With winter in full swing, it’s important to take steps to protect your irrigation system from freezing temperatures and the nasty weather that come with winter season.
Just like you treat any other piece of agricultural equipment, center pivots should be prepped for winter weather. Taking a few simple steps before the conditions become too bad will help your pivot remain in top operating condition through the lifetime of the equipment and ready for when it’s really needed next season.
Experts and irrigation companies recommend the following:
Park your pivot in a safe location in your field
– Line up your pivots according to the most common wind direction to avoid damage from wind gusts. Strategic placement can also prevent wire theft, that can avoid any tempting of potential thieves by parking your pivots in a less visible area of your field.
Protect our equipment from rodents and pests
– Avoid parking your pivot near tree lines, and remove brush and branches near control panels to decrease the likelihood of rodents and other pests causing wire damage while the pivot is not in use. Also, be sure to cap pipe openings and outlets to prevent rodents from entering and birds from nesting.
Drain travelers and end guns
– Travelers and stationary end guns often have portions of their system that hold water. Drain and roll-up hoses, unhook and drain ends couplers and drain water drive piston and motors/impeller drive systems that may be damaged by freezing.
Trickle and drip lines and tape
Trickle and drip lines and tape are designed to be self-draining but manifolds and supply systems need attention to make sure no water pockets remain to freeze. Winter rodent damage can turn usable drip tape and trickle line into junk quickly. Lines that are to be moved for next year are best stored in a shop. Lines over wintering in the field stand less rodent damage if not covered by plastic, plant material.
Pump down or drain underground pipe lines
Most underground pipe lines are buried deep enough to prevent freeze damage but they often require pumping or draining enough water from them to empty the upper portion of Z-pipe risers and pump manifolds. This is typically done by purging the system with air or modifying a fertilizer transfer pump to pump system at its lowest outlet or inlet points. Remember to cap all pipe inlets and outlets to prevent any animals from entering.
Drain the pumping plant
Drain pumps and manifolds to the lowest point they can hold water. Replace brass drain plugs if damaged. Good designed pumping installations will be easy to drain without striping drain plug threads or the need for forced air. Review gauges, supply and control wires for needed repairs. Service the engine with attention to engine oil, bearing and seal lubrication. Check the cooling system for adequate anti-freeze level and concentration. Drain the fuel tank to reduce water buildup in fuel tank.
Inspect and lock down electrical power supplies
Inspect each electrical box in the system from power supply to the last pivot or disconnect on system line for damage and holes that may be accessible for rodents. Sealing small holes helps keep rodent damage to a minimum. Both snakes and mice are known to crawl into electrical boxes and control panels through small holes or underground conduit with unprotected ends resulting in electrical fire and damage. Locking down electrical power supplies helps prevent vandals from turning wells and pivots on midwinter and minimizes potential electrical system damage. Now is an excellent time to inspect grounding, system test resistance and make repairs.
Don’t overlook anything
Before freezing temperatures arrive, drain and clean rock traps, hoses and end couplers. Water-drive pistons and impeller drive systems should also be drained and cleaned to avoid seasonal wear and tear.
Service your engine and pump
Drain pumps and manifolds to their lowest points to avoid damage, and conduct a full engine inspection when doing so be sure that you are checking oil, seal lubrication and antifreeze levels. Carefully assess all gauges and wiring and drain the fuel tank.
Create a winter work list for each system
While it is fresh in your memory, list the improvements and repairs needed for each system. As you are inspecting and winterizing your system, add any other areas needing attention to the list of repairs needed. Assign the list of repairs for someone whether it is your hire men or the local irrigation dealer repair crew, the sooner it gets into the plan the better and more efficient your system can be.