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Pivot Irrigation in 2024 & Beyond: Top Questions & Answers From Our Irrigation Experts

Zimmatic Center Pivot Irrigation System

In this comprehensive guide, we address the most pressing questions and answers about pivot irrigation, a vital method for maximizing water efficiency in agriculture. Our experts provide valuable insights into the latest technologies, trends, and practical tips for maintaining and operating pivot systems. Whether you’re considering a new pivot system or looking to enhance an existing one, this guide offers essential information to support your farming needs.

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Pivot Irrigation Sustainability & Efficiency FAQs
Choosing the Right Pivot System: Pre-Purchase Considerations
Maintaining Your Pivot System: Essential Repair & Maintenance FAQs

Pivot Irrigation Sustainability & Efficiency FAQs

Are pivot irrigation systems sustainable, and how do they compare to other irrigation methods in terms of water use efficiency?

Farming has traditionally relied on flood irrigation, which has proven to be an inefficient method due to significant evaporation losses and the inability to control water placement accurately. In contrast, pivot systems are among the most efficient irrigation methods, with water use efficiency ranging from 85 to 98%. These systems offer precise watering, which significantly reduces evaporation losses and optimizes water usage.

How does pivot irrigation impact groundwater levels and the environment?

While pivot irrigation is highly efficient, its extensive use, particularly systems relying on groundwater, has raised concerns about the depletion of aquifer systems. In the central plains, this is a significant issue as aquifers are being drained at a fast pace. To mitigate this, operating pivots with precision is crucial. Advanced technologies like FieldNET enable precise water application and monitoring, helping to optimize water use and reduce the strain on groundwater resources. Additionally, exploring alternative water sources, such as surface water, where feasible, can help alleviate the pressure on aquifers and promote sustainable irrigation practices.

What are the emerging trends and technologies in pivot irrigation that could shape the future of farming?

Emerging trends and technologies in pivot irrigation are increasingly focused on sustainability, efficiency, and accuracy. One of the most significant advancements is the integration of advanced sensors and automation systems like FieldNET by Lindsay. FieldNET provides pivot control at your fingertips, allowing for remote management of irrigation systems. This technology enables farmers to set up precise water plans, ensuring specific areas of the field receive the necessary amount of water based on crop needs. Additionally, FieldNET facilitates load shedding during peak times of the day, optimizing energy use. These advancements not only improve water efficiency but also reduce operational costs and enhance crop health.

How can pivot irrigation be integrated with precision agriculture technologies to enhance irrigation management and efficiency?

Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) technology allows for varying water application rates to match soil and plant needs, often using GPS technology for precise control. Specifically, Zimmatic offers an advanced solution with their Zimmatic Precision VRI​ system. This system integrates seamlessly with FieldNET, Zimmatic’ s remote irrigation management platform, enabling farmers to create and adjust irrigation plans remotely. By leveraging historical data, local weather, topography, and soil maps, Zimmatic Precision VRI ensures that each area of the field receives the optimal amount of water, thereby conserving resources and enhancing crop yields.

Are there management systems that help optimize pivot irrigation?

fieldnet advisor tabletYes, there are several management systems designed to optimize pivot irrigation. The FieldNET smart farm management system, for instance, enables effective irrigation decisions by allowing farmers to record, track, and analyze irrigation activities and costs. One of the standout products in this suite is FieldNET Advisor by Zimmatic. This advanced tool provides real-time data and recommendations, helping farmers make informed decisions to maximize water use efficiency and crop yields. FieldNET Advisor integrates with the Zimmatic Precision VRI system to offer tailored irrigation plans based on historical data, local weather, topography, and soil maps. This synergy ensures that each area of the field receives the optimal amount of water, enhancing resource conservation, and crop performance.

What are the latest adaptations and improvements in pivot irrigation technology to accommodate different field sizes and shapes?

fieldnet pivot conrolRecent advancements in pivot irrigation technology include lateral move systems for rectangular fields, corner systems to irrigate previously missed areas, and towable systems for flexibility across multiple fields. Enhancements such as GPS integration and cellular communication enable precise control and remote monitoring. Automation systems like Zimmatic’s FieldNET offer comprehensive solutions: Pivot Control provides full remote management, Pivot Control Lite offers essential features for smaller operations, and Pivot Watch ensures basic monitoring. These innovations enhance efficiency, conserve resources, and reduce operational costs.

How can farmers reduce the operational costs associated with pivot irrigation?

nelson lepaInnovations such as Senninger’s patented Wobbler Technology™ and LEPA (Low Energy Precision Application) help achieve significant water and energy savings. Nelson’s LEPA Bubble Sprays are also designed for low energy precision application, these sprays deliver water directly to the soil surface, minimizing evaporation and wind drift. This efficiency translates to significant energy savings by requiring less pressure and reducing pumping costs. Zimmatic offers Pivot Control by FieldNET which integrates with FieldNET’s remote monitoring and control features to provide efficient irrigation management by using data-driven insights and remote-control capabilities. Zimmatic also utilizes VRI (Variable Rate Irrigation) technology allowing for precise water application based on soil and crop needs, which minimizes water waste and reduces energy consumption by applying the right amount of water where it’s needed most. Nelson offers cost-saving irrigation solutions, such as the R3000 Rotator – a sprinkler that offers high uniformity and gentle application, reducing water waste and energy use. These solutions from Zimmatic, Nelson, and Senninger provide farmers with various options to enhance irrigation efficiency and reduce operational costs. 

