Spring is here! Are your pivots ready?

Spring Irrigation Maintence

Though at times it doesn’t seem like spring is coming, it is on its way and soon farmers will fill the fields with tractors, planters, and sprayers. But is your center pivot or lateral systems ready for another season of irrigation?


The goal of this week’s article is to inform farmers of preventative maintenance, that should be able to avoid most breakdowns that occur during the growing season. Doing some preventative maintenance on your used irrigation systems will save you time and money in the long run.


Center pivot irrigation systems are used heavily during the growing season, but when you are finished with it for the season, they get stored in the corner of the field until it is needed again,

freezing temperatures during this winter may have caused damage to your center pivot systems that were not properly winterized. Extreme cold weather causes many issues in water pipes throughout the system; therefore, it is very important to check pivots for freeze damage several weeks before you need the system for crop irrigation.


Systems must be in top shape when it’s time for that first application of irrigation water to the crop to ensure a consistent flow throughout the whole field. The following steps to the checklist were made by researchers at the University of Georgia. They suggest that you review the following checklists items for an overview of things that should be taken care of before the start up your irrigation system.


Power Unit

–    Service the engines, including changing the oil and oil filter, fuel filter,
air filters, and spark plugs. Check the fuel lines for leaks and if they are worsening, the wires for pest damage, and the bolts securing the electric motor. Grease the drive shafts and service points; tune-up the coolant system, ensure that the pump packing is in good condition, and remove any unnecessary things around the motor. The power unit is one of the most important parts of the irrigation system, so the best time that preventative maintenance takes place.


Pumping System

–    Centrifugal

The pump should turn freely and gaskets should seal properly. Check for leaks, any premature signs of deterioration, wear, or seizing of components.

–    Turbine

Check the lubrication control system and service if needed. Make sure that the discharge pipe is firmly supported by being securely bolted. In the case of a submersible motor and pump, it is very important that the static level and drawdown in the well is being closely monitored.


Suction Line for Surface Water

–    Confirm that the intake line and screen are clear; ensure that the intake line is properly supported; repair leaks as needed. They suggest if it is possible to pull the pipe out of the water and check on the condition of all suction areas.


Piping / Drains

–    Close all manual drains. Take a close look at aboveground pipes, gaskets, and seals.  Replace drains in the booster pumps if needed.


Electrical System

–    Starters: Always touch the door of the panel box with the back of your hand to ensure it is not charged with electricity. Check the power connection to pivot is operational and that the electric pump motor is in good working order. Look at the pivot control panel for any debris, insulation damage, loose bolts, screws, or nuts, and frayed or burnt wires. Check the condition of fuses and ensure that you have a few extra fuses available. REMEMBER: If you observe any problems, immediately shut off power to the system and repair the damage.





–    Verify proper pressure readings at the pump, pivot point, and end of a pivot. Always check the pressure with the pivot parked in the same spot and not in use.



–    With the pivot fully operational, check the system flow rate at your installed flow meter.



–    Walk along the length of the operating pivot looking for malfunctioning sprinklers. Check for clogs, worn impact plates, missing sprinklers, etc.

–    Sprinklers wear out over time and need replacing, so do not assume that they are performing correctly without checking them.


End Gun and Booster Pump

–    Check all parts of the end gun to verify that there are no leaks. Make sure the booster pump is working correctly, and make sure that all moving parts and stops in the end gun are working and set correctly.



–    Most current center pivots encounter all different types of land or have variable rate irrigation should be fitted with pressure regulators.


Drain Valves

–    During the sprinkler inspection, check these valves to ensure that they are functioning properly. If a valve is stuck closed, it will not allow the water to drain from the pivot mainline. Determine why the valve is not working then repair or replace it.



–    This is probably the easiest problem to identify. Leaks are seen in pressure and water losses and should be repaired.



–    Check for wear, cracking, low pressure, etc. Typically, wintertime is when tires will leak and go flat. Replace any tires that are in questionable condition to avoid having to do this mid-season. Make sure all lugs are tight.


Gearboxes / Drivelines

–    Remove drain plugs to allow any condensed water to drain away). Check the oil level, and grease any fittings on the driveline. Then, repair damaged shields, and make sure that drive shafts are in good operating condition, not bent or damaged.