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Understanding the Basics of Center Pivot Irrigation

The demand for more irrigated cropland is rising on a global scale because of intense droughts and rising temperatures. The concept of Center pivot irrigation technology was introduced to protect the crops from getting dry because of climate changes and to maintain the demand for crops intact. However, many of us are not aware of the concept of pivot irrigation technology because some will hear this word for the very first time.

Don’t worry, we will explain the concept of the same through the means of the blog to facilitate your understanding. Moreover, you will get to know why it is enjoying high demand in the modern world.


What is Center Pivot Irrigation?

In simple terms, the concept of center-pivot irrigation is a pressurised water irrigation system that runs through the pivots installed in the farms. It usually consists of a long metal arm connected to a central pivot point and is mounted on wheel towers. The metal arm then rotates around the pivot in a circular motion. The sprinkler then irrigates the crop in a circular pattern. It helps water reach every corner of the farms. This concept is beneficial for the farmers as they will enjoy a high yield of crops and will be able to match the market demands of the crops. 

The advantages associated with this form of irrigation are the reason for its high demand. Some of the benefits are:

  • It increases yields
  • It reduces labor costs
  • It helps save the farmer’s time and much more.


Components of Center Pivot System

The center pivots are complex machines that rotate in circular motion and pump water to every corner of the ground. But despite all the complexities associated with it, it can be broken into several main components that constitute the core framework of the machine.

They are:

  • Pivot Point
  • Control Panel
  • Drive Unit/Drive Tower
  • Span
  • Tower Box
  • Last Regular Drive Unit (LRDU)

Now, let us know about each part in detail for a better understanding.

Pivot Point

It is the central point around which the pivot moves. It binds the machine to a permanent location. It also houses a system of subcomponents that contribute to the overall functioning of the machine. The important sub-components are:

 Pivot Legs

The legs provide structure and hold up the pivot point. The four legs provide support and are bolted to a concrete pivot pad.

 Riser Pipe

The pivot swivel establishes the connection between the riser pipe to the first span. The sole purpose of the riser pipe is to ensure a smooth water supply to the rest of the pivot.

 Pivot Swivel

It is an elbow-shaped fitting. It helps connect the riser pipe to the first span.

 Control Panel

It is installed and accessed at the pivot point. It gives the commands to start and stop, move in reverse direction, and much more.


It controls the circuit wires and provides power to the machine. The circuit wires move via the J-Pipe to the collector ring assembly.

 Collector Ring

It is made up of stationary brass rings and has contact brushes that rotate around them. The joint ensures the continuous flow of electricity through the machine as it starts revolving around the pivot point. 

 Control Panel

The control panel is also called the brains of the pivot irrigation system. It sends commands to the tower boxes mounted on each drive unit. It allows the operator to control the entire machine. The functioning of the control panel includes starting, stopping, pivot’s forward and reverse movements, monitoring water usage, and much more.

 Drive Unit/ Drive Tower

Towers comprise drive units and a support structure. They control the machine’s movement and provide span clearance above the crop. Each drive unit comprises a drive motor, wheels, gearboxes, wheels, and an electrical control box. The box is often referred to as the tower box.


They serve as the backbone of the whole pivot structure. They consist of pipes that transfer water to the field via the sprinkler package. The trussing and drive units provide support to the span pipes.

 Tower Box

Tower boxes are an integral part of each drive unit. They use various components to control the alignment and the pivot movement. The tower boxes receive 120 and 480 volts of alternating current through the span cables. Then, they send 480 VAC to the drive motors. It happens when the 120 VAC control circuit issues the command to the tower box.

 Last Regular Drive Unit (LRDU)

The last tower on the regular pivot or before the corner arm is LRDU. Also, it can be the pivot add-on that stretches to your irrigated lands. It either moves forward or in reverse direction as per the directions of the control panel. It moves continuously till the switch arm is pulled to an angle, activating the next tower.

After gaining knowledge about the components of the center pivot system, let us move ahead and understand how it works to enhance our awareness.


 How Center Pivots Work?

The working of the center pivot system is simple yet effective. It is designed to water the crops in a circular motion. The watering is done with a movable, swinging arm attached to the central pivot.  The pipe has long spans and the trusses provide support to the same.

The pipes are mounted on wheeled towers that extend from the central pivot. The span size range depends on the size of the field. Now, let us move to the power source.

The pivot system receives power either via 120 VAC or 480 VAC. The power requirement depends on the size and requirement of the system. Moreover, electric motors are attached to each tower. The motor provides power to drive the wheels, enabling the structure to move in a circular pattern.

The role of the control panel is critical in the pivot system. It is the heart of the entire system. It allows the farmers to adjust the settings and monitor the system’s performance.


 Advantages Associated with Center Pivot Irrigation

The concept of center-pivot irrigation has been a revelation in agriculture. Some of the biggest benefits of using the center pivot are:

Effective Water Application

Center pivot irrigation is one of the effective irrigation methods. The mechanical arm ensures uniform water distribution. It allows for better water conservation and avoids over-watering.

 Increased Yields

The farmers can witness an increase in crop yields due to uniform water distribution. It is helpful for farmers who conduct farming in varying soil conditions and uneven terrain areas.

 It Helps Increase Flexibility

The best part about the center pivot system is that it is adjustable to various terrain types and crops. It provides farmers with flexible options in their irrigation practices.

 It Reduces Labor Costs

There is less requirement for manual labor in the center pivot method. It is easily operatable and can be monitored remotely after setting the system. It helps save time and money for the farmers. 

 It Improves Pest Management

The center-pivot system helps avoid the problem of pests and insects destroying the crops via constant watering.  The need for chemical pest control measures can be avoided by maintaining healthy plant growth.


Wrapping Up

In this blog, our journey started from knowing about center pivot irrigation system and we are concluding the same by discussing the benefits associated with the pivot irrigation system.

To sum up our journey, it is worth highlighting that the pivot irrigation system is highly effective for agriculture water management. The benefits discussed above also provide weight to the statement.

The farmers must adopt and explore the center pivot system. In addition, a collaboration between farmers, researchers, and policymakers is a must. The motive is to promote the technology and make it accessible to everyone. The farmers can yield higher results in the long run by investing in the concept and trusting its viability.



Q.1. How Much Water Do I need?

You must understand the water demand of your crops. It is crucial to understand the requirements as it will allow you to size your irrigation system effectively. 

You must consider peak water demands in inches. You must measure it daily or every week for the crops you sow and harvest.

Q.2. Is My Pond (Tank) Large Enough to Supply My Irrigation Water Requirements?

You must calculate whether your on-farm pond can provide the necessary water volume before deciding anything.  Then, you need to multiply the average depth of the pond with the surface area. This will help you realise whether the pond has the desired water volume in acre feet.

Q.3. What Kind of Sprinkler Packages Are Available For Center Pivots?

There are multiple sprinkler options available in the market. It includes nozzle types, spacing, etc.

You must consider factors like precipitation rate, uniformity, and wind drift before placing an order for the sprinkler.

Q.4. What Type of Water Applicator is Best for Center Pivot Irrigation?

Choosing the best applicator for your farm depends on the field conditions and specific crop needs. Moreover, you need to compare various options like low-pressure nozzles, impact sprinklers, and drop tubes. The comparison will help you decide which option is feasible for you.

Q.5. What Are the Most Common Design Problems Seen With Center Pivots?

There is nothing perfect in the modern world. Every product has some flaws attached to it, and the same applies to the center pivot. Some common issues associated with pivots are tower alignment, uneven water distribution, and nozzle clogging. 


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