Rod Ronspies

Osmond, Nebraska
Pivot irrigation Maintenance
I just love my T-L because it's so maintenance-free, the other selling point for me is that there are very few electrical components and nothing to get electrocuted by.

At 66 years of age, Rod Ronspies doesn’t have grand ambitions of expanding the size of his farm or owning the newest and biggest equipment. Instead, he prefers to wisely manage what he has, including the 1,100 acres of rolling farmland he owns near Osmond, Nebraska. Plus, it leaves him more time to enjoy a variety of hobbies that include motorcycles, airplanes and antique tractors.

“I’m not one to farm fencerow to fencerow,” he says. “I’d rather plant trees and grass for the wildlife and preserve the land for a future generation. They left it in good shape for me, so I want to leave it that way for the next person.”

“I love trees, though” he insists. “I plant about 800 of them every other year. I’ve got them on the field edges, pivot corners, waterways and about anywhere else I can put them. I want the wildlife to be happy,” he relates.

That doesn’t mean that Ronspies isn’t serious about farming, though. In the six decades he has lived on the family farm, he has seen yields nearly double and the farm’s acreage grow by more 800 acres.

“I’ve been on this farm since 1942 when Dad bought the first 240 acres from an insurance company,” he says. “Back then, it was all dryland farming with a rotation of corn, soybeans and oats, and we were lucky to see corn yields top 90 to 100 bushels.”

Today, the farm is equally divided between corn and soybeans that is irrigated by a total of five center-pivot irrigation systems.

“We installed the first center pivot systems in 1974,” he says, noting that at least 70 percent of the farmland in his area is now irrigated. “Almost immediately, we saw yields climb to around 135 bushels per acre … and we thought that was really good. Now, with new technology in herbicides, plant breeding and equipment, we’ve seen corn yields climb to 190 to 220 bushels and beans yield 50 to 60 bushels per acre on average.”

In the meantime, Ronspies has also changed the way he markets crops, having forward contracted his 2008 harvest for as much as $7 per bushel on corn, with soybeans going for even more.

To improve efficiency and enhance weed control, he has also added Roundup Ready(R) corn to the Roundup Ready soybeans he has planted for the past 10 to 12 years. He even owns two older Gleaner(R) rotary combines that are individually fitted with corn and bean heads so he doesn’t have to switch headers.

“At my age, I like for things to be easy,” he says. “But I like for them to be environmentally friendly, too. That’s one reason I’ve even gone to splitting my fertilizer applications. By putting part of it on when I plant and knifing the rest in as sidedress fertilizer, I’m able to keep almost all of it on top where the plant can use it. The NRD shows that our well samples are almost as clean as bottled water.” Ronspies might also be quick to add T-L center-pivot irrigation systems to his easy, yet environmentally friendly list.

Ronspies purchased his first T-L unit in 2005 when one of his original pivots succumbed to rust.

“I just love my T-L because it’s so maintenance-free,” he adds. “The other selling point for me is that there are very few electrical components and nothing to get electrocuted by, and that does happen to a few people each year,” he adds. “In the next three to five years, I expect to replace all the electric units with T-L systems, even though I have electric motors on the wells. There’s just nothing else like that hydraulic drive, especially when you’re looking at $80 an hour or more to have an electrician come out to the farm to fix an electric-drive unit.

“At my age, I’ve got better things to do than take care of electric pivots, and a lot more things I’d rather invest in than parts and labor.”