Center Pivot irrigation questions - The Combine Forum

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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-30-2009, 05:45 AM Thread Starter
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Center Pivot irrigation questions

First of all, I just purchased a fantastic book from The Groundwater Foundation, called Rainmakers: A Photographic Story of Center Pivots. Its a good book with lots of scenic images, and has a foreward by congressman Tom Osborne, which I thought was neat. For $24 US (though with S&H, it cost a bit more in Canada), its a nice little coffee table book for anyone who enjoys a bit of agricultural invention and a broader sense view of how an item helped to change modern day food production.

But obviously, with any good book comes the chance to ask some questions, so I will. And what I am wondering is.

1) What is the best way of laying out a field with center pivots? Are most fields planted straight across? Or do some plant in circles? And if you do plant in circles, does 'fall back' on the inside sprayer boom become an issue?

2) How good is chemigation / fertigation? Is it popular? Is it accurate?

3) How much extra acres does an end gun get you, and do you square up fields at that point?

4) How common are corner swing arm systems? Are they cost effective, or are they maintenance problems?

5) Between both the end gun and corner systems, do they provide the same water application levels as the main system? Or is it a case of 'whatever water we get is better then none at all'

Thanks for answering my questions. And to those who are interested, the website for the book is

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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-31-2009, 12:45 AM
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Re: Center Pivot irrigation questions

The answers to most of your questions will vary from farm to farm, but I can tell you what we do.

1: Most guys farm straight back and forth, we farm in a circle. Bouncing over sprinkler tracks sucks. Once we get to the inside two tracks we switch to straight rows; partially because the curve gets too tight to easily keep check rows accurate, and because the closing wheels on the planter won't follow the openers when turning sharp.

I'm not sure what you mean about the sprayer question.

2: I haven't seen a lot of chemigation in my area, but I'm sure there is some. It's generally easier to spray any chemicals on (faster too). We sometimes run fertilizer through the sprinkler, though. It's a good way to give a crop an extra shot of nitrogen. It's a hassle getting fertilizer to the pivot, though.

3: Since I'm on vacation I don't have any notes handy, so I can't say how many acres an end gun adds. It depends on the size of the gun and the length of the system, though. Personally, I think end guns are a tremendous waste of time. I hate seeing water being sprayed into the air where it can evaporate. I also haven't seen good corn under an end gun; they just can't supply enough water to make those few extra acres yield well.

4: I know of only one corner system in my area. It looks like a pain in the behind. I don't know what kind of maintenance they take, but since they're so rare I'd say they aren't very cost effective.

5: Corner systems are nozzled like the rest of the sprinkler, so if it's nozzled correctly it should apply the same amount of water as the main system. They do waste a lot of water, though, when they trail behind the end tower. End guns are much more inefficient, with the application rate highly dependent on weather conditions (wind and heat).

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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-31-2009, 10:49 PM
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Re: Center Pivot irrigation questions

My fields I farm in straight rows but I have tight soils. So I don't have any wheel ruts. The endgun adds about 110 feet to the end of my machine. When I look at my crops you can sure tell where the endgun stops. But I think that it all depends upon a lot of variables, on crop, weather, and soils. I see a lot of corner machines in Idaho on the potatoes so they must be worth having.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-01-2009, 09:48 PM
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Re: Center Pivot irrigation questions

1. We plant in straight rows. We use a dump valve to water the corners of our square fields and where the slope allows.

In the lighter soil we plant straight but just where the pivot hits in a circle.

2. We put on Nitrogen through about half our pivots. It is very accurate. A lot of people are putting on fungicide through them, we haven't done that yet.

A benefit of being able to chemigate is that it is possible to easily add a nutrient late in the season.

3. I would take a stab and say an end gun gets you 20+ extra irrigated acres. We put booster pumps on some older pivot end guns and gained around 5 acres.

You can program pivots to shut off the endgun at points where it would hit a road or something.

4. We have a corner system. I suppose over time it pays for itself but they are expensive. We bought a quarter that already had one on it. We really haven't had any problems with it. Ours adds around 20 acres.

5. Each nozzle on the corner system has a valve and is able to be programmed to shut off, so when it isn't extended and is just trailing, only a couple of nozzles are on.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-03-2009, 11:03 PM
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Re: Center Pivot irrigation questions

We run 14 pivots and 13 have corner systems. The reason is we farm in an area where land prices are high and the soil is fairly light. If our corners dont get water then we dont get much of a crop.
Also we grow some specialty irrigation crops that pay well. Being able to contract 155 acres rather than 130, pays for the corner system fast.
However, they aren't without problems. Out of all of our pivot downtime, over 50% have something to do with the corner system
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 10:27 PM
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Re: Center Pivot irrigation questions

Based on what I see around Lubbock and West Texas most people lay out the pivot in circle rows. Some will switch to strait rows around the last two towers but some will plant in circles all the way to the center mainly due to the fact that most farmers run a single press wheel on their planter. As far as fall back with a sprayer boom I have seen times when it has been a problem with the new bigger self propelled rigs but we have matched 12 row patterns and only a 12 row boom so no problems for us.

We also use chemigation / fertigation and we are pleased with the results we get from it. The only problems we had was figuring out the correct setting for the pump for our 1/2 mile pivot. The two smaller ones were easier.

As far as an end gun we don't have enough water to even consider this as an option. We are lucky to get what we can as our water table is dropping off every year. Also swing arm systems are hard to find here. The dealers I have talked to say there are a few but it is extremely rare.

I hope this helps give you some information on how things are normally done here in West Texas.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-27-2009, 06:17 PM
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Re: Center Pivot irrigation questions

Here vegetable crops like carrots, cabbage, onions and lettuce are planted straight because of harvesting issues, corn, sugar beets and pinto beans are planted and harvested in a circle so equipment doesn't have to jump tracks.

We have almost every soil type, from blow sand to black tiger crap. In one circle/quarter you can have one extreme to the other in soil type.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-02-2009, 10:06 PM
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Re: Center Pivot irrigation questions

As far as the cost of the corner arm, we have a 5 tower Valley with corner arm. The corner arm actually doubled the cost of the pivot, but in that cost is not only the structure but also the wire that must be buried the entire perimeter of the pivot for the arm to follow. So far we haven't had to do anything on that pivot but clean out nozzles, of course it's only 5? years old i think.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-03-2009, 10:25 PM
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Re: Center Pivot irrigation questions

We have a pivot that we have to unplug nozzles on because of the rust. There's a vein of rusty water that goes through the area. We need to get rid of the drops and put some bigger nozzles on top.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-06-2009, 10:55 PM
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Re: Center Pivot irrigation questions

Hi - I farm a few center pivots and we farm the field in a circle expect the inside two towers. Also, with the exception of the corner system tracks being irregular, the corner system has been great for us.

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