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Agrimarketing : October 2012
66 Agri Marketing I October 2012 has also had an impact on our busi- ness by allowing growers to receive some assistance with the cost of irri- gation equipment where available.” Customer adoption of new irrigation technologies has not always been quick. “Tradition is one of the issues we have had to overcome in the past 50 years,” says Michelle Stolte, Valley Irrigation Global Marketing Manager. “Growers had been flood irrigating for centuries, so when the center pivot was introduced, it really took some out-of-the-box thinkers to grab hold of this concept and install this machine on their farms.” “Another issue that we have had to overcome is the idea that center pivots provide a solution and are not the problem when it comes to water supply issues,” continues Stolte. “It’s hard to imagine that such a large structure can, in many cases, use half the water of flood irrigation and be up to 95% or more efficient, but those are the facts.” DRAINAGE There are two major methods of farmland drainage. Surface drainage, where standing water is removed using surface ditches. And subsurface drainage, where excess water is removed through a system of underground drainage tiles. There’s quite a long history of drainage tile usage, dating back to at least 500 B.C. Those original tiles were made of straw and mud. Then came clay, ceramic, corrugated metal, and concrete. In 1966, Advanced Drainage Systems (ADS) introduced a corrugated high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe that was perfectly suited for subsurface drainage. Its many advantages included lightweight construction for easy handling, high resistance to corrosion and abrasion, and strength and durability to withstand severe loading conditions. The agricultural industry completely converted to HDPE pipe in 1978, and ADS has grown with the demand. In 2011, the company announced a $10 million program directed at improving and expanding its manufacturing capacity and delivery ability in the entire mid-west U.S. region. Then in 2012, ADS opened their 54th manufacturing plant, this one in Michigan. As you might imagine, field drainage does have a large environmental impact. Drainage water can carry chemicals and plant nutrients, as well as have an effect on wetlands and wildlife. Proper drainage water management is the key. The Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC) was formed in 2005 as a resource of the latest technologies in drainage water management systems. ADMC is committed to assisting agricultural and environmental communities in improving water quality and increasing yields for food and energy producers. The Coalition works at local and state levels to educate farmers, drainage and conservation groups, as well as local, state, and federal authorities to build an understanding of the latest drainage water management systems. GRAIN STOARGE Ask nearly any grain bin manufacturer, and you’ll quickly learn that the USDA’s 1983 PIK Program was perhaps the largest issue they’ve ever had to overcome. “Over two-thirds of grain storage companies went out of business back then,” says Siekman. “The silver lining in the cloud was that it drove our diversification into pre-engineered steel buildings for markets other than agriculture, and expanding into a broader line of livestock equipment.” Founded in 1963, Sukup Manufacturing has also seen its share of opportunities. Throughout the years, the company has continually grown and expanded its product offerings. First, adding products to go in and on grain bins to make in-bin drying more efficient. Then, in 1998, venturing into portable, continuous flow dryers that offer higher capacities and more flexibility than in-bin drying. In 2001, Sukup began manufacturing the grain bins themselves. In today’s high production agriculture, size does matter. Grain bin size, that is. The incredible increases in yields and overall productivity have driven the need for larger storage units. For example, according to the USDA, average corn yields have increased by 100 bushels per acre over the last 50 years from 64 bushels per acre in 1962 to 161 bushels in 2009. Responding to this need, in 2010 Sukup erected a free-span commercial bin that measured 135 feet in diameter with a peak height of 131 feet, and a maximum capacity (more on page 68) Infrastructure Innovation | Overview | continued from page 65 In the U.S . in the past 40 years, irrigation water withdrawls have decreased, while the number of center pivots has increased, indicating greater efficiencies with center pivots. U.S. CENTER PIVOT IRRIGATED ACRES VS. U.S. IRRIGATION WATER USAGE 65 OCT Infrastructure Article_32 Feature Story 10/25/12 4:38 PM Page 66
November December 2012