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Quick tips for winterizing your center pivotQuick tips for winterizing your center pivot

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

Curt Arens

September 21, 2020

2 Min Read
Irrigation equipment in field.
WHEN THE SNOW FLIES: Taking time now to prepare your center pivot for the winter months will help save maintenance time next spring as you ready for a new irrigation season. Curt Arens

No one is ready for winter when it comes. If you have just completed harvest and are busy finishing bin storage, hauling grain to market or working livestock, the center pivot might be the last thing on your mind.

But pivots require attention, not only in the spring before they come into use, but also in the fall before winter sets in.

Here are a few winterizing tasks recommended by Steve Melvin, Nebraska Extension irrigated cropping systems educator, that center pivot irrigators need to think about as the winter months come upon us:

Check the book. “Review and follow the winterizing procedures in the center pivot operator’s manual,” Melvin suggests.

Open tower drains. All tower drains need to be opened, and water needs to be 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 all water is out of the end gun equipment and end cap, as well as other aboveground piping or equipment.

Diagnose sprinkler issues. “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,” Melvin says. “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 usually are narrow, and the width of the combine head will collect grain from both poorly watered and well-watered areas, Melvin says.

Protect from cattle and make repairs. “If the field will be grazed, protect the equipment from cattle,” Melvin says. “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. Many pivot dealers have a winter service program that may help lower the costs.”

Lock it out. 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,” he relates.

Learn more by contacting Melvin at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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