Flying over agricultural regions, many airline passengers look down curiously on the circles in green on the land’s surface below, not understanding what they are seeing is their food supply in production.
These circles – center pivot irrigation – help grow the food on which we depend. They allow farmers to irrigate crops with a fraction of the labor required by traditional methods and do it with closer control of when and how much water they applied. As a result, center pivots can efficiently water an entire field and meet the crop’s irrigation needs while using less water.
Fun Facts About Center Pivots
- 40 percent of the world’s food supply is grown on irrigated cropland.
- The first center pivot was patented in 1952 by Frank Zybach of Strasburg, Colorado.
- China, the United States, and India account for roughly half of the world’s irrigated land.
- The state of Nebraska is largest producer of center pivots in the world, and the largest irrigator in the United States.
- In the early days of irrigation, very little water conservation equipment or technology was available and large amounts of water were lost to evaporation or runoff.
- Today, new technologies and farming methods improve water-use efficiency. For example, center pivots fitted with low-pressure, dropped nozzles and pressure regulators are about 85 – 95 percent efficient.
- Center pivots are customized for the terrain they irrigate. Pivots can measure up to 1/2 mile in length and irrigate over 500 acres of crop during a single rotation. Most pivots are 1/4 mile long and irrigate approximately 130 acres.
- Center pivot technology is used all around the world to produce a variety of crops including corn, sorghum, cotton, onions, wheat, coffee, fruits, flowers, and more.
- Current technology allows farmers to control their pivot’s operation with a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Soil moisture sensors, GPS, and GIS can help determine how and when to irrigate efficiently and effectively.