Center Pivot Irrigation Helps Illinois Growers Diversify Their Operation

Growing seed corn for Pioneer and testing a variety’s success is an important job – a job that the Knoblett family of Illinois welcomes, because they know it’s an investment in the future of agriculture.

“We grow whatever they ask us to,” said Doug Knoblett. “Some varieties are experimental, but most are common numbers that the farmers will buy as seed the following year.”

A third generation producer, Doug works with his father, Don, on the family farm that’s situated along the Illinois-Indiana state line in southeastern Illinois. In addition to the Pioneer seed corn plots, they produce their own corn and soybean crops on the 1,800-acre operation.

The soil type on their farm is sandy loam and doesn’t hold water well, so they rely on center pivot irrigation to help maximize yields. They irrigate approximately 87 percent of their fields, pulling water from an aquifer along the Wabash River that replenishes their deep wells very quickly.

“The river provides all the water that we need, so we’re very fortunate in that respect,” Knoblett said. “We receive average amounts of rain here, but because of the type of soil, it just evaporates.”

The first center pivot was installed on the operation in 1980.

“My dad and uncle saw the need for irrigation even back then,” he said. “There was another fellow in the area who had water drive center pivots, and as soon as we put ours up, we realized the potential that existed.”

The Knobletts credit irrigation with helping them improve their corn and soybean yields, because, with adequate moisture, they can plant thicker populations. It also gives them an efficient way to apply nitrogen.

“We can add more nitrogen and split up the applications, so we’re trying to be more environmentally friendly with less nutrient loss,” he said. “It’s an efficient way of getting it to the plant.”

While they have a mix of pivot brands working on their operation, Knoblett said Zimmatics work best for them.

“Our local dealer is Reinbold Power Products out of Palestine. Their service is really what sets them apart,” he said. “They offer excellent service – doing whatever is necessary to keep a system running.”

Because of their durability, Knoblett said he expects the Zimmatic pivots to be working when his 16-year-old son joins the operation. 

“He wants to farm when he gets out of college. I studied business in college then realized that I missed farming and returned,” Knoblett said. “It’s nice to have another generation to pass the farm on to.”