Irrigation: Strive For Efficiency

Perform maintenance checks and consider upgrades now.

By Amanda Huber

Fuel prices may have dipped recently, but experts say that it is only temporary. Because irrigation is one of the biggest fuel users, maximizing the efficiency of your system is essential.

Now is also the time to improve or upgrade your system. New technology allows you to operate and view the status of irrigation systems remotely, without continuous trips to the field.

The following information can be used to help maintain your irrigation pump and identify areas to improve efficiency. Also, read about the new technology available to upgrade your system to save time and money.

Causes Of Substandard Pump Performance

1. Is the pump matched for the present conditions? Substandard performance may be caused by the following: the pump may not have been properly selected; operating conditions may have changed, such as a drop in the water table; newly added pipe may have changed the pumping head requirement; or the power source may not be operating at the specified speed (rpm) for maximum efficiency.

2. Are the impellers adjusted properly? Qualified repairmen can adjust the impeller clearance with the bowl for the greatest efficiency. If the impeller is badly worn or corroded, adjustment will not help. Cavitation occurs in pumps that attempt to operate at flow rates greater than the well can supply. This pits the impellers and ruins them.

3. Is the engine improperly loaded? An internal combustion engine operates most efficiently at 75 to 90 percent of its continuous horsepower rating at its design speed. Electric motors operate best at 100 to 110 percent of their nameplate rating. Overloading an internal combustion engine can seriously shorten engine life and increase fuel costs.

4. Does the engine need a tune-up? The ignition, timing and carburetion should be adjusted on spark-ignited engines. Diesel engines require fuel injection timing. Adjustments should be made by a qualified specialist to ensure maximum efficiency under the operating conditions. Electric motors generally do not need adjustment over their lifetime.

Parts that are excessively worn should be replaced. Compression tests can be run to check for the need to overhaul an internal combustion engine.

5. Is a poorly designed pumping system resulting in a low efficiency rating? This could be caused by such factors as an undersized suction pipe, restrictions in the intake strainer or improperly sized discharge column. Misalignment of the drive shaft also decreases efficiency, and excessive wear is a sign of this.

Source: Pumping Plant Performance by Kerry Harrison and Anthony Tyson, Extension Engineers, at

Irrigation Products

GPS Ready Control Panels
Valley Irrigation is introducing the industry’s first line of GPS Ready irrigation control panels. The GPS Ready PRO2 Pivot Control Panel and GPS Ready AutoPilot Linear Control Panel are currently available from Valley dealers. The GPS Ready Select2 Pivot Control Panel will be available later this year.

Rich Panowicz, Valley Irrigation aftermarket sales and product management, says, “Producers need to be able to manage precision application of water and fertilizers. GPS Ready control panels for center pivots and linears can help producers do just that. With the high costs of fuel, fertilizer, water and other inputs, it’s important for producers to incorporate these tools that will help their bottom line.”

The GPS Ready control panels from Valley Irrigation differ from other control panels on the market because they perform all the necessary GPS position calculations in the control panel, eliminating the need for external computers on the machine. They are also compatible with different types of GPS receivers, including WAAS-enabled receivers. This means producers can pick the GPS receiver with the accuracies necessary to meet the required management needs.

“GPS technology allows irrigators to correlate production techniques with land variability, ultimately minimizing costs and maximizing yields,” Panowicz says.

Instead of applying the same amount of water, fertilizer and other inputs to an entire field, producers can program the panel to apply different levels of inputs within the same field, based on data the GPS receiver collects and feeds to the control panel. In turn, producers don’t have to invest in applying inputs where they aren’t needed, and crops have the potential to yield better with better management tools in the hands of the producer.

For more information, see your Valley irrigation dealer.

Valley Tracker Mobile
With the introduction of Valley Tracker Mobile, irrigators now have access to the latest technology for remote management of their pivots and linears.

The Tracker Mobile feature is a combination of Smartphone/PDA technology that uses Web access to retrieve monitoring and control options from the Valley Tracker. It provides irrigators with additional visual access to irrigation information from the convenience of their Smartphone or PDA.

“Valley Tracker Mobile makes monitoring and controlling irrigation equipment easier than ever,” says Mark Ringenberg, product application manager with Valley Controls. “Using a Web-enabled Smartphone with a Windows mobile browser, an irrigator can follow the status of each pivot and control its operations with just a touch, no matter his or her location.”

Tracker Mobile, which features easy-to-understand color-coded symbols, performs all control and monitor options currently available to the grower, Ringenberg says. Users can view the status of all of their irrigation equipment under a single menu and no longer have to make a phone call to every individual pivot to check its status.

“They’ll also see in-depth pivot information on the status summary screen in an easy-to-understand format, and they can easily send commands and check for faults,” Ringenberg added. “It saves time, money and hassles.”

A navigational tutorial of the Valley Tracker Mobile can be found at the Web address It features a simulated version of how the information will appear on-screen. Valley dealers can also provide more information on Tracker Mobile. PG