Upgrading older center-pivot systems with new technology as well as replacing worn-out components will help farmers harvest more crop per drop of irrigation water.
By Loretta Sorensen
Technology renews functionality of older pivots
Precise control of irrigation water and the energy used to pump it maximizes yield potential and reduces input costs. Applying the appropriate amount of water on the most productive areas of a field also aids in higher yields.
New technology can make older pivot systems more effective. Don’t overlook worn-out parts, such as electrical panels, nozzles, drivetrains and gearboxes, either.
"Some farmers are adopting new technology quickly, while others are more cautious and taking time to see how it works," says Scott Mauseth, Valley Irrigation advanced technology product manager. "Over the next year or two, more farmers are likely to take advantage of advancing technology."
Real-time surveillance. Enhancements such as GPS monitoring can save time, bushels and money with help from a smartphone.
FieldNet Pro with GPS Position from Lindsay Irrigation allows farmers to keep an eye on real-time irrigation activities on pivot systems from anywhere in the world.
"If a pivot system is down at the critical crop stage, it can significantly reduce yield," explains
Reece Andrews, technology product manager for Lindsay Irrigation. "FieldNet will send an alert to a cell phone if a system isn’t operating correctly. With the remote control, you can quickly get the system back up."
Dale Zoerb of Litchfield, Neb., uses the new technology on several of his 37 pivots.
"In the past, I’ve run myself ragged checking pivots," Zoerb says. "Some pivots are as far as 15 miles from my farm. I use my smartphone to access the FieldNet system. Now, at any time from anywhere, I can monitor and control pivots. When it’s time for routine maintenance on a system, I can be more focused on that particular pivot. If I find a pivot isn’t working, I can get to it at the beginning of the day, rather than discovering it when the day is coming to an end."
In addition to the real-time data, FieldNet allows Zoerb to program different pivot speeds and water application totals using his phone. These settings can be adjusted as weather conditions and crop needs change. The new technology is integrated with Zoerb’s existing mechanical panels, making it relatively inexpensive to install.
FieldNet will print a report for each of Zoerb’s pivots, which allows him to manage irrigation resources and match water application with yield records. The reports also allow him to maintain year-to-year records.
Control options. T-L Irrigation Company offers four levels of pivot control, from the most basic manual hydraulic control to a fully programmable computer control.
"The PPCIII [Precision Point Control Three] is the most popular level, providing the most desirable control functions," says Doug Soderquist, T-L engineering manager. "Our 2011 third-generation PPC has expanded features with GPS tracking and soon-to-be-released full Internet capability."
PPCIII can be installed on any T-L pivot system. The company’s continuous-move hydraulic drive system, first produced in 1968, is unique to the irrigation industry. The PPCIII enhances the basic continuous-move hydraulic drive by incorporating a "closed loop" speed feedback to monitor the system and automatically adjust to field conditions to provide the most accurate application.
"The PCPIII can be used on towable systems and retain control settings for three separate pivot locations," Soderquist explains.
Precise application. Valley Irrigation’s variable-rate application technology can be installed on older pivot systems. The company offers two control versions, zone and speed, according to Mauseth.
"Zone control breaks a field down into 5,000 different segments," he explains. "The irrigator can change water application rates in each one of those segments according to the crop need. It provides very precise control."
Valley’s speed control variable-rate application technology allows irrigators to set varying rates of pivot speed in as many as 180 different areas of a field. The technology makes it possible to precisely apply water, fertilizer and other inputs.
"The technology ties into what many customers already use," Mauseth says, "such as field mapping and yield monitors. The variable-rate irrigation technology helps bring it all together, from the convenience of mobile devices like an iPad, smartphone or your laptop."
Electrical makeover. New pivot system components, such as electrical panels, nozzles and gearboxes, also boost the functionality of older pivots.
Cody Bailey, Reinke sales and marketing support specialist in Deshler, Neb., says his company can update any brand of pivot system with highly efficient electrical components.
"That type of update can make a pivot nearly as good as new," Bailey says. "Reinke also offers a preconditioned pivot application controller [PAC] that replaces the old-style dials used to set the speed on a machine. PAC can be adjusted to accurately apply water at a specific rate instead of relying on a timer to apply a certain amount of water in a specific time frame. The controller can be fitted to any electrically driven system."
Nozzle upgrades. Worn nozzles distort distribution patterns, resulting in either over- or underwatering. Over-watering seals the soil surface, resulting in runoff that can wash away soil.
"Newer sprinklers with a larger footprint allow soil more time to absorb water," says Diann Ilkenhons, Senninger Irrigation Inc. marketing manager. "Our company’s i-Wob, an off-center rotary action sprinkler that provides ultra-low application intensity by delivering water over a larger area in a uniform pattern, lowers sprinkler pattern impact on soil structure. That preserves the soil’s ability to absorb water. Increasing soaking time reduces potential for soil compaction, soil sealing and water runoff."
By maintaining a constant preset outlet pressure, the pressure regulators help assure applicators perform as designed. Evaluating accuracy and low friction loss is a good way to choose which pressure regulators are best for individual installation.
The ever-increasing emphasis on water management makes it important to take advantage of new technology and upgrades to enhance performance of older center-pivot systems.
- January 2012