Choosing the Right Pivot System: Pre-Purchase Considerations

How do I calculate the coverage and efficiency of a pivot irrigation system for my farm?

Back in the day, a farmer needed to manually calculate the coverage and efficiency, you’ll need to determine the wetted radius including the end gun distance, then use the formula \((3.14 \times R^2) ÷ 43,560\) where \(R\) is the wetted radius in feet. Thankfully, we now use an advanced computer program that will design the irrigation solutions for our customers. Just drop us a line and we’ll calculate all the things! You can reach our Irrigation Manager, Daman, directly via call/text at 785-443-3966.

What should I consider when choosing sprinkler options for my pivot system?

Consider the operating pressure range and soil type of your fields. Low pressure systems (10-30 psi) are energy-efficient and suitable for flat terrains with coarse soils, whereas high pressure systems are better for fields with fine-textured soils or significant slopes. The choice impacts water distribution uniformity, energy consumption, and potential soil erosion.

How can new technologies in pivot systems enhance farm efficiency?

New technologies in pivot systems, such as FieldNET by Lindsay, significantly enhance farm efficiency by integrating multiple control functions into user-friendly platforms. FieldNET Pivot Control, Pivot Control Lite, and Pivot Watch offer comprehensive remote management solutions that enable precise water pump control, pressure-triggered starts, and real-time monitoring via cellular communication. These systems allow farmers to monitor and control irrigation operations remotely, providing detailed insights and alerts to improve irrigation efficiency, reduce water usage, and ensure optimal crop health.

How important is future expansion capability when selecting a pivot system? 

Very important. Choosing a system with a modular design, like Zimmatic/FieldNET, allows for easy expansion from basic monitoring to full control as your farm grows. This flexibility ensures your irrigation system can evolve with your operation’s changing needs.

What considerations should be made regarding the durability and maintenance of pivot systems?  

Consider the tire technology and maintenance needs of the pivot system. For example, the Titan Hi-Dration Lug radial, nondirectional irrigation tire, offers reduced rutting and compaction with the ability to run at lower pressures, highlighting the importance of selecting durable components that minimize maintenance and extend the system’s lifespan. It’s also important to account for the soil types as some tires leave bigger and deeper ruts depending on the field substrate. 

Maintaining Your Pivot System: Essential Repair & Maintenance FAQs

How often should I perform routine maintenance on my pivot irrigation system?

Routine maintenance should be conducted at least annually, ideally before the irrigation season begins. This ensures that any wear and tear from the previous season can be addressed to prevent operational issues. A farmer can DIY his own pivot maintenance and just call in an irrigation service provider for certain tasks, or Woofter can take care of the maintenance for you. We recommend service annually, typically in early spring, and offer two different maintenance plans based on your needs. Give Daman a call at 785-443-3966 to discuss!

Are there any signs that my pivot irrigation system needs professional servicing?

Yes, signs such as persistent leaks, uneven crop growth, repeated electrical faults, or any issue that persists after standard troubleshooting might indicate the need for professional servicing.

How do I know when to replace irrigation parts rather than repair them?

This decision often depends on the wear level and the cost-effectiveness of repair versus replacement. If a component is frequently needing repairs or is significantly worn, replacement might be more economical in the long term.

What are the key components I should check during pivot maintenance?

During pivot maintenance, it is important to inspect several key components to ensure optimal performance and longevity. These include checking the tires for proper inflation and wear, lubricating the pivot points, ensuring gearboxes have adequate oil levels, and examining electrical systems for any signs of wear or damage. Additionally, inspect sprinkler heads for clogging or improper operation, assess the condition of drop hoses, and check boots and joint gaskets for any signs of wear or leaks. Regular maintenance of these components helps prevent breakdowns and ensures efficient irrigation.

What steps can I take to reduce the risk of system downtime during the peak irrigation season?

To reduce the risk of system downtime during the peak irrigation season, regularly scheduled maintenance and checks are essential. Key steps include inspecting and maintaining tires, pivot points, gearboxes, electrical systems, and sprinkler heads. Additionally, keep spare parts on hand for quick replacements of common wear items such as sprinkler heads, nozzles, gearbox parts, center drives, contactors, micro switches, and fuses. Having these parts readily available ensures that any issues can be promptly addressed, minimizing downtime and maintaining efficient irrigation.

Ensuring Efficient and Sustainable Pivot Irrigation

This pivot irrigation Q&A is intended to provide a solid foundation for maintaining, supporting, and servicing pivot irrigation systems. For detailed information specific to certain brands or models, consulting the manufacturer’s guidelines or contacting a local service provider is always recommended.

Our team of experts at Woofter Construction & Irrigation is at your service to help with regular or as-needed maintenance, obtaining new systems or replacement parts, fabricating custom fittings and systems, retrofitting older systems with newer automation technologies, and designing new or upgraded irrigation solutions.

We are proud dealers of Zimmatic by Lindsay, Nelson, and Senninger and aim to be your one-stop-shop for all your farm irrigation needs in the Kansas tri-state area. Call or text our Irrigation Manager, Daman Glover, at 785-443-3966 to discuss any projects or questions – or stop in our Leoti or Colby stores for irrigation parts… if we don’t have it in stock, we’ll happily track it down and order it for you!

A Guide to Determine Which FieldNET® Pivot Control System is Right for You

With these comprehensive guides, make the most informed decision for your farm’s irrigation automation needs. Give our Irrigation Manager, Daman Glover, a call or text directly at  785-443-3966 to get started today!