Downtime, unnecessary labor costs, high energy expenses and wasted water often take big chunks out of a farmer's resources, natural and capital. In times of depressed crop prices, farmers can't afford adding another penny to the liabilities column on his spreadsheets.

Getting leaner has never been more important. Fortunately for farmers with irrigation, new technology improves their ability to manage water, labor and energy more efficiently while giving crops necessary moisture for profitable yields.

Below are brief descriptions of some of the latest innovations in irrigation technology.

Lindsay Manufacturing

Lindsay Manufacturing Company's new PowerDrive gearbox for Zimmatic pivot irrigation systems features advances that enhance strength and durability.

Enhancements start with a new gearbox housing, “the heaviest in the industry,” according to Lindsay Vice President Bob Snoozy. “We added material to strategic areas within the housing for better load distribution and greater overall strength.”

In addition, the closed-design oil reservoir provides better heat exchange, reduces condensation and lowers gearbox oil pressure. When service is required, top and bottom service plugs simplify maintenance.

A new cartridge-type gearbox seal also adds to durability. Designed to turn with the drive shaft, this design places the seal lips inside a spring-loaded cavity surrounded by a high-temperature grease, which reduces possibility of seal dislocation and provides increased protection against gearbox contamination and wear.

The PowerDrive gearbox is available on the entire Zimmatic line of center pivot, lateral move, mobile and corner irrigation systems. The PowerDrive gearbox is backed by one of the strongest warranties in the industry - 8 years or 8,000 hours.

Product lines offered by Lindsay Manufacturing include: Zimmatic brand center pivots, mobile pivots, corner and lateral move irrigation systems; Greenfield brand mini-pivots and hard hose travelers; GrowSmart controls, soil moisture sensors and resource management products; and LMC Secure financing and insurance products. For more information, visit website www.lindsaymanufacturing.com.

Reinke

Reinke's new computerized irrigation management system gives growers more control over essential functions from their office or laptop computer.

The Reinke Automated Management System (R.A.M.S.) provides increased crop production control with custom water and chemical application program capabilities and helps conserve energy, water and labor costs.

”R.A.M.S. is the best application choice to meet precise farming demands in the 21st century,” said Tim Goldhammer, Reinke vice president of marketing.

A new Temperature Control Transmitter also protects systems from a hard freeze. The transmitter is accurate to one degree and will automatically shut off an irrigation system in freezing temperatures When incorporated with R.A.M.S., the Temperature Control will give the operator the ability to set the desired shutdown and restart temperatures through the program software.

“All control settings are executed through keystrokes on the panel and are easily changed and/or monitored,” said Tim Zikmund, Reinke technical products manager.

The Temperature Control also works with a non-computerized standard panel configuration. Temperatures are set through a manually operated dial inside the main control panel.

R.A.M.S. features a chemical pump status report and also measures system control increments to a tenth of a degree for efficient water management. The Reinke Phone Link allows a grower to check or change status of the system from a landline telephone or cell phone at any time. Phone Link will also contact the grower if a problem arises with the system.

“Reinke's system diagnostics result in less troubleshooting and down-time,” Zikmund said. Telemetry control incorporates UHF radio technology to monitor, operate and compile detailed irrigation records of farm operations for up to 100 systems.

Reinke Manufacturing Co. Inc is headquartered in Deshler, Neb. For more information on Reinke products, visit www.reinke.com.

SST

SST Stratus, a software package for recording farm management activities on a Pocket PC device is now available from SST Development Group, Inc.

“SST Stratus offers growers an affordable record-keeping package with a simple interface,” said David Waits, SST president. “While SST focuses on providing software solutions for analyzing farm-level data, we emphasize the importance of collecting management data to begin the precision farming cycle.”

The program is GPS-enabled and is fully compatible with other software products, including SSToolbox, SSToolboxLite, and SSToolkit.

