Irrigation Health Check: New Program Helps Farmers Identify Pivot Problems | Agriculture

Clemson University

Center pivot irrigation is growing in popularity as the primary water delivery method used on South Carolina farms and Clemson Extension has a new program to help growers get the most out of their investments and promote a sustainable agriculture.

The program – Center Pivot Irrigation Testing Program, or CPIT – is a testing service implemented by the Water Resources, Agronomic Crops and Horticulture program teams of the Clemson Cooperative Extension Service to provide health checks for center pivot irrigation systems. This new program was made possible by software developed by the Clemson Precision Agriculture team.

South Carolina producers gathered at the Clemson Edisto Research and Education Center (REC) in Blackville, SC and the Pee Dee REC in Florence, SC to learn about this and other programs. resources for center pivot irrigation.

Center Pivot Irrigation Test Program

CPIT testing provides measurements of irrigation uniformity to help identify and correct pivot problems. Testing is performed by members of Clemson Extension’s water resources team and costs $125 per pivot.

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“This program is used to evaluate the pivots so they can operate more efficiently,” said Becky Davis, Clemson Extension water resources officer and member of the water resources program team. “This will save growers money, maximize crop yields and help conserve water.”

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Tests typically take less than two hours and provide information relating to irrigation depth versus center and tower locations, positions of observed problems such as clogs and leaks, calibrated timer charts, irrigation costs and more. For more information or to register, go to

Jose Payero, assistant professor and irrigation specialist housed at Edisto REC, said the use of center pivot irrigation is growing in South Carolina with 7,500 acres added each year. These systems consume a lot of energy. Properly functioning pumps consume less energy.

“Everyone benefits if we can do something to help reduce the costs and environmental impacts associated with the energy used to irrigate,” Payero said.

The use of irrigation scheduling and soil moisture sensors can also help these systems operate efficiently. Michael Plumblee, assistant professor of agronomy and corn and soybean specialist at Clemson Extension, said using these tools can help maximize profits while using less water.

“The two most common problems with corn irrigation are not irrigating early enough and not irrigating long enough,” Plumblee said. “Using irrigation scheduling and soil moisture sensors can help alleviate these issues.”

Soil tension and volumetric sensors are the most commonly used soil moisture sensors for scheduling irrigation.

In addition to maximizing profits and using less water, the benefits of scheduling irrigation also include meeting crop water demand at the right time, reducing the likelihood of plant stress, and reducing the likelihood of plant stress. reduction of excessive watering. Soil moisture sensors can be used to provide real-time, site-specific monitoring of soil moisture, help determine water-sensitive periods throughout the growing season, and measure amounts of rain in the soil and rooting zone.

Clemson Center Pivot Fertigation Calculator

Precise fertilizer applications are also important for crop growth and the Clemson Precision Agriculture team has an app for that. Clemson Precision Agriculture Engineer Kendall Kirk created the Clemson Center Pivot Fertigation Calculator (App) to help growers make accurate fertilizer applications while irrigating. This process is called fertigation, and in the past growers had to manually calculate the numbers to determine how much liquid fertilizer to use to fertilize row crops.

“We developed this app to help growers easily and accurately calculate the liquid fertilizer flow rate and injection pump settings needed to fertilize through a center pivot irrigation system,” Kirk said. “It’s designed to make the math a little easier.”

This app can be found at

Producers benefit

Jimmy Duncan Farms in Allendale County. He uses a center pivot irrigation system for his crops of corn, soybeans, peanuts and cotton. Duncan used the Clemson Center pivot irrigation test program and is happy with the information he provided. He attended the meeting to learn more about possible options he should consider for his system.

“I’ve been irrigating since 1978,” Duncan said. “When I heard about this program, I called and had a Clemson team come and check my center pivot system to make sure it was working properly. It sounded okay, but I wanted to be I believe that producers who irrigate will benefit from this program.”

Duncan grew up on a farm and said irrigation became a necessary tool to use for his row crops. He uses a moisture meter to determine when to irrigate.

For more information on the Clemson CPIT program, visit

Dominion EnergyWise Program

Deke Wiggins, Jesse Erbel and Don Smoak from Dominion Energy spoke about the EnergyWise program and the importance of practicing safety when working around water and electricity. The EnergyWise program includes incentives for agribusinesses to help cover certain costs associated with installing energy efficiency measures. $1 for the first 26 weeks

“South Carolina is agriculture-driven,” Erbel said. “Improving the energy efficiency of agricultural facilities is a simple and effective way to reduce costs and increase productivity. We want to offer eligible customers incentives to help fund projects that reduce energy consumption. Our goal is to produce profitable long-term savings for our customers.

Ryan H. Bowman