While center pivot track management is fairly routine for most growers, those working in more challenging fields often need to take extra measures to avoid creating deep tracks or getting stuck.
“During the design phase of a center pivot is the most cost-effective time to manage tracking issues,” said Steve Melvin, irrigation applications specialist with Lindsay Corporation. “However, there are steps growers can take at any time to help reduce tracking problems.”
Following good maintenance practices is the first and most cost-effective step in reducing tracking problems. Melvin suggests:
- Check the owner’s manual and adjust the tire pressure accordingly. When the pressure is too high, the tires will make deeper tracks and if it’s too low, the tire may come off the rim.
- During the first pass of the year, run the pivot around dry on a day when the soil is fairly moist but does not stick to the tires or squeeze out. These conditions are optimum for packing the soil in the wheel track. During the second pass, apply .25 – 0.5 inches of water. This will help compact the soil and reduce the depth of the pivot track during the season.
- Overwatering and keeping the field too wet often leads to deep tracking problems, so it’s important to maintain a good irrigation schedule. Apply the largest practical irrigation depth, without runoff, and allow the field surface to dry more before the next pass.
In areas where conditions create significant problems, Melvin said growers have additional options, including:
- Adding a three-foot extension in the pivot pipe at the pivot point every other year, which allows the wheels to move out of the old tracks for a year. This gives the soil an opportunity to firm up before moving back the following year.
- Adjusting the sprinkler configuration around each tower to direct water away from pivot tracks or applying water after the pivot has passed.
- Integrating Variable Rate Irrigation technology (VRI) for pinpoint control of irrigation systems. With VRI technology, problem areas can dry out, reducing the depth of the tracks throughout the growing season.
- Increasing tire footprint by switching to larger tires, NFTrax or radials to minimize the pounds per square inch the wheel puts on the soil.
To access the complete article that Melvin wrote about track management options, visit http://www.ksre.k-state.edu/irrigate/oow/p16/Melvin16.pdf.