A Pleasant View farmer is testing a new type of drip-irrigation system that attaches to a center-pivot sprinkler.
The High Desert Conservation District has teamed up with farmer Brian Wilson and Teeter Irrigation of Johnson City, Kansas, to determine if the company’s trademarked Dragon-Line system will work for this area.
Instead of using the nozzles on the center pivot to irrigate, a row of drip lines are attached that drag behind the sprinkler, watering the crop at its base instead of from above.
“It saves water and reduces evaporation, erosion and runoff,” said Travis Custer, agricultural consultant with High Desert. “It is the first trial of the technology in the area.”
To compare crop yields, one section of the center pivot irrigates a field of wheat normally from spray nozzles, and an adjacent section uses a series of drip lines attached to the nozzles. After harvest, the yields will be compared. Soil moisture monitors have also been installed in areas watered by the drip and nozzle sections of the sprinkler.
The hybrid center pivot and drip-line technology was created by Teeter Irrigation and launched in 2015. The technology has proven effective in Kansas and other Great Plains states that irrigate from an underground aquifer, Custer said.
But since local farms use surface water delivered via ditches and pipelines that carry more debris, a filter system had to be installed on the center pivot being used on the Pleasant View trial.
Farmers have switched to center-pivot sprinkler technology because it is less labor-intensive than side-roll sprinklers, which must be moved by hand. Center pivots are automated and move in a circular pattern, watering from a row of nozzle heads. Water flow and speed are adjustable and can be controlled remotely.
But center pivots work best on flatter ground. On undulating farmland and fields with steeper slopes, center pivots can cause water to pool in low spots and run off the field or drain into the sprinkler’s wheel tracks, creating muddy conditions.
What’s exciting is that the drip-system attachment to the center-pivot could eliminate those problems because the water is delivered at ground level, said Steve Miles, board member of the High Desert Conservation District.
“We are finding ways to adapt the center pivot to our terrain,” he said. “It is early in the game, and if it works, it will take several years to fine-tune it.”
It appears to be working in the test plots. The lower areas of the drip-line section are not getting waterlogged, and there is less runoff from the field. How often the filter system has to be flushed is also part of the experiment.
“Drip irrigation is proven technology, so we are trying to adapt it here in a way that is practical,” Miles said.
Teeter Irrigation provided the Dragon-Line materials for the Pleasant View trial in cooperation with the High Desert Conservation District and the Dolores Water Conservancy District. In the spring, the company held a meeting attended by 20 local farmers to present the technology.
If practical, the experiment will continue for the next two seasons and will be tested on different crops, including alfalfa and beans.
“It’s generating quite a bit of curiosity from local farmers,” Miles said.