Minnesota: Checklist for Winterizing Your Irrigation System

    Irrigation pivot in snowy field. Photo: Vasudha Sharma, University of Minnesota

    While we all would like summer to last a little longer, the reality is that winter is just around the corner. Many of you must be wrapping up all of the farm operations. If you have an irrigation system on your farm, this is the perfect time to consider “winterizing” it.

    Irrigation systems should be checked thoroughly at the end of the fall season to maintain proper operation for the coming growing season. Below are some basic steps that can be followed to protect your irrigation system as well as to ensure that the system is ready for the next growing season:

    1. Conduct the uniformity test and check the sprinkler performance
      • Perform a “catch can” uniformity test to ensure that system is applying water uniformly and if there are any leaks, missing or damaged sprinklers, damaged pipes, regulators, etc., that needs to be repaired or replaced. The details about the uniformity test can be found here
      • If the uniformity test came out to be very poor, consider replacing the sprinkler package. The useful life of sprinkler heads range from 5,000 to 8,000 hours of pivot operation.
    2. Check system components and secure them.
      • Check all motor and pump openings to see that they are closed properly to keep rodents out.
      • Lock the control box in OFF position.
      • Repair any panel door damage to keep moisture and rodents out of the panel. You may consider application of long residual action insecticide to the bottom of the box.
      • Make sure all connections the control box are tight and all connection surfaces are free of corrosion.
      • If you have a flow meter and pressure gauges, remove and store them in a warm place for winter.
    3. Drain the irrigation system.
      • Drain all water carrying pipes, valves, tanks, booster pumps or anything above ground that can hold water. Also drain the pump casing to remove any water.
      • Empty and clean out the sand trap at the end of the pivot.
    4. Service parts.
      • Check all gearboxes on the towers for any water/moisture accumulation, lubricate the fittings, service drive lines and motor on pivot towers. The oil in the gearboxes should be replaced every year before winter arrives.
      • Service the engine used to drive the pump.
    5. Park the pivot in right place.
      • Park the system parallel to the prevailing winds
    6. Check tires, wheel track and pivot point.
      • Check air pressure in each pivot tire.
      • Repair the wheel track for ruts by filling it in the fall to reduce erosion during winter and spring
      • Clean all the vegetation around the pivot point and well to avoid rodents and grazing cattle.

    The end of the growing season gives you an opportunity to look back and take note of any problems you encountered during the growing season and then plan how to address them before the next season. Take this time for some recordkeeping.

    The winter months also allow you to think about new technologies and get them installed for the next season. Consider looking for new technologies that help you with irrigation scheduling here.

    The items listed above can help you protect your irrigation system in the winter and ensure that it is ready to water for the next season; however some components might be different or you might have more parts on your system, so also check for those specific system components.




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