“There’s a lot more to irrigating than most people realize.”
oliver irrigation service manager
rodents chewing on it, corrosion or something else, it can be difficult to locate the fault in the underground wire. GPS guidance for corner arms is much more dependable.
GPS positioning makes the information in the control panel much more accurate than the
af contributor | lethbridge
Given that an irrigation pivot has a pretty limited range of motion, you wouldn’t think it needed a GPS system to give it directions. But in fact, there’s a great advantage for farmers to know at what point the pivot is in its circle.
The first place GPS helps is on corner arms, the section of the pivot that extends into the corners of the field and folds back again to move to the next corner. The arms allow irrigation of the whole square field instead of the centre circle, increasing cropped area to the full 160 acres instead of 133 in a circle.
Traditionally, corner arms have been guided by a buried wire. But, if problems develop – from standard technology. It allows much tighter control over the area that is watered and the amount of water. GPS units are combined with a control panel that can be programmed.
Valley Irrigators have a panel that includes 12 programs, each with up to 17 commands and, for particularly complex situations, an irrigator can combine several programs. The panel can communicate with a base station in the farm office and relay the information to other computers or phones.
“I have my life back”
“There’s a lot more to irrigating than most people realize,” said DeLon Crapo, service manager for Oliver Irrigation in Lethbridge. “Not having to babysit pivots all through the summer, makes a huge difference to people. I hear, ‘I have my life back’ quite often.”
The accuracy of the positioning information from the GPS unit also allows farmers to program every detail of irrigation. The end gun can be set to turn off when it would spray the road or the neighbor’s swathed hay. Or, the pivot can be turned off to go by a haystack or beehives. At exactly the position indicated, the panel checks for a command and modifies the operation.
The panel that controls the irrigation system also controls the pump. It can turn it off, walk the pivot (move it along without water running through it) through an area that doesn’t need water – a slough or a natural area and then turn it back on. It can also reverse the pivot at a preset point or put different amounts of water on different sections of a field, say 1.5 inches on potatoes and just an inch on barley beside it. This may have benefits for the environment and the crop as excess water and fertilizer is not leached into groundwater.
All these options save a farmer trips to the pivot – not always fun among the mosquitoes on the slippery, wet trail to the pivot point. They can even leave the farm and irrigate from anywhere in the world by phone. When there is a problem, the panel shows exactly what and where it is. Some farmers have pivots far from home, so every saved trip is worth a lot.
Using GPS and a programmable panel allows farmers to mix other crops that need different amounts of water from the main crop under a pivot. A section of a circle could be planted with fruit trees and still receive the correct amount of water.