Research is underway on the best method to conserve water and prevent soil erosion while using center pivot irrigation

Center pivot irrigation does not have a long history in Kentucky. so, there has not been a lot of research about it, until now. Jeff Franklin explains how a professor is conserving water while preventing soil erosion.

Trevor Gilkey, owner of Hillview Farms in Princeton, Kentucky, rotates corn, soybeans and wheat. He irrigates with a center pivot, drawing water from a large pond on his property. He is also involved in a research study with an University of Kentucky soil scientist, Ole Wendroth, on how he can conserve water, while the crops still benefit without excessive runoff.

“If we know that the water is not taken up at the speed in that part of the field as it is here in this spot, then we have to do something about it,” Wendroth states.

Gilkey is committed to Wendroth’s research having worked with him on various projects over many years.

“I’ve worked with a lot of researchers, but I have not worked with any of them that works as hard as Ole does,” Gilkey states. “He is out here with a shovel and probes; he is hands-on and I like the hands-on.”

In order to get that information, and to make sure that water is applied to the places in the field where it is needed, workers are modifying a center pivot, equipping each individual sprinkler with the technology that will regulate the rate of flow to each nozzle. Thanks to Wendroth’s extensive sampling and research in this field, they already know the algorithm.

“We are really trying to spread the message of how being more efficient with our water delivery cannot only increase yields, but it can also save water, save time, save energy-- generating more with less,” according to Tanner Oliphant, Valley Technical Sales Director.

The cutting edge research is being conducted near the University of Kentucky’s new Grain and Forage Center for Excellence, and its director said that the research has implications for all of the state’s grain farmers.

Chad Lee, the center’s director explains, “If the model is confirmed, which we are hopefully that it is, if it’s confirmed, that model applies to nearly all the irrigated acres we have in Kentucky currently, and that’s exciting because then it becomes applicable to a lot of farms across the state.”

Gilkey will be able to use the technology in this field with next year’s crop while Wendroth will use the information he collects to support his research.