As irrigation lines move farther east and north, farmers need to be diligent in winterizing irrigation equipment to keep it in peak performance for several years to come. Use this checklist to get started:
Park pivots in a safe location. When choosing a location to park the system for the winter, consider the three most common sources of damage: wire theft, wind direction and rodents. Theft is less likely in a visible but inaccessible area of the field. Wind damage is less if the pivot points into or away from the wind. Squirrel and other rodent damage is rare when pivots are a few hundred feet from a tree line.
Protect against rodents. Even if you park your system away from the woods, rodents can still wiggle their way in. Cap all large openings to prevent bird nesting and rodents from entering.
Service your engine and pump. Drain your pumps to the lowest point they can hold water. Inspect gauges, supply and control wire. Examine your engine with special attention to engine oil, bearing and seal lubrication.
Drain pivots, travelers and big guns. Any aboveground portions of system are exposed to freezing. Many pivots have automatic frost drains that drain the main overhead pipe, but they can plug, which can lead to major repairs. Rock traps also need to be cleaned and drained. Travelers and stationary big guns often have portions of the system that might hold water. Drain them, as well as hoses, pistons and motors.
Inspect and lock down power supplies. Look for damage and holes on all electrical boxes, from the power supply to the last pivot or disconnect. Place locks on the power supplies to prevent vandals or anyone else from turning wells and pivots on during winter months.
Update your sprinkler package. The off-season is a great time to properly fix or replace any sprinklers.
Know your available flow. Use a flow meter or contact your irrigation dealer to measure your actual output. Compare the sprinkler package criteria to your measured flow and adjust as needed.
Create a work list for each system. While it is fresh in your memory, record the improvements and repairs needed for each system. Inspect your equipment and keep a list of needed repairs, then assign the repairs to an employee or your repair crew.