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Between the Fencerows

Considerations before you get your feet wet with irrigation systems

Published on: August 7, 2013

There are a handful of tips that folks should consider before jumping into irrigation.

First, know your water supply.  Many people are having problems getting adequate water supply.  It's not so much an issue of water shortage, but rather not sizing the irrigation system to the recharge the ground can supply. 

No one can see the soil structure below ground, nor do we know the continuity of the materials that allow free flow of water.  You can have a great soil formation, but it may just be a pocket with no real connection to the larger aquifer.  I also believe inexperienced well drillers are playing a role.  With big money in irrigation right now, some people have jumped in the business who don't have proper experience. 

There are a handful of tips that folks should consider before jumping into irrigation. (file photo)
There are a handful of tips that folks should consider before jumping into irrigation. (file photo)

You can glean information and generalities about available water from several sources, but the bottom line is have a test hole drilled first.  This is usually about $7-10 per foot of depth.  If results are favorable, have the well drilled AND test pumped.  Know your GPM and limitations before you visit the dealer.

Next, do you have power?  Electric is usually the most cost effective way to power your irrigation.  Natural gas and Liquid Propane can be lower-cost alternatives to diesel units.  Many rural power lines are antiquated and at capacity.  Knowing what restrictions and maximums the utility is going to place on your service is also an important factor.  Some utilities are friendlier than others. 

Another important question to ask is how long will it take to get hooked up.  For our new services this year, it was about a month after we had all our wiring done and inspected before we could get hooked up and turned on.

Finally, order your pivot.  Find a dealer who you are comfortable with and is properly staffed.  Get a final completion date.  Talk to other operators and get their opinions and experiences.  Find out if your field is a fit for a bender, corner arm, towable, lateral, hose pull, etc.  A very good fit would be better than 90% coverage.  Shop around, we usually spec out what we want and send it off to get at least two quotes. 

Having 30+ years of experience, the service aspect isn't quite as important to us.  We usually price shop.  However, for a new operator or someone who is not comfortable around electricity, service would be at the top of the list.

If I can say this without stepping on toes:  if enjoy perfecting your golf game or vacationing through the summer months, irrigation is not for you.  It is time consuming and pressure filled.  It seems to take one person for every 12-15 systems.  The problem is this:  With irrigation, you have higher expectations.  If you have down time or mess up scheduling, you are losing yield which defeats the additional management and investments already made.