There’s a new sprinkler in the valley, designed for on-spot, programmable irrigation.

The linear-lateral sprinkler is guided by a global positioning system and is hard at work raising plots of grass, beans and corn under different watering conditions at the Arkansas Valley Research Center near Rocky Ford.

“The linear-lateral allows us to achieve complete Variable Rate Irrigation, necessary to experimental calculations performed by the experimental station,” said Lane Simmons, research associate at the Center."While there are many center pivot units in the area, this may be the first modern lateral-move system locally.”

A big advantage to the system, Simmons said, is the ability to water more areas of a field uniformly, giving the farmer better crop yield. The programmable feature also permits growers to alter the amount of water applied to various sections. 

Simmons went on to say that the GPS position allows him to control the system from the computer in his office or from his cell phone.

A disadvantage of the system is that the rows closest to the moving sprinkler must be watered less than the rows about five rows out because care must be taken that the sprinkler wheel does not stick in mud.

The water input from the headgate on the Arkansas Valley Research Center is fed by gravity to a pump station at the west end of the experimental field. From there it is taken by underground pipe to three risers. The first two are connected to the linear-lateral sprinkler with heavy-duty hose, which is dragged along with the sprinkler.

The water is distributed onto the field by individually controlled sprinkler heads donated by Senninger Agricultural Irrigation. At the end of the sections which may be watered with the same width of linear-lateral sprinkler, the third riser furnishes water for a field which is fed by gate irrigation. The lineal-lateral tower is moved by a 15 horsepower diesel engine.

The field covers approximately 25 acres, 529 feet by 2,190 feet. The sprinkler takes six hours to cross the field. A six-inch pipe is employed for the pressurized supply line. The drag hose is five inches in diameter. It takes approximately 45 hours to irrigate the entire field.

The lateral method of irrigation enables the station to incorporate reduced and/or no-till techniques. It reduces soil compaction with less tractor activity, increases soil organic matter, increases ground litter and lessens erosion, said Simmons.

It also increases soil water holding capacity, increases irrigation efficiency, reduces run-off and reduces non-beneficial consumptive use (weeds on irrigation and tail water ditches).