Regular sprinkler maintenance can save your operation

Your best practice | Winter 2023
BY JENNA SCHERRER
Center pivot irrigating fields

When it comes to pivot upkeep, regular preventative maintenance can eliminate future issues and ensure your irrigation system remains operational and efficient for years to come. This goes for your sprinklers, too.

While sprinklers are known to last many years, regular maintenance can ensure they stay working at their fullest potential. After all, while it may seem minor, one or two damaged nozzles could result in significant yield loss.

To help growers inspect sprinklers and find the proper solution when issues are found, Aaron Sauser, a sprinkler and variable rate irrigation specialist at Lindsay Corporation, offers some tips.

When to inspect your sprinklers

To ensure you know when to fix or replace sprinklers, Sauser recommends inspecting them first while completing preseason maintenance.

It’s best to inspect your entire system for missing or damaged sprinklers before the growing season because they can create inefficiencies in the system’s water application and negatively affect irrigation performance.

Then, Sauser recommends inspecting sprinklers again before the crop canopy covers them. “Once they get below the canopy, they’re out of sight and out of mind,” Sauser says.

When to fix vs. when to replace sprinklers

Sprinklers with incorrect pressure or flow can lead to inefficient application and yield loss. However, depending on the specific sprinkler issue, a total replacement may not always be necessary. In some instances, a simple repair can do the trick.

These problems could indicate it’s time to fix your sprinklers: obvious blockages and limited mobility.

Sprinklers showing signs of poor water distribution could be beyond repair. If you’re experiencing these problems, it could be time to replace your sprinklers:

  • worn regulators
  • plugged or damaged nozzles
  • sprinklers rotating incorrectly due to malfunction
  • incorrect nozzles

“As a rule of thumb, sprinkler packages last 8 to 10 years. But that varies based on water quality and hours of operational use each year,” explains Sauser.

Crop value is another variable to consider when deciding whether to repair or replace your sprinklers.

“If the package is marginal on a high dollar crop, it would be a good idea to upgrade,” Sauser adds.

Beyond the sprinklers themselves

For growers looking to enhance their irrigation operation’s efficiency, it is also beneficial to evaluate beyond the sprinklers themselves and consider the entire pivot system. Some pivots have advantages over others when it comes to sprinklers and sprinkler placement.

For example, consider pivots that offer outlet spacing options to fit your needs and expectations.

“Closer outlet spacing can equate to a higher performing sprinkler package right away,” Sauser says.

Another consideration point is the pivot joint. Due to design, some pivots are more efficient in preventing pressure loss.

Sauser says the best way to ensure every drop of water counts on your operation is by working together with your local pivot dealer to not only design the best pivot and sprinkler solution for your crops and conditions, but also to ensure your system is properly, and regularly, maintained.

Jenna Scherrer is a native Nebraskan and freelance agricultural marketing and communications professional currently living in Kansas with her husband and baby girl.
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