Pivot Irrigation in The Brazos Bottom

If you’ve spent any time in the last few years driving through the rural parts of Brazos and the surrounding counties, you’ve probably noticed a change. A lot of large pipe sprinklers on wheels have become part of the landscape. Joe Brown has more in this week’s From The Ground Up.

Several years ago farmers in the Brazos bottom began a gradual switch from furrow irrigation to the big pivot sprinklers you commonly see today.

"We’ve seen a lot of pivots going in in the bottom, the Brazos bottom, over the last ten years from none to where they’re real prevalent, so I guess they’re catching on."

Dr. Guy Fipps is an irrigation specialist with Texas Agrilife Extension and says that pivot irrigation is more efficient, but our area has a good supply of shallow water that doesn’t require much pumping to get it to the surface.

"The labor savings is a big deal. You don’t have to have the farm hands out there moving pipes. Furrow irrigation takes a long time to complete. A single irrigation may take, depending on the size of the field and the length of the rows may take you several days to complete and you have to have people out there every few hours moving pipe."

Dr. Fipps says the biggest plus is the control pivot irrigation gives the farmer.

"You can have very precise irrigation, whereas with furrow irrigation, the least you can put out is maybe two or three inches. With pivots you can put out half an inch, quarter inch, one inch, exactly what you need."

Are pivot sprinklers expensive?

"Generally the cost runs four hundred to five hundred dollars an acre. So is that a lot, is that not much? It depends a lot on the situation."

Used properly, farmers do see a return on their investment.

"In the Brazos bottom we get a big benefit, depending on the rain, from being able to apply one, two, maybe three irrigations, very timely irrigation that can make a tremendous difference in yield and return."

And the struggle between adaption of new technology and the huge capital investment it requires from farmer continues. I’m Joe Brown, looking at Brazos Valley agriculture, From The Ground Up.

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