Refining Old Technology

Many of today’s farmers are trying to add new methods of crop irrigation to their arsenal of plant watering techniques and technologies. One of the many common new technologies is an adaptation of center pivot irrigation.

pipe irrigation

Above: Tradtional center pivot irrigation methods waste more water when compared to todays methods. Source:

The old methods of center pivot irrigation wasted vast amounts of water, as seen above. Today’s methods are much more water conscience, using low flow sprinkler heads and lowering the sprinklers to the ground.

A center pivot irrigation system contains many new and old technologies. There are four main parts to a center pivot irrigation system: the pump, pipe, towers or wheels, and a water dispersal system. The pump pulls water from a well, and pushes it down the pipeline, where it is shot from the sprinklers to the crops below. The wheels or towers are in place to rotate the pipe around the pump, or pivot point. The pivot around the pump is produced in many ways. The most common way is by pulling water from the pump aside, and using it to power a piston that is planted so it pushes the pipeline away, and in a circular motion. Because of the circular motion, the fields grow using center pivot irrigation are not square, but circular. See the picture below for a diagram.

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Above: a center pivot irrigation system diagram


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Above: A modern water saving example of center pivot irrigation.


The center pivot method of irrigation is used across the United States today, but was not available until after World War II. It was invented in 1948 by Frank Zybach, as a way to water field crop in a more efficient manner. This method is used particularly in the west, where land is more plentiful, and not as built up, and the majority of American crops are grown.

Before the center pivot irrigation method was used, farmers needed several men to help irrigate their fields. The men would connect an aluminum pipe or hose to the main water pump, and connect more pipes with holes to help deliver the water to where it needed to be. When one field was done irrigating, the workers would disconnect all the pipes and hoses, and move to the next field to restart the process. When Zybach heard of the time consuming methods, he quickly went to work inventing a better method for irrigation, using the same materials.

Since Zybach’s time many more water saving inventions have been made. The modern center pivot irrigation system has water efficient or saving sprinkler heads, operates with a hydraulic piston connected to the energy or gas efficient water pump. There are also center pivot irrigation systems that are available for tall crops now. When Zybach first created the center pivot irrigation system, the pipes were around 3 feet off the ground. They now have the materials and the machinery to make a center pivot irrigation system as tall as any farmer would need.



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