Spring is the time to check your equipment and irrigation schedules are up to scratch for summer. Poorly operating irrigation systems cost time and water efficiency, not to mention the additional cost to production. You need to make sure your irrigation systems are operating as efficiently as possible to make the best of water resources. Here are some simple things that you can do.
1. CHECK YOUR FLOWS AND PRESSURES
These are often overlooked. They are generally affected by the wearing of pump impellers over time. Checking that your flow and pressures are within 10% of operating design is critical to application efficiency.
2. CHECK FOR LEAKS
Water not irrigating the right place is water wasted. This also applies to end gun settings and broken sprinklers.
3. DO A BUCKET TEST (IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY)
This lets you know how much water you are applying and how even your application is. Knowing how much water you are applying is critical for irrigation scheduling. Improving the uniformity of application will result in more of your irrigation being beneficially used.
4. INVEST IN SOIL MOISTURE MONITORING AND WEATHER FORECASTS
An efficient irrigation system is only as good as the scheduling of the irrigation. Knowing when to irrigate and how much to apply will save both time (irrigation days throughout the season) and money (pumping costs per day). Linking soil moisture monitoring with weather forecasts will allow any rainfall during the irrigation season to be taken advantage of.
5. MAKE A PLAN
With the experience of a few tough seasons behind us, now is the time to look at your seasonal plan. Does your consent have adaptive management conditions? How would this affect your irrigation scheduling? Identify your higher production areas and your lower productions areas. Does your system have the capability to isolate areas of lower performance if the season gets tight?
6. UPSKILL YOUR STAFF
If you have any new staff on board you need to provide training so they understand how to correctly schedule and operate irrigation equipment to ensure you optimise water use and avoid damage to expensive equipment. INZ has a range of Irrigation training days and workshops available.
Have a look at this checklist to make sure you're ready for the new season:
Sprayline (pods, long lateral, solid set)
Travelling Irrigators (boom, gun, rotorainer)
‘Check the Track to make it Back’ centre-pivot start-up campaign
In your average paddock, there’s plenty of room for both your irrigator and your tractor right? Well not always so, given how often the two seem to meet each other with disastrous consequences.
Between 2010 and 2015 FMG received over 280 Impact or Accident while in use claims at a total cost of $3 million – and this amount doesn’t include related damage and liability claims for damage to farm bikes, fencing or third-party property!
The vast majority of these losses could have been prevented or minimised, saving the businesses concerned a whole lot of money, time, hassle and the loss of production. Irrigator damage isn’t cheap to fix and the cost of repairs can seriously affect cash flow.
Just a few examples we’ve come across include:
- An employee driving a tractor under a centre pivot irrigator didn’t have the required clearance. The roof of the tractor caught the supporting rod, tipping the irrigator and damaging the two spans costing more than $50,000.
- A pile of debris was left in the field on the irrigator tracks. The centre pivot has run over the debris, causing the corner arm to disengage and become damaged from the fall to the tune of $37,000.
The extra time taken to walk the irrigator track before flicking the ‘on’ switch could mean saving thousands of dollars.
• It makes sense to check the paddock for foreign objects and any changes to the ground or surrounding trees, shelter belts and hedges. This is particularly important before making the first run of a new season, as there will undoubtedly have been some growth since the last time the irrigator was run. And don’t forget about any new fences!
• Where an irrigator crosses a roadway or farm track, there is potential for a trailer, or other extended height unit to strike the irrigator. Irrigators are difficult to see in bright light or dull, overcast weather. Fitting reflective signs that hang lower than the main pipes can reduce this event from happening.
• Management of the irrigator wheel tracks should be included in the farm maintenance programme. Wheel ruts significantly increase the load and the wear on the drive train and can slow a section of the irrigator down affecting the irrigator alignment and the ability for the irrigator to travel in a straight line
• Read the operating instructions thoroughly and walk the track with any employees before they operate the machine for the first time. This will also ensure all users avoid any obstacles including trees, hedges, fences or buildings.