons, giving the grower more for less, and we want to replicate this across all of our growers because efficient agricultural water use is so important,” Andrews called. “There is a learning curve to using FieldNET Advisor, and the rewrite also aims to smooth that curve.”

The company also recently released FieldNET with WaterTrend, a new feature within the FieldNET platform that uses the same science and data that goes into FieldNET Advisor at no additional cost to subscribers.

“WaterTrend was included in the system free of charge and provides water planning decision information based on soil types, plant growth modelling, local weather and precipitation data. This provides a forecast of water use over the next seven days,” Andrews explained.

In addition, the new Smart Pivot system is designed to make FieldNET easier to set up and use, regardless of how or where field maps and yield information is generated or stored.

“Part of our goal is to improve our customers’ cross-platform access to their data,” noted Andrews. “APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) exist between FieldNET and our customers’ other trusted advisors. So if someone uses the John Deere Operations Center, for example, instead of redrawing that information in FieldNET, they can connect the two platforms and allow both to use their information automatically,” he explained. “We’re trying to make the deployment very complex for our growers Making technology as easy as possible.”

PURE IRRIGATION

Over the past two years, Reinke Irrigation has taken important steps to help sprinkler systems improve planning decisions and provide more even water application in fields where corner arms extend the reach of their center pivots.

Mark Gross operates 100 circles equipped with Reinke machines near Spokane, Wash., growing potatoes, corn, peas, wheat, barley and hay. He is in the process of converting many of his corner arm joints to Reinke’s new ESAC (Electronic Swing Arm Control) system to provide GPS guided, variable rate irrigation in the corners.

“You can see the difference in crops in the corners during the growing season,” he explained after observing the performance of five ESAC units at his farm during the 2020-21 growing season. “There are no yellow stripes in these rows and a much more even green.”

Gross said applying the right amount of water under the wings has always been a problem, but explained he doesn’t see any over- or under-watering of the corner rows with the ESAC system.

“It’s only from that point of view that it makes sense to put them in our machines,” he said.

Ken Goodall, Reinke’s sales director for North America, said the ESAC technology is one of the few corner arm systems available that qualifies for a water conservation co-payment under the Farm Service Agency’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program.

“ESAC offers sub-centimeter accuracy throughout its scope by using GPS and three unit-mounted antennas for precise control both forward and reverse,” he explained. “This guidance, coupled with the system’s ability to deliver a pulsed flow of water to each nozzle on the span, makes it possible to precisely water corners over 10-by-10-foot field map grids.”

According to Goodall, ESAC was specifically designed to ensure water uniformity through all the variables of a moving swing arm mounted on a moving center pivot machine. Its advanced technology also makes it capable of mandatory irrigation to accommodate soil type and terrain variations.

“Using the field maps, the system can find the largest and smallest parts of the field and irrigate accordingly,” he added.

In addition to ESAC’s onboard technology, Reinke has also partnered with CropX to integrate their soil moisture monitoring technology into Reinke pivots via the RC-10 Rain cloud control system.

“By being able to see moisture conditions online in fields with different soil types, growers can make much more informed irrigation decisions,” explained Goodall.

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