Top 5: What to Know Before Buying a Pivot

Published online: Jun 28, 2017 Articles, Irrigation, Top Five Rich Panowicz, Vice President of North American Sales, Valley Irrigation
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This article appears in Potato Grower's July 2017 Smart Irrigation Month issue.

There’s a good chance your dad taught you everything you know about farming and running the business. But manufacturers and dealers still get a lot of questions about the process of buying a center pivot and the best way to go about it. The purchase of a center pivot is a big investment that can provide a very good return to growers.

Here is a list of five questions and considerations your dad may not have covered with you about buying a center pivot for irrigating the farm.


  1. What kind of support should I expect from my irrigation dealer?

When you decide to buy a center pivot or convert to a pivot from another form of irrigation, you are making an investment for 20 years or more, not just with the machine, but also with your local irrigation dealer. That being said, you need to make sure your local dealer is committed to his business, has the capability to provide you with a “turnkey solution” with qualified service and readily available parts, and is available for you on your time. Check with neighboring growers who use a particular dealer to see what they think of his business.


  1. Do I have adequate water supply for a center pivot?

This is one of the most important questions to ask before committing to a center pivot. If you don’t have enough water, your center pivot simply will not work the way you expect, or you may be required to change the crops you grow and how you manage the pivot. The amount of water you need is directly related to the climate in which you farm, as well as the type of crop (or crops) you grow. Check with local universities, USDA professionals and your local irrigation dealer to determine if the water you have available will be adequate to provide the yields you expect.


  1. Should I use pressure regulators?

A pressure regulator is a device that maintains a constant nozzle pressure over a wide range of input pressures to the sprinkler. In laymen’s terms, it helps make sure you have consistent pressure along the length of your machine. You will want to start the conversation about utilizing pressure regulators with your irrigation dealer if you have variations in your terrain.

As an example, if your pivot is designed so that the end sprinkler nozzle operates at 20 pounds per square inch (PSI) at the top of a 20-foot hill, the pressure on that last sprinkler will increase by about 8.5 PSI when the end tower walks back down the 20-foot elevation, causing the amount of water flowing out of those sprinklers to increase by about 20 percent if pressure regulators are not utilized. Using pressure regulators in this situation helps mitigate over- or under-watering, and/or non-uniform irrigation.


  1. What are some tips to help me manage my pivot properly?

A center pivot is a great piece of equipment to apply water to crops, but if it’s managed incorrectly, it can fail like any other piece of farm equipment.

    • If you have an adequate water supply, apply smaller amounts of water more frequently; however, this may be crop-dependent. A real advantage of a center pivot is to be able to apply smaller amounts of water on a more frequent basis. However, it is important to keep in mind that low-capacity water sources may require water applications on a less frequent basis. However, it is important to keep in mind that low-capacity water sources may require less frequent applications that apply greater application depths per pass.
    • Manage the water in your crop’s root zone, so that you start irrigating at the right time.
    • Use an irrigation scheduling tool to monitor and manage soil moisture, so that you apply water only when and where it’s needed.
    • Make sure you know how much water you are applying and how long it takes to apply. This information is available from digital control panels and sprinkler chart information supplied with the pivot purchase.

          5.      What do I need to do to keep my machine maintained?

A center pivot is a big investment, and since it’s installed in the field and not stored in the machine shed, it’s sometimes easy to forget about some basic machine maintenance. Your irrigation dealer will run various preventative maintenance programs throughout the year to help you keep maintenance top-of-mind. Keeping your pivot in top shape year-round will help make sure it is running well during the critical irrigation season.