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Consider these practices to boost irrigation efficiency:
- Complete a pivot maintenance checklist. Routinely check and maintain all components of your irrigation system. Get a helpful checklist.
- Check sprinkler water distribution before you plant the crop. Place catch cans the length of the pivot and apply about 1/2 inch of water. Watch a demonstration.
- Try a soil-moisture sensor. Monitor soil moisture in the root zone with soil probes in different parts of the field. The University of Nebraska offers one such web-based tool called CropWater, which uses the Watermark sensor readings to estimate water use and availability for different soil types. The free program is at: http://go.unl.edu/aiz or http://go.unl.edu/hkg
- Work with an irrigation technology adviser. Find an adviser to help you evaluate what water efficiency technologies would make sense on your farm.
Remote pivot management systems like this one from Rite Control let growers monitor and control pivot operations from their desktop or mobile device.
Remote pivot controls
Remote pivot-management systems give growers control of the pivot without having to drive out to the field. Using satellite, cellular networks, or other telemetry systems, growers can turn pivots and chemigation on and off, change speeds and monitor position.
Quandt stays in touch with 50 center pivots 24/7, using GPS-based systems from Reinke, Zimmatic, AgSense and Rite Control. “We save a lot of time and a lot of fuel manages watering operations on 6,000 acres,” he says. The family operation stretches 17 miles from north to south and 15 miles east to west. “Pretty much everything you would do on-site with the panel you can do remotely.” Remote-control systems also send email and text message alerts if a pivot shuts off or gets stuck.
The computer program he uses calculates crop water needs based on soil type, plant growth stage and local weather. He also is experimenting with variable-rate irrigation, and is looking into wireless soil moisture probes and flow meters. With lower crop prices, we are trying to get more efficient with our water use, he says
Greving also believes in more precise irrigation. “We put in remote controls on all our pivots, because if you’re down for several hours, those can be very, very precious hours for irrigating,” he says. The first time they received a text message from a stopped pivot, “we got there even before the water had drained out. That sold us on remote control then and there.”
The Grevings use Valley Tracker wireless controls on all 18 center pivots. “We still check them morning and night,” Jeremy says, “but they are always being monitored.”