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October 28, 2014 | Questions From Consumers
What goes Round and Round, Towers above us, Hums a Tune and Can make it Rain?
There are various types of irrigation systems and pivots.
October 28, 2014 | Questions From Consumers
What goes Round and Round, Towers above us, Hums a Tune and Can make it Rain?
There are various types of irrigation systems and pivots.

A view from a pivot tower top on our farm in Central Nebraska.
New wiper pivot, March 201
Our new wiper pivot before it was completed, March 2014.

An irrigation pivot of course! The fields I farm is irrigated and often when I tell people they are irrigated by pivot…well not everyone understands completely what a pivot is.It’s a term I have known since I was a child when I rode out to “check the pivots” with my father. My dad still helps me some but it is usually me checking up on the progress of our irrigation pivot with my own children complaining while waiting in the back seat!

There are various types of irrigation systems and pivots. So to help me explain to you what a pivot is and how they work, I decided to Google it! Isn’t that what most people do today?! The most complete, and accurate, piece of history and information I found was a You Tube video posted by Sam Howard who’s 7th grade class made a documentary for history day. I encourage you to watch it; although it is somewhat dated, made in 2009, but it carries the facts and information that still rings true today.

Frank Zybach: The Invention of Center Pivot Irrigation

http://youtu.be/snWrG8TIv0c

I think most people get caught up on the terminology and slang that is used when talking about pivot irrigation, yet when you see it in action or over simplify it...it begins to make sense. There are many terms for an irrigation pivot, including: center-pivot, sprinkler, irrigation pivot, circle pivot, wiper. Sometimes farmers use the “circle pivot” term because they may also have other pivots that do not run in a full circle. The term “wiper” refers to a pivot that only runs a half circle and is reversed when a lever hits a stop placed in the field.

When I looked for a definition for pivot irrigation I found that Wikipedia had quite a lot to say. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Center_pivot_irrigation Although, I found this statement interesting; “Most center pivots were initially water-powered, and today most are propelled by electric motors.” This is not true where I live in rural central Nebraska. Diesel motors power all of our pivots. In an area where the phone company won’t even put in DSL cable so we can get high speed internet? Can you imagine the cost involved in having the electric company put a line through a field to a center pivot? Well, most folks out here are still using Dial-Up internet or throwing their computers away in exchange for an iPhone; so electric is not really a profitable or feasible option for us. I think this is probably a true statement for farms in more populated areas.

Our farm sits on top of the Ogallala Aquifer. It is crucial in our area to protect our water by good farming practices. It is not just our irrigation water; it is our drinking water. Irrigation pivots are used to apply fertilizer and pesticides therefore farmers are required to have the correct back flow valves and equipment at our pivot water source by law. We protect our water with fierceness and good farming practices. Especially after the Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska river water disputes. Nebraska farmers also get a little defensive when you try to put an oil pipe through the Sandhills where the majority of the Ogallala Aquifer resides under. The water under our farm is protected only by silty and loamy sand and sod. This is the water we drink. This is the water we sparingly put on our crops. We are caretakers of the land and whatever is underneath the soil. Pivot irrigation has evolved into a fantastic tool for us to utilize water for crops and do it without waste.

This is a Nebraska Sandhills Farm Gal perspective of the irrigation pivot. Thanks for reading!

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