The new technology allows producers to split fields and enter sub-field and/or whole-field data with or without GPS. The software package use an extensive reference database to ensure consistent naming conventions. With choices from standardized pick lists users can be confident of accurate data collection.

The program also saves the producer time when he enters data while in the field. Most common management actions and applications are available in SST Stratus, selected from drop-down boxes, which contain listings of hybrids, varieties, chemicals, pests, equipment, and more.

Reports can be customized to include company or farm logos and custom color settings. The reports display field maps along with records of field activities grouped by operations such as disease scouting, fertilizer applications, or planting.

Each report lists farm and field name, acreage, state, county, and legal description and can be used for historical record keeping, for landlord/tenant transactions, and compliance reporting. With the click of the mouse a grower can download an aerial photo of a field through a built-in link to MS TerraServer. Visual references allow a grower to determine crop splits, create buffer zones near waterways, and delineate management zones.

In addition, SST Stratus can import images such as yield maps, soil type maps, and soil fertility maps from SSToolbox for use as background maps.

SST Development Group, Inc. is a site-specific solutions provider for agriculture. The company develops and markets agricultural GIS application software and provides information services through the SST Information Lab Program and the SST FarmRite Network to producers, crop consultants, agronomists, crop input suppliers, and researchers.

T-L Irrigation

T-L's newly patented technology has successfully married center pivot technology with drip irrigation. PMDI consists of in-line drip hoses spaced at 60 inches between lines dragged through various crops by a center pivot or linear move irrigation system.

P.M.D.I. combines the efficiency of surface drip irrigation (95 percent) with the flexibility and economics of center pivot irrigation. There are two main advantages of Precision Mobile Drip Irrigation:

P.M.DI consists of in-line drip hoses spaced at 30, 40 and 60 inches between lines being dragged through various crops by a center pivot or linear move irrigation system. P.M.D.I. combines the efficiency of surface drip irrigation (95 percent) with the flexibility and economics of center pivot irrigation. There are two main advantages of Precision Mobile Drip Irrigation:

Over-all water efficiency — Since the drip line is on the ground, you eliminate evaporation and wind drift associated with traditional sprinklers because wind will not affect it as it applies the water at a super efficient 95 percent. You get all the efficiency of surface drip at the much-reduced cost per acre price of center pivots.

Dry wheel tracks — In many soils and cropping practices, deep wheel tracks on pivots and linears are a problem. With P.M.D.I. the drip lines water behind the wheels so the tires run on dry ground.

For more information contact T-L Irrigation, Hastings, Nebraska, 800-330-4264, or www.tlirr.com.

Valley Irrigation

Valley Irrigation is putting a new focus on the cams Management Systems, which allows producers to control pivots effectively, manage irrigation remotely, and keep records of irrigated fields.

“Valley never leaves a system behind,” says product manager Jake LaRue. “If you choose to upgrade your Valley pivot control system, you don't have to buy everything new.”

For example, if you decide to upgrade from the Valley Standard Panel to the Valley Pro2 Panel, you simply replace a couple of components.

‘You don't have to start over, and purchase everything new.”

The component structure of the controls also helps minimize downtime and investment in repairs. “We have a dealer who brought in a module from a control panel that sustained a direct lightning hit,” says LaRue. “You can tell by the charred parts. We replaced one component, and the control panel is back in working condition. This customer ended up with a bill that was just 30 percent of the cost of a new module.”

Valley also is announcing a significant upgrade to its top-of-the-line control panel, the Pro2. A backlit display helps farmers deal with systems at all hours. And the control panel doesn't require batteries. Producers also will notice better accuracy of position reporting.

A key new addition to the cams Management Systems is the Auxiliary Link, designed to collect data, such as soil moisture, temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity and rain, from a variety of sensors. The Auxiliary Link also monitors pump, valve, and other electrical component status for flow, pressure, and whether they're on or off, open or closed.

rsmith@primediabusiness.com