Published on 02/14/17

UGA advises farmers to check irrigation systems for maintenance issues now

By Julia Rodriguez

Exposed to weather and wildlife during the winter months, irrigation systems can incur a multitude of problems during the growing season if they are not addressed now, according to Wes Porter, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension irrigation specialist.

“Anything will get worn, damaged or aged from being left in the weather and elements,” Porter said. “Now is a good time to replace parts to prevent them from failing during the crop season.”

When it is time to begin irrigation treatments, systems should be ready to use, not in need of repair. To ensure readiness, growers are advised to check for and resolve existing issues.

According to UGA Extension Bulletin 1452, “Spring Center Pivot and Lateral Irrigation System Preparation,” preventative maintenance on the power unit should be conducted several weeks before operation. Also, service the engines, check for damage to fuel lines and wires, grease service points and driveshafts, etc.

Check for signs of wear or deterioration in the pumping system. Ensure that parts are sufficiently lubricated, and service the lubrication control system if necessary. Additionally, see that the discharge piping is well supported and bolted properly.

In general, ensure that all lines and piping are clear and free of leaks.

“If there were freezing temperatures, growers should really check for any cracks in the piping,” Porter said.

With the pivot fully operational, check for proper flow and make sure that there is no clogging or damage to the sprinklers. At this time, drain valves should also be inspected. Check the pressure and compare the readings to the manufacturer’s sprinkler chart. Investigate further if the pressures read conflict with the guide, as this may be a sign of a problem.

Porter said tires should be checked for any dry rot or leaking. If any tire is in question, change it now.

Growers should look at gearboxes and drivelines, repair any damaged shields and make sure that driveshafts are not bent or damaged. The pivot should be greased, bolts should be fastened and end-gun watering angles should be set properly. It is important to avoid spraying public roads, because doing so can become a liability issue. Additionally, ensure that there are no cracks or leaks in the hoses and seals.

To avoid damage to the system or anything in its path, safety circuits should be tested to ensure all safety and stop switches are working. Remember to use proper safety procedures when checking the electrical system, as the pivots operate at a deadly voltage.

“If growers have any questions, they should contact their county Extension agents,” Porter said.

(Julia Rodriquez is an intern on the UGA Tifton Campus.) 

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