Monday, July 25, 2016

Save Water, Increase Yields with Close Spacing

by Jose Fontela, Senninger Irrigation

In the mid 80's Senninger worked with researchers at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research &
Close spacing combines bubbler sprinklers with
conservation tillage.
Extension Center to release the first Low Energy Precision Application (LEPA) sprinkler.  This technology was developed for center pivot irrigators in the western high plains of the United States who were affected by high energy costs and declining water availability due to dropping water tables or dwindling surface supplies. 

LEPA systems use low-pressure bubbler heads to deposit water directly into furrows just 8 to 18 inches above the ground. With the heads closer to the ground, the water avoids the hitting leaves, so it does not come in contact with plants and fruit susceptible to water borne diseases and nearly all of it is absorbed by the soil. In fact, researchers and growers have found that with these low pressure heads, at least 20 percent more water reaches the soil compared with conventional spray nozzles.

What began 30 years ago as LEPA has evolved into one of the most effective irrigation methods known today for center pivot systems ‒ close spacing. Close spacing has been a proven success in many dry regions across the US.  It is an irrigation method based off LEPA that is gaining ground in areas where water is regulated and people are increasingly concerned about diminishing natural resources. The reason why close spacing irrigation is gaining popularity among growers in America is simple ‒ growers are saving water, saving energy, and seeing increased yields. 

Furthermore, this high-performance technology works at low pressures, which makes it ideal for reducing energy and pumping costs, as well.  

A Closer Look
Close spacing combines the use of the same water-efficient LEPA bubbler heads with conservation tillage. Just as in those LEPA applications, close spacing heads are mounted 8 to 18 inches above the soil to combat wind-drift and prevent evaporation losses.  Both methods require nearly identical management practices and provide similar benefits.

The close spacing method, with 30 inches
between heads.
Close spacing started to take shape among North Texas growers who experimented with combining LEPA technology with conservation tillage, and began placing bubbler heads on every row.  In traditional LEPA systems, sprinklers are placed 60 inches apart to irrigate every other furrow.  The close spacing method, with 30 inches between heads, distributes water over most of the soil surface.  The crop residues left over from previous growing seasons helps prevent evaporation loss and run-off and holds the water until the soil is ready to soak it in.  As a result, close spacing technology achieves application efficiencies typically exceeding 95 percent.

Making It Work
Success with close spacing depends on three key factors: the right irrigation equipment, the right farming practices and the right field conditions. 

Senninger bubblers made for LEPA have proven to be the ideal sprinklers for getting the most out of close spacing irrigation.  They operate at low pressures ranging from 6 to 20 PSI, using less energy than conventional low-pressure sprinklers, and operate using fewer gallons per minute than conventional spray nozzles ‒ approximately 0.27 to 21.18 gpm. 

Bubbler sprinklers deposit water
directly into furrows, which avoids
wetting the foliage.
There are two types of bubbler sprinklers currently available.  One creates a narrow, aerated stream of bubbling water that resists high temperatures and strong winds. This sprinkler deposits water directly into furrows, which avoids wetting the foliage.  The other deflects water down in a wide, dome-shaped pattern that gently delivers the water without spraying, which is ideal for germination, low crop watering and sensitive soils that are prone to compaction.  Due to its less concentrated distribution pattern, it can be used on fields without furrows and on some rolling terrains.

Because close spacing sprinklers are mounted 8 to 18 inches above the ground, this method works better on relatively flat farms. The maximum recommended slope for fields considering close spacing is one percent. Circle planting allows bubblers to be centered in furrows, which is ideal for further controlling run-off.  It is used by growers who also want to prevent wetting the crop canopy when taking advantage of close spacing applications.

The versatility of bubbler sprinklers provides the opportunity to combine various components to suit different crop and soil needs.  Some growers, for example, combine conventional spray heads with bubble applications at various crop stages. Others alter the spacing on the first few spans, vary the sprinkler height off the ground, and even alter the application rate by irrigation cycle. 

