Variable-rate irrigation (VRI)

Irrigation has become a bigger part of Midwest farming, especially in drought years like 2012.  New technologies are making the practice more precise to conserve water and boost crop yields. Big-name manufacturing companies, such as Valmont, Reinke, and T-L Irrigation have come out with variable-rate-irrigation (VRI) equipment that automatically applies just the right amount of water to areas of a field that need it most. Rates are pre-programmed or “prescribed” based on field characteristics such as soil type, topography, and crops planted. For example, Valley Irrigation this year added QuickStart (QS) prescription writing to its Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) product, allowing growers to customize their water application throughout their field.

Reinke Mfg. partnered CropMetrics, a data management company, this year to offers Sector VRI and Zone VRI, which allows for varying the speed of the irrigation system and turning on and off individual sprinklers.(Photo cutline: Reinke VRI prescription layers)

New web-based programs make it possible to control and monitor the equipment remotely from their mobile device or laptop using web-based programs such as Valmont’s Valley VRI system. Reinke variable rate irrigation (VRI) is now available for growers.  -Jodie Wehrspann

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Weed resistance management

More than 20 different types of herbicide-resistant weeds now exist in Illinois and Iowa and nearly as many in surrounding Midwest states. Weed resistance has grown from a lambsquarters resistance to atrazine confirmed in Illinois and kochia resistance to atrazine confirmed in Iowa, both in 1985, to the high level of resistance today. Common waterhemp is the most prevalent herbicide-resistant weed in Illinois with Palmer amaranth quickly catching up. In Iowa, horseweed is the most widespread herbicide-resistant weed. Horseweed’s resistance to glyphosate in 2011 is the most recently confirmed case found in Iowa.

The keys to battling herbicide-resistant weeds include a focus on early-season control; use of a pre-emergence herbicide at planting; selecting the right herbicide for the right weed at the right time; early post-emergence applications with follow-up, if needed; and diversification of herbicide sites of action. Cover crops and crop rotation are also commonly recommended practices. -John Pocock

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From the "I'm Farming and I Grow it" video adaptation by the Peterson brothers that raked in over 8 million views, to technical how-to videos from the major agriculture company representatives explaining their newest technologies, farmers have found many ways to connect to the farming community through YouTube. The online video sharing website was just barely starting to become popular with the public the last time we published the A to Z list in 2008. -Kathy Huting