Understanding the Pros and Cons of Center Pivot Irrigation Before Making the Switch

Center pivot irrigation has revolutionized the way farmers irrigate their crops. Before using it to optimize your own operation, though, it’s important to weigh the advantages and drawbacks. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest pros and cons of the system, so you can make an informed decision.



From precise water distribution to increased crop yields, center pivot irrigation is transforming agriculture for the better. Read on to learn about the greatest advantages of this innovative technology:

  1. Efficient Water Application. Center pivot irrigation is known for being one of the most efficient methods of irrigation. The mechanical arm can distribute water uniformly, which helps avoid over-watering and allows for better water conservation.
  2. Increased Crop Yields. Because center pivot irrigation delivers water uniformly, it can significantly increase crop yields. This can be especially true in areas with uneven terrain or varying soil conditions.
  3. Increased Flexibility. Center pivot irrigation systems can be adapted to a variety of crops and terrain types. This provides farmers with increased flexibility in their irrigation practices.
  4. Reduced Labor Costs. Compared to other methods, center pivot irrigation requires less manual labor. Once the system is set up, it can easily be operated and monitored remotely with very little physical effort. One person can typically manage hundreds of acres of center pivot irrigation compared to other methods that would require multiple people to manage the same area.
  5. Saves Time. With center pivot irrigation, not only can one farmer manage more area, they are also free to focus on other aspects of their farm, such as planting and harvesting.
  6. Improved Pest Management. Consistent watering can reduce stress which helps prevent pests and diseases from taking hold in crops. By maintaining healthy plant growth, farmers can reduce the need for chemical pest control measures.




While center pivot irrigation is a game-changer for modern agriculture, it’s important to consider both sides of the equation. Read on to discover the top cons of this cutting-edge technology, and how you can mitigate them to optimize your irrigation system.

  1. High Initial Cost. One of the biggest drawbacks of center pivot irrigation is the high initial cost of installation. The mechanical arm and supporting infrastructure can be expensive, making it a significant investment for farmers. It tends to pay for itself in the long run, however, with reduced labor and better crop yields.
  2. Limited Field Shape. Center pivot irrigation is only best for large, circular fields, which can be a limitation for some farmers. If a farm has small or irregularly-shaped fields that will not accommodate a circle without significant land loss, other irrigation methods may be more appropriate.
  3. Maintenance Requirements. Center pivot irrigation systems require regular maintenance to ensure proper operation and prevent breakdowns. This may include tasks such as cleaning filters, checking nozzles, and replacing hoses. Failure to perform regular maintenance can lead to decreased efficiency and increased repair costs.
  4. High Application Rate. Center pivot irrigation systems apply water very quickly at the end of the machine. Some soil types, such as heavy clay, may not be able to absorb the water quick enough, resulting in runoff and erosion. This can be mitigated by choosing a sprinkler with a large wetted diameter, and by reducing the pivot length.



If you are thinking about harnessing the power of center pivot irrigation, you’re probably wondering how much the new system will cost. Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer. Since every system is customized to meet the unique needs of the buyer, there is no standard formula for calculating the price per acre.

There are a number of factors that will influence the total cost of your new system, however, that you should consider.

  1. The Size of the System. The larger the system, the more expensive it will inevitably be. The size you need to install will depend on the amount of acreage you want to irrigate and the type of crops you’ll be irrigating. Larger systems have more towers and more sprinklers.
  2. The Terrain. Fields with uneven terrain or obstacles, like trees, rocks, and ditches, may require additional site preparation, which can add to the overall cost of the installation.
  3. The Type of Sprinkler. There are several types of sprinklers available, and each has different features and spray patterns. You will need a sprinkler that is appropriate for your crop, soil, and climate. Naturally, some sprinklers are more expensive than others.
  4. The Control Panel’s Features. The control panel is another critical component that will impact the cost of your center pivot irrigation system. Advanced models with more features and capabilities, such as touch screens and remote control, will be more expensive than their basic counterparts.
  5. Energy and Water Source. Most center pivots require electricity, while others operate hydraulically. Further, all center pivot systems require pressure, which can come in the form of gravity, or diesel or electric pumps. Some systems will require a well, which can add significantly to the cost of the system. The cost of installing electricity and pumps, as well as the annual operating costs, are large factors to consider.
  6. Any Additional Features. Additional features such as end guns, chemical injection systems, and remote monitoring systems can also impact the total initial cost of a center pivot irrigation system. Give each additional feature careful consideration and weigh the pros and cons of having it before adding it to your package.


While the initial cost of a center pivot irrigation system can be substantial, it’s important to consider the long-term benefits of having one, including increased crop yields, better crop quality, and reduced water waste.   


Author : Nelson NIC


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