OSAGE | “For me, irrigation was a curiosity thing. Nobody influenced me to do it," said Myron Friesen, owner Farm Financial Strategies Inc., Osage. "I had a lot of clients in Nebraska who had lighter soils than we do, yet they produced a lot of corn with irrigation.
"I was also thinking about all the things we did to produce corn, but if it didn’t rain it wouldn’t matter."
Friesen said his initial investment in irrigation equipment cost about $1,100 per acre, which included the pivot and the well that supplies the water. The pivot was located on land with lighter soils, and waters a quarter of a section.
“Only a 132 acres out of the 160 acres gets water,” Friesen said. “Even though the rig’s end guns sprays out an additional 100 feet, still the corners of the field doesn’t get watered.”
The pivot sets in the center of the 160-acre field, with its boom reaching 1,290 feet, is carried by seven inverted A-shaped towers, attached to wheels. The system is run by hydraulics, and the crop-based hydraulic oil that powers the wheels, is environmentally safe should a line rupture.
The outside wheel carrying the boom moves at 40 inches per minute and travels nearly 8,100 feet during a complete revolution. Nozzles closer to the pivot are smaller than those at the end of the boom, so water pressure is equalized allowing an equal amount of water to be laid down on all areas of the field.
“If you put on a half inch of water, it takes 38 hours, and 73 hours if you put on an inch of water. The least amount of water the system will allow you to put down is a quarter of an inch, but you can put on as much as you want,” Friesen said.
Technology allows Friesen to operate the system from his mobile phone. The screen on his phone shows where the irrigation boom is located. He can start or stop the system, and change water amounts at any time, which is of great benefits during energy alerts.
“When we have peak energy alerts, we shut down, and water later or earlier in the days,” Friesen said. The system also has an automatic shutoff.
“I watch the weather during stress times, and if the forecast is for rain in three days, I put on a half inch, but if the rain doesn’t come then, I will put on an additional half inch,” Friesen said.
“Because of our livestock we grow continuous corn, but I don’t believe irrigation has quite as much benefit for beans as it has for corn. Some years we don’t even use it. Like the year we put it in, it rained 13 inches after we erected it,” Friesen said. “I don’t think we have ever turned it on before the corn is waist high. We want some root development before we use it. If we are going to irrigate, we want to irrigate before the plant is stressed.”
Friesen said he also uses it to fertilize and has done some late-season nitrogen application.
“We tried applying fungicide, but with our size nozzles, some of it ended up wasted on the ground,” Friesen said. “We don’t use it for applying minerals, because we feel we have enough minerals in the manure we apply. This past year, we irrigated past tasseling, until two weeks before the black layer, when corn kernels are dented and no longer take in nutrients."
Friesen acknowledged there are some challenges with the system.
“You can do too much watering too early, then the corn roots won’t go down,” he said. “It’s a fine line when to irrigate and when not to. Sometimes it can also be inconvenient when moving machinery.”
Still, Friesen said the system has provided great benefits.
“I had some light spots in the field, and now that we irrigate, those spots yield higher than other areas where we don’t irrigate,” he said. “When a field is watered, the moisture cools the ground and irrigation can be beneficial during pollination and stress. It assures a crop in very dry conditions.
“Irrigation also levels the playing field for soils that don’t hold as much moisture. It increases test weights and yields in lighter areas.”