An Ounce of Prevention for Your Irrigation System
At this point, we’re about as far away from next irrigation season as possible. But now is the time to do some preventive maintenance work that can reduce the potential for breakdowns and downtime when you need your irrigation system to perform at its peak.
Downtime during irrigation season can mean crop loss and high costs. It’s also much easier to reach the pivots right now when the crop is harvested and the ground is dry.
Make certain that water is drained from the entire system before the first freeze. This includes pipe, pumps and gear boxes. Top off the gear box with new gear oil. Seal up all electrical components to keep rodents from nesting inside and gnawing on wires over the winter.
If you have a lot of pivots, this can be very time-consuming and something you may not be able to do during the harvest season. Remember that 21st Century Water offers three different
off-season maintenance programs for all of your pivots. In addition to what has been mentioned, we’ll also do a complete check of U-joints, center drives, tires and other drivetrain components for the base program. Ask us about the complete pivot inspection and oil change programs as well.
We also recommend that you park your pivot away from the road to make it a little less tempting to potential vandals. Make sure the reversing arms are in their neutral state, not engaged against the barricade. You’ll also want to position your pivot to align with the prevailing winds during the winter to further reduce stress on the structure. It’s also important to fill those wheel tracks and park the machine on ground that is as flat as possible. This allows for expansion and contraction of the machine with the temperature changes we see in the winter.
Preventive maintenance on subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) systems is similar to that on pivots. You’ll want to drain everything. The systems drain automatically in the field, but you’ll want to drain all filters, open the drain ports on tanks, and drain the pump. Release the foot valve to drain the suction pipe if your system has this feature. Also, check to make sure the small control lines are drained to save gauges and other sensors from freeze damage.
You’ll want to consider an acid treatment in the fall to remove any build-up of organic matter or hard water residue throughout the system. After the treatment, completely flush the system and make sure all water is drained. 21st Century Water offers this service for your SDI system so you don’t have to worry about the dangers of working with acid.
Rodent protection is important here as well. In addition to sealing up all electrical components, you should also consider a gopher bait border around your farm as another measure to keep critters from damaging your SDI system.
Taking a few steps right now to get your irrigation system ready for winter will put you giant steps ahead of the game when you fire it up next season.