For more information about close spacing and LEPA sprinklers, visit


About the Author: Jose Fontela is a Copywriter and Digital Marketing Coordinator for Senninger Irrigation, a Hunter Industries Company based in Clermont, Florida. He can be reached at

The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the view of The Groundwater Foundation, its board of directors, or individual members.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How Irrigation Technology Meets Farming Challenges

by Kelly Cox, Global Digital Marketing Manager, Valley Irrigation

Farming is more complicated today than ever before. Farms are larger. Growers need to conserve soil and water. Different generations have different priorities. And, to top it all off, there are more options for everything, from seed to tractors to precision irrigation machines. How do you deal with it all?

Precision irrigation companies are addressing these challenges by developing new technologies that will make farming easier for everyone involved. While it’s second nature for the Millennial generation and Gen Xer’s to use the latest technology as part of their everyday lives and their farming operations, a large number of Baby Boomers have been early adopters, as well.

Technology is Not Just for Millennials
Our irrigation experts at Valley® Irrigation have been around for a while – some since the 1970s. They admit that they are sometimes surprised at the number of growers who are comfortable with technology and the regularity with which they use it.

One such irrigation expert, Jake LaRue, observed, “I was recently presenting at a conference, and I noticed that a large number of older gentlemen were using tablets. I’d be explaining something, and they would be looking it up on their [tablets], checking out demos. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising. You have to adapt to succeed, or at least have someone working for you who can use the latest technology effectively.”

Looking Out for Future Generations
Not only do our irrigation experts have years of experience and observations, they also believe that many farming challenges, like new, lesser understood technologies and management practices, remain to be addressed by precision irrigation technology. “There’s still a lot of wasted water out there,” says LaRue. “[We recognize] the need to stay on top of the changes and develop solutions that focus on sustainability while making farm management easier and better.”

Despite these challenges, our irrigation experts are confident that new technology and innovation in farm irrigation will help drive the world forward by not only increasing profitability, but also allowing us to grow more food to keep up with the booming global population.

Irrigation Technology is a Game Changer
There is so much new technology available to irrigators; from the ability to manage irrigation machines at a kid’s ballgame to the capability to water crops exactly when and where it’s needed, it’s hard to argue that irrigation technology is not a game changer in agriculture. These technologies have the power to positively impact two very important resources: time and water.

However, for these powerful technologies to be successful for any one farmer, they must be accompanied by education and support from the factory to the field.

With Greater Knowledge Comes Greater Yield
The birth of the World Wide Web brought about a very cool thing: the sharing of knowledge at incredible volumes and speeds. In 2015, irrigation industry leaders came together to form, an interactive, easy-to-use online resource for irrigation best practices and training. This free educational website is available to anyone interested in learning about farm irrigation theory and benefits, water application, technology advancements, service troubleshooting and more.

As a sponsor of this educational resource, Valley Irrigation fully believes in empowering our growers to learn as much as they can about newer irrigation technologies in order for them to be as successful as possible. After all: With knowledge comes power.

Don’t Forget About Data Security
A hot topic nowadays is data security and privacy. Without your data, these new irrigation tools won’t work their best for you – it’s an essential piece for you to successfully adopt new technologies. So, that being said, what exactly is “data security and privacy”? Just another buzzword like “unicorn” or “Pok√©mon”? Hardly. We just mentioned that education and knowledge are the keys to the empowerment castle, so let’s take a moment for us to educate you a bit more on what it means to secure your data and privacy and why it’s so important to discuss.

Let’s think of data security as a farm. Inside your farm are chickens, goats and cats. Outside the farm lives a pesky, hungry coyote. What do you do? You’d protect all of your animals from the coyote by doing whatever you can.

