When looking for different agricultural irrigation systems to service larger fields, growers have two main choices. These options include center pivot sprinkler irrigation systems that are available in various types and lateral move sprinkler irrigation systems. Choosing the best option depends on a number of details, from field size to water source.
Center pivot sprinklers are those that irrigate in a circle around a central pivot point. These agricultural irrigation systems are available in a number of different pressure ratings and with a few different drive mechanisms. The drive mechanism in the middle controls the whole system, propelling it around the circle and delivering water at the right pressure to irrigate the land as programmed.
Sprinklers may be hydraulic powered, motor powered, or run by electricity, with water feeding into the equipment through the central pivot point. They are best used on flat grades; however, with a powerful motor they can also be used on fields with a few degrees of slope.
Center pivot sprinkler irrigation systems are more economical to use than lateral move types. They use less water yet must be carefully programmed to deliver the right amount of fluid. Higher-pressure systems have a broader application area but use more fuel or energy. There is also a higher rate of evaporation with high-pressure application.
Conversely, lower pressure options use less fuel or energy but have a smaller application area. There is also a greater chance of soil erosion or runoff with low-pressure sprinklers and they use more water. The main concern when working with these sprinklers is to formulate the best rate of delivery depending on soil type, sprinkler pressure, and pivot speed.
Lateral Move Sprinkler Irrigation Systems
Lateral move agricultural irrigation systems are constructed of one long feed line that is driven laterally along the length of a planted field, irrigating as it moves. These units are motor driven, possessing a gas or diesel fueled generator and designed for use on flat, rectangular shaped fields with a minimal grade. They can be advantageous over circular pivot setups because they provide complete coverage to rectangular-shaped fields; however, there are some drawbacks to consider as well.
Lateral move sprinkler irrigation systems are low-pressure sprinklers designed to follow some sort of a guide, whether that is a furrowed path in the ground, an above-ground cable, a buried cable via radio signal, or using GPS navigation. They must also be fed either with a long hose that is dragged behind the equipment or via a water ditch dug along the length of the planted field. Ditch-fed models have a pump on the unit to suction-up water and feed it through the sprinklers.
Considering all these factors, lateral move sprinklers require more maintenance and repair and are more labor intensive to set up and manage. Since they are low-pressure systems, they use more water than circular pivot systems, so runoff and erosion must be weighed.
In determining the best agricultural irrigation systems to meet needs, growers must consider the size, shape, and level of the fields they need to water. They can look at other details like water access, type of motor, water consumption, and system cost. Center pivot sprinkler irrigation systems offer a number of advantages like high-pressure, low-consumption watering, while lateral move sprinkler irrigation systems may be less costly and more suitable for longer fields. All of these factors must be evaluated in order to choose the right system!