50 for 50: T-L Irrigation

Published online: Jul 22, 2021 50 for 50, Articles, Irrigation, New Products
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Throughout 2021, as part of Potato Grower’s celebration of our 50th year in publication, we will be honoring in our pages and on our website 50 of the potato industry’s most innovative and influential individuals, companies and organizations over the past half-century. This “50 for 50” series will include researchers, salesmen, packers, processors and, of course, plenty of potato growers. A lot of them will be names you’ve heard before. To some, you’ll get a fresh introduction. Regardless, each has had an outsize impact on the U.S. potato industry, and each deserves our thanks and recognition. To view the full roster of “50 for 50” honorees, click here
This article appears in the July 2021 issue of Potato Grower.

Founded in 1955 by Leroy Thom and J. G. Love, T-L Irrigation had already become an established manufacturer of gravity irrigation systems and grain dryers by the time the first center pivot irrigation system was invented. Within a few years, however, Thom, a farmer from Hastings, Neb., and his sons, Dave and Jim, decided they could improve on the center pivot machines that were already growing in popularity. Seeing an opportunity, the Thom family developed and introduced a system in 1969 that used hydraulic motors to drive the wheels on each tower. This allowed the center pivot system to move around the field at a constant rate, rather than starting and stopping at set intervals as electric motors do, thereby applying water more evenly.

Yet, despite decades of center pivot irrigation history, T-L center pivot or linear irrigation systems are still the only units of their kind to offer the benefits of hydrostatic drive, including increased reliability, lower maintenance and greater safety.

“My ancestors, who started the company, looked at electricity,” says John Thom, vice president of sales and marketing at T-L. “But they understood that farmers work with hydraulics every day and understand them, so they can usually make what repairs are needed themselves.”

Today, T-L offers circle and corner pivot irrigation systems, as well as linear and towable units that can also be configured to operate at nearly any speed in any field shape and size a producer desires. By using T-L’s Precision Link remote management system in combination with T-L’s Precision Point Touch (PPT), customers have remote control of stop/start and can monitor the system, as well as control direction, speed, application rate and pump control from an office computer or cell phone. Variable rate irrigation (VRI) can also be programmed on systems that are appropriately configured.

“The continuous, hydrostatic drive is probably the greatest asset we have to offer potato growers,” says John Thom. “Whether you’re trying to apply chemicals at a consistent rate or striving for even water distribution, the non-stop movement of a T-L unit can be very beneficial.

“In addition, potato fields can be pretty rough, given the ridges and ruts across the field,” he continues. “Many potato fields in Western states are on fairly rolling terrain, so having a unit that doesn’t stop and start every few feet means less wear on the drives. It’s like my uncle, Dave Thom, often says: ‘If you’re driving your pickup through a mudhole, you don’t stop in the middle and start up again. You’re going to keep your momentum going until you get to the other side.’”