Irrigating Underground at Husker Harvest Days

Subsurface drip system south of the exhibit area is expected to save water.

Published on: Jun 11, 2013

During Husker Harvest Days this year, you'll have a hard time seeing the newest irrigation addition at the show site six miles west of Grand Island. That's because it's underground.

A subsurface drip irrigation system is watering a corn field and part of the parking lot south of the exhibit area in  2013. It's the first time an SDI system has been installed at HHD.

Western Irrigation, based in Garden City, Kan., installed the drip lines, feeder lines, drain lines, filtering system and control panel this spring. During the show, Western Irrigation's lot, Lot H, will be located at the site of the control panel and filtering system.

For 35 years, HHD has showcased irrigation technology and has featured center pivot manufacturers, pipe manufactures and dozens of other irrigation equipment suppliers. About every type of center pivot and lateral-move system has been installed during those years. The big four in center pivot sprinkler systems—Valley, Reinke, T&L and Lindsay—are fixtures every year in the 80-acre exhibit area.

DIGGING IT: Workers this spring dig the trench into which the flush lines were installed.
DIGGING IT: Workers this spring dig the trench into which the flush lines were installed.

Roger Luebbe, site manager at HHD, says the SDI system replaces a hose-drag lateral move sprinkler that had been there for years and was "showing some fatigue."

The SDI system is watering 30 acres, six of which are part of the exhibitor parking lot at the show. Four different types of drip tape were installed. "During the summer season, we intend to fly over the SDI field to see if there is much of a difference in plant growth in the different field zones," Luebbe says.

The drip lines are on 60 inch centers and buried 14 inches deep. The system is fed by a 300-gallon-per-minute well powered by a submersible pump.

FINISHING TOUCHES: Mark Beckett, left, and Randy Wildeman, both of Western Irrigation, prepare the subsurface drip systems water filter.
FINISHING TOUCHES: Mark Beckett, left, and Randy Wildeman, both of Western Irrigation, prepare the subsurface drip system's water filter.

The mainline is to the north.  It sends water to feeder pipe which in turn delivers water to the drip lines. Flush pipe is buried at the south end of the field.

Through a wireless connection, the control panel can be automatically connected to either a computer or smartphone, allowing the operator to manage the system remotely.

The self-cleaning filtering system will keep out of the drip lines any fine sands, according to Mark Beckett of Western Irrigation.

Beckett estimates SDI, because of its efficiency and water delivery uniformity, can save one-third of the water applied by a center pivot and 2/3 of the water applied by gravity irrigation systems.