irrigation system
GET READY: This is the time of year to diagnose maintenance issues with your center pivot and get them fixed, so it is ready to go next spring.

Quick tips for winterizing your center pivot

Take care of pivot maintenance issues now to save time next spring.

Did you prepare your center pivot for winter? Sometimes, when colder weather rolls around and the grain is all in the bin for the year, we just want to take a break from management from the previous growing season. But getting pivots ready for winter should be on the late fall list of things to do.

Steven Melvin, Nebraska Extension irrigated cropping systems educator, says that all tower drains need to be opened and water drained out of the pivot pipe before winter. Melvin says that your "to-do" list should include dumping and draining the rock trap and making sure water is all out of the end gun equipment and end cap, as well as other above ground piping or equipment.

"You can evaluate pivot performance from the previous season and diagnose future problems by looking at the crop patterns in any aerial field images that were taken this past summer," says Melvin. "If you do not have any images, check with some of the providers because you can often still purchase them." Even after harvest, you can notice non-uniform circular patterns in the remaining crop stalks, which often mean a problem with the sprinkler package. You can't always rely on the combine yield monitor to pick up sprinkler problems, because those areas are usually narrow and the width of the combine head will collect grain from both poorly watered and well-watered areas, he says.

"If the field will be grazed, protect the equipment from cattle," says Melvin. "Close the pivot tracks in the fall, if possible. Also, make note of any repairs or updates that need to be done before next season," he says. "Many pivot dealers have a winter service program that may help lower the costs."

Finally, Melvin reminds producers to make sure the pivot and pump starting systems are disabled or locked out: "I have seen pivots that have been started late at night in the winter by mischievous trespassers, which results in the pivot getting covered with ice and going down.”

You can learn more by contacting Melvin at [email protected].

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