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Advanced Irrigation Pivot Remote Control Payoff

Before he retired from farming, Mike David would often spend three hours a day just checking on the irrigation pivots. Today, his son, Kendall, monitors an even greater number of pivots in just a few minutes on their Parks, Nebraska, operation. 

Formerly employed as an air ambulance nurse, Kendall started working his way back into farming in 2011 and made it his full-time occupation in 2014.

However, after replacing one of the pivots on one of the fields with a new system equipped with telemetry, Kendall discovered the benefits of remote pivot control. 

That, in turn, led to the addition of the FieldNET remote management system on 12 of his 14 pivots. Electric pivots that weren’t already FieldNet-compatible were fitted with Zimmatic Pivot Control, which upgrades almost any brand of electric pivot to full remote irrigation control and monitoring capabilities.

skeptical at first

“I  was really to the point that I almost needed to hire someone just to help me keep up with everything when it came to irrigation season,” Kendall says, noting that his 68-year-old father had already come out of retirement to help operate equipment.

However, Kendall and his dad soon discovered other benefits of remote control besides the labor savings.

By giving the power company more control over his irrigation schedule, Kendall was also able to substantially reduce his electricity bill. 

This past year, Kendall enrolled all 12 remote-controlled pivots in the new FieldNET Advisor program, a data-based irrigation management solution that provides intuitive irrigation recommendations. That program, Kendall explains, asks you to enter the crop types, hybrids or varieties, and planting dates. FieldNET Advisor automatically combines this data with soil maps, local weather information, as-applied irrigation history across the field, and 40 years of research conducted by Lindsay Irrigation.

tracks crop life

Using this information, the program tracks the crop growth stage and root depth to monitor the amount of moisture available in the soil, and it makes recommendations on when, where, and how much to irrigate. In addition to appearing on the computer screen, those recommendations are also sent to your phone through email or texts.

“I was skeptical at first, wondering how well a computer program could predict the need for irrigation,” Kendall admits. “When I compared it with moisture probes in some of the fields and checked the soil moisture manually, the recommendations from FieldNET Advisor were nearly dead on.”

“The thing I find most amazing is that the system predicts when the crop needs water, rather than telling us the soil profile is running low on moisture, which is often the case with moisture probes. It allows us to be proactive with irrigation, rather than reactive,” Mike says.

“We saw just how accurate it was last summer when one of the pivots was down for several days,” he continues. “The map began to turn red where a sand ridge ran through the field. The more time that passed before the pivot was up and running, the further the yellow and red bands spread into the field.”

helps manage water restrictions

Kendall says the program has also helped them adhere to water restrictions established by their natural resource district by telling them how much water the crop needs at any particular time and when they can turn the pivots off. 

Ironically, because it calculates the growth stage of the plant, FieldNET Advisor even helps schedule crop chemical applications without ever setting foot in the field. 

“Between the water savings, the convenience, and the fact that it can eliminate the need for soil moisture probes, the Advisor program is already paying for itself,” Kendall notes. “Now, with the VRI capabilities built into FieldNET and Pivot Control, I’m already looking into using that data for variable-rate irrigation.”

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