Adding pivots can consistently push corn and soybean yields higher. But how do you ensure that on-farm infrastructure is able to support that extra crop? For starters, realize that examining all aspects of the grain production process is very important, says Neil Lunzmann, Reinke Manufacturing director of sales, east region.
"Farming is like a barrel, and if you have one stave that’s shorter in that barrel, that limits what your yield is," Lunzmann explains. For example, adding irrigation will probably require increased fertilizer application because there will be higher crop yields consistently, compared to dryland farming.
Beyond inputs, farmers should consider operational costs, including utilities and maintenance. A well is consistently the largest energy cost on irrigated farmland, but the price of power needed to move water from the well to the field varies substantially, depending on whether it uses a combustion engine or high-line electricity. Pivot dealers can help farmers calculate those costs, Lunzmann notes. Maintenance costs are generally low for the first 10 to 15 years, when pivots generally just require oil changes. Beyond that, center-drive motors and gearboxes might need replacing.
You’ll see additional wear and tear on combine components such as augers, Lunzmann says. That’s because the equipment will be handling more grain than in the past. Farmers might also find they need bigger trucks to haul grain and larger bins for storage, particularly if a dryland operation is now 50% irrigated or more.
As farms integrate more pivots, operators should ensure workers are trained in proper safety protocol.
"The bigger farms get, the more OSHA laws that come into play," Lunzmann notes. "Certainly there are some training issues—what not to touch when there are things in operation. It’s always a good thing for employees to know what to check on a pivot safety-wise, making sure all the shields are in place."