The dormancy of the winter months is the time to evaluate irrigation efficiency as well as other aspects of your irrigation system. The major causes of increased energy use can be linked to water application, pipeline leaks, engine and pump efficiency and well maintenance.
The goal when irrigating is to provide water to a growing plant. But if any of the water runs off of the field or moves below the plant’s root system, application efficiency is reduced because the water can’t be used by the plant. Whether you use furrow or sprinkler irrigation, keeping the water on the field and limiting deep percolation helps to improve efficiency.
Poor uniformity of water application can also affect energy use by increasing pumping time. On center-pivot systems, the major causes of poor water application uniformity are sprinkler nozzles that are worn or sized wrong, missing sprinkler heads and leaking boots. To evaluate the parts and pieces of your irrigation system, ask the following questions:
- Do the sprinkler nozzles on your center pivot provide a uniform application pattern along the full length?
- Do you annually check for pipeline leaks, missing nozzles and nozzles that are not rotating properly?
- Have the sprinkler heads and nozzles been on the pivot system for more than seven years?
- Have you checked the nozzle sizes on the center pivot to make sure that they match the nozzle sizes that are listed in the sprinkler package printout from your dealer?
A second area to consider when looking at efficiency is the pumping plant—both the energy source and the pump itself. Electric motors require very little adjustment, but diesel and combustible energy units will run more efficiently and use less fuel with proper maintenance and routine tune-ups.
Equally important is providing periodic maintenance and adjustments to the pump itself so it can deliver the designed flow rate and pressure, thus improving system application efficiency. A worn pump allows water to escape through the seal formed between the impeller and the pump bowls. When the seal gets worn, water must be pumped several times before being delivered to the surface. The University of Nebraska has conducted tests that found pumps are using an average of 30% more energy than should be needed. Given today’s energy costs, poor pumping plant efficiency can be costly. If you have an engine powering the pump, change the oil and filter according to manufacturer recommendations.
At the Irrigation Association’s annual show in December, the UP3 Universal Pivot Products Platform from Senninger Irrigation Inc. was recognized as the most innovative product released in the past year. The easy-clean, easy-change nozzle design means you can just pinch and pull to
remove the nozzle, then place and click to re-install. With an integrated base and bracket, each
applicator can be installed directly into a pressure regulator or onto a standard 3⁄4" NPT female connection with no special threads or fittings required. For more details, visit www.senninger.com.
Emphasize Irrigation Management
Farmers have the opportunity to ratchet up yields by managing water effectively, says Tommy Young of Tuckerman, Ark. To accomplish that, Young puts a water management plan in practice each year.
"We try to use precision practices in everything we do, and that includes how we use water," says Young, who grows corn, rice, wheat and soybeans with his nephews Jim and Blake.
Young shares about the practices that have helped his family succeed in growing corn on a video posted in the "News and Reports" section at www.Farm JournalCornCollege.com.