In the real world, the chickens, goats and cats are your data. You should take preventative measures to ensure that the coyote (or hackers, unwanted parties, etc.) doesn’t take hold of your animals. Here are some tips on helping make sure that your data remains secured:
  • Locate and read the “terms of use” within the software application or website, typically found at the bottom of the page. By reading the “terms of use,” you will know exactly what the application or website can take from you, in regards to your data and privacy.
  • Place your data on a secure website behind encrypted firewalls. In this case, a username and password will be required to access the data. Typically, these sites will begin with “https:” in their website address (URL), rather than “http:”
  • Know who has the authority to approve the sharing of your data and who has access to your data. Data sharing can be good or bad. Most growers benefit by sharing the data with their trusted advisor, but it is important to understand if your specific data is shared or sold to others without your knowledge.
  • Understand what value the data could provide to your operation. Value can come in various forms, such as better insights into productivity, cost savings, more efficient use of labor, simplified record keeping, etc.

Taking control of your data security and privacy is an essential piece to adopting new irrigation technologies. Data is an asset that will only grow in value in the years to come, like your time and available water. Taking preventative action now may result in a fruitful future for both you and those who succeed you.

It’s a Great Time to Be a Farmer
Some may disagree with this statement, but today is a great day to be a farmer. Yes, the agriculture industry is not in the greatest shape, available freshwater is dwindling, and everyone is walking around someone else’s private property with their phones and tablets trying to “catch them all.” 

BUT, now is the time when farmers can and will make a difference. 
  • They have the power to grow more food with less water, helping to solve two very big global challenges.
  • They have the ability to spend more time with their family and friends through adoption of new irrigation technologies.
  • They have an expansive library of information to help them better understand their vocations, share knowledge, and gain education.
  • They have available easy-to-use tools to help them keep their data private and secure.

We’re proud of our growers. Can you say the same about your operation? Take a closer look at new irrigation technologies today and start building a better world with us.

About the author: Kelly Cox is the Global Digital Marketing Manager for Valley Irrigation in Valley, Nebraska. She joined the Valley Irrigation Global Marketing Department in 2008 where she shares her love of Web and all things digital marketing with her colleagues and the Valley dealer network. 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the view of The Groundwater Foundation, its board of directors, or individual members.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Get Smart - About Irrigation

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

July is Smart Irrigation Month. An initiative of the Irrigation Association, the campaign  
educates businesses, homeowners, growers/producers, and other water users about efficient water use.

  • Saves money on your utility bill.
  • Nurtures green spaces that deliver real environmental benefits.
  • Protects your community's water supply for generations to come.
  • Minimizes needed investments in infrastrucuture to store and carry water, which must be paid for by property taxes or municipal bonds.
The Irrigation Association promotes a variety of other strategies to help users be efficient with outdoor watering:
You can also check out some great resources at from Valmont Industries. It's a great online source for on-demand education about agricultural irrigation. Available 24/7, shares best practices and product advice for every application.

How are you being water smart this month? Post a comment here or on our Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Fun Activities for School Age Children

By Lori Davison, The Groundwater Foundation

Now that July 4th has passed, summer vacation for school age children will be coming to a close soon!  Running out of fun activities for them to do?  The Groundwater Foundation has just the answer for you!  Check out a couple of our products that will bring hours of fun (and also they will be learning all about groundwater in the process!)
Check out the Awesome Aquifer Kit (AA Kit):
The Awesome Aquifer Kit is a great tool for school age children.  It is a hands-on kit that has everything you need to build your own working aquifer model.  They will learn:  
  • What an aquifer is
  • What role groundwater plays in the hydrologic cycle
  • What happens when groundwater is contaminated
  • Connections between groundwater and surface water
  • How difficult it is to clean up contaminated groundwater        

Another fun activity is the JUG (Just Understanding Groundwater):

The JUG is a self-contained aquifer science kit.  It contains all the tools to construct a groundwater flow model. The activities demonstrate:
  • Aquifer geology
  • Water movement
  • Water pumping
  • Contamination effects on an aquifer

Check out both of these products along with many other fun activities at the Groundwater Foundation’s website!  Share your fun experiences with these two educational kits!