As 2014 begins, it’s clear that cotton growers will be looking for cost-cutting efficiencies to help them remain productive and profitable, regardless of acreage and/or market prices. Our Cotton Grower editors recently outlined five topics to help growers protect their profits. Topic number four: take advantage of options for remote management of irrigation.
Tennessee cotton producer Bob Walker insists the best thing about his cutting edge irrigation system is the peace of mind it offers.
Like many other producers across the Cotton Belt, Walker has tuned in to irrigation technology that allows him to remotely manage his center pivots from miles away. From the cab of his truck or the screen on his smartphone, Walker can turn pivots on and off, change their scheduling and diagnose mechanical problems.
“The peace of mind is a bigger deal than the dollar figures saved,” Walker said. “We’re running primarily electric wells. We set them up to fire during off-peak hours, so they’re all set up on a schedule of when I want them to do it. But I never have to go to the pivot points. I can program all my pivots in 10 minutes at the shop. I couldn’t drive to a single one of them in that time, much less a dozen of them.”
Walker uses two different brands for his remote management pivot systems – one from Valley Irrigation and one from Zimmatic Irrigation. The original idea, he says, was to only equip those pivots that were 25 miles or more away from his shop headquarters. He quickly realized that, like most farmers, he stayed too spread out during the work day to justify only equipping a portion of his center pivots with the technology. Today, he can control each of his pivots via his iPhone.
Valley Irrigation and Zimmatic are only two of the irrigation brands who carry the technology. Walker says he is especially fond of the FieldNET by Lindsay app on his iPhone that gives him control over his Zimmatic pivots.
In addition to the countless dollars saved on fuel, another cost-saving feature of the remote management system is that it diagnoses mechanical failures in real time. By alerting a farmer to a problem immediately, the systems allow for quicker repair and fewer missed irrigation applications. Walker noted that by diagnosing the problem electronically, the system can cut down on costly hourly rates while a mechanic tries to diagnose a problem.
“And if I’m having to fix the problem myself, for that 3/8 of a mile that you’re walking through shoulder-high soybeans or cotton, at least I know I’ve got the parts I need,” said Walker. “I do much better when I’ve got the information before I go in to fix the problem.”