Why Converting from Flood to Pivot Irrigation Improves ROI
Feb 28, 2022
Center pivot irrigation systems are an important part of today’s agricultural world. But that wasn’t always the case. One of the oldest irrigation methods still used today is flood irrigation—sometimes referred to as surface or furrow irrigation.
Flood irrigation works by essentially flooding one area and allowing the water to flow to other areas or fields using small trenches that run through the crops. While this may be a low-cost option, this method can be inefficient and wasteful—which is why many growers have converted to pivot irrigation.
Why flood irrigation is inefficient
Flood irrigation is still successfully used on operations today like those with small row crops and trees. However, the global push for irrigation efficiency and water conservation has left growers wondering if flood irrigation is right for them. So, let’s talk about the challenges with this approach.
Uneven application can mean uneven yields
With flood irrigation, water is overapplied at the upper end of the field and underapplied at the far, lower end of the field. The uneven application can leave crops at risk for over- or under-watering which can stunt plant growth or leave them more susceptible to disease. Both of which can be detrimental to your crop yield.
Water runoff can waste resources
Because the water is applied in a more uncontrolled manner with flood irrigation, it can be hard for plant roots to absorb every drop. Instead, water loss can lead to runoff or evaporation, and leeching or nutrient loss can also occur.
High labor demand can add stress
There hasn’t been much innovation or technological advancements over the last few decades when it comes to flood irrigation, which means these systems do require more manual labor to ensure success. With automated pivot irrigation systems, no one is required to move pipes or open and close gates. In fact, there’s virtually no labor needed to apply water. Plus, remote control and monitoring options add an additional level of confidence and peace of mind.
Why convert to pivot irrigation: 6 benefits
Pivot (or mechanical move) irrigation is a proven method of conserving water and improving your return on investment in time, labor, fertilizer and chemicals—while virtually eliminating deep percolation and runoff.
When it comes to acre-for-acre, pivot irrigation can save 30 to 50% of water over flood irrigation. But how can you get more value out of less water?
1. Stronger yields from more uniform application
Pivot irrigation systems like Zimmatic™ center pivots are designed to apply the correct amount of water on crops at the right time to ensure maximum yield, even in areas that struggle with uneven irrigation. You can also leverage the remote irrigation management and scheduling technology of FieldNET™ to ensure precision and gain greater visibility into your field’s changing needs.
2. Higher efficiency
The efficient water application and uniform distribution of center pivots also comes with the ability to optimize irrigation scheduling (depth and timing) and meet changing crop water requirements with an application rate (precipitation rate) that matches soil permeability.
3. Energy and water savings
Being able to efficiently apply water and chemicals uniformly over the field—no matter the terrain—helps reduce waste. Plus, you can control the timing and amount of water that’s applied, so you won’t lose resources to overirrigation. And eliminating any water or chemical runoff can also help prevent contamination of nearby water sources like ponds or streams.
4. Crop versatility
Another benefit of center pivot or lateral system irrigation is you can grow multiple crops under one circle or rotate close-seeded crops like wheat and alfalfa because furrows aren’t needed.
5. Lower labor and maintenance costs
It’s no secret that many operations are facing agriculture labor shortages. With Zimmatic pivot irrigation systems, you can get a fully automated solution with state-of-the-art controls to reduce labor costs and benefit from remote capabilities.
6. More eco-friendly
Zimmatic center pivot irrigation systems are a long-lasting and cost-effective solution—we’re talking 20+ years—you can count on. We use 95% recyclable components and a rugged, high-quality design to ensure a durable and dependable system is built to last for decades beyond your initial investment.
Answering your pivot irrigation vs. flood questions
Is a pivot right for my field type?
Center pivot irrigation is best for fields larger than 65 acres. However, we have small-field options available!
What are my conversion options?
Most producers converting to mechanical move irrigation choose center pivot or lateral move systems. A typical seven tower Zimmatic pivot will cover 131 acres (53 ha) of a standard quarter section. Add a corner arm and you can cover up to 154 acres (62 ha) or, in a rectangular 240 acres (97 ha) field, up to 182 acres (74 ha). Zimmatic mobile pivots also give you the option of using one system on multiple fields. A lateral move gives you equal versatility, plus the ability to irrigate up to 98 percent of square or rectangular fields. You can browse all our options here.
Do I have enough water to switch?
In most cases, yes. In fact, pivot irrigation requires less water than flood irrigation.
Where should I put my pivot?
Your local Zimmatic dealer will work with you to customize a solution and find the best location to meet your unique needs. And they’ll always be there to answer questions and keep you producing more year after year.