Don't Give Up Yield By Neglecting Your Center Pivot

Major improvements from here on will need to come from better management of the systems.

Published on: May 2, 2013

Last year's dry conditions highlighted any problems there might have been with the operation of individual center pivot sprinkler systems. As irrigation season comes up, now is a good time to closely inspect pivots, sprinklers and irrigation equipment to make sure the systems operate efficiently all season long.

At an irrigation workshop recently, University of Nebraska Extension irrigation specialist, Bill Kranz, told producers that they need to take a thorough look at their center pivots and how they are operating.

"As we look at the design of sprinklers, packages and center pivots in general, most of the people involved in doing research work related to them will say that the system is about as efficient as you are going to get it," Kranz said. "Major improvements from here on out will come in the ability of the producer to manage the system."

Dont Give Up Yield By Neglecting Your Center Pivot
Don't Give Up Yield By Neglecting Your Center Pivot

Kranz said that things don't always go as planned.  Aerial photos over growing crops under center pivots illustrate where water distribution problems exist. "Problems are everywhere," said Kranz. "There are sprinkler and water distribution issues, and places where the spacing is not quite right or the sprinkler is not functioning." He noted one instance where he observed sprinklers actually missing, and water gushing out of the system and ponding on the ground. "This isn't something you had to look for," Kranz explained. "It was right there, staring you in the face. When you have a leak, the pressure going to the other sprinklers is less than what it is supposed to be." There is more water going out and the water distribution in the rest of the pivot is not uniform.

He said that he has observed clogged sprinklers, especially in systems that are pumping lagoon water or from surface water. "Sprinklers need to be cleaned periodically," he said. "These are the sorts of things that can really cause problems for us." When the pivot isn't operating efficiently, water and energy is wasted and producers are giving up yield potential.

If you'd like more information on inspecting your center pivot irrigation system, contact Kranz at 402-584-3857 or email wkranz1@unl.edu.