Center Pivot System: An Efficient and Economical Solution for Irrigation

Tanja Folnovic

Agronomy Expert

Water needs to be applied to crops in the exact amount and on time, according to crop requirements. For this reason, irrigation is a very delicate farm practice. Another crucial factor in irrigation is the farmer’s knowledge of the practice and his financial ability to establish an irrigation system. If only one of these conditions is not accomplished, the entire yield may fail.


Therefore, farmers tend to seek modern and improved farm technology to facilitate the complete irrigation process, from timely water application to easy and quick crop irrigation. Irrigation is an important farm practice necessary to every crop production. However, large-scale farmers will benefit more from the use of an irrigation system adjusted for large farmlands, such as a center pivot irrigation system.


What is a Center Pivot Irrigation System?

Center pivot is a mechanized irrigation system type which irrigates crops in a circular pattern around a central pivot. It consists of a radial pipe supported by towers that pivot around a center point. Along the radial pipe, nozzles are equally spaced. As it rotates, water is released from the nozzles and irrigates crops.


In a system that uses a radial pipe, water travels in a straight line down the field, with all nozzles covering the same area and having the same flow rate. Hence, the pivot system provides a high degree of uniformity of applied water. Since sprinklers near the pivot cover less area, their water flow rates are less than those located near the end of the pivot, where each sprinkler covers a much larger area.

Depending on the radial pipe length, a center pivot system can cover about 130 acres (53 ha) with a straight system and about 155 acres (63 ha) with a corner or swing-arm system. For this reason, this system is used for the irrigation of large farmlands.



Why Use a Center Pivot System?

A pivot system is the most efficient and effective irrigation system type. Along with the irrigation of hectares of the field within a short period of time, the system also supports the application of fertilizers and pesticides. Additionally, a center pivot system can improve irrigation efficiency by using a single piece of farm machinery to perform several important farm practices.

Along with the aforementioned advantages, the center pivot system has many other advantages as well, including:  

  • Uniformity of applied water
  • No human labor required
  • May operate at lower pressure, thus conserving energy
  • Efficient water use, which prevents water runoff
  • With a timer set, it may regulate water application and sprinkle it daily at a particular time in the day or in the evening.


A center pivot system is applicable to almost all crops including arable crops, vegetables, and fruit trees. It can easily manage water levels in the soil due to the semi-automatic operation of center pivots and its lateral moves. Water application efficiency ranges up to 80%, depending on management and designed installation in the field.



Negatives of Using a Center Pivot System

There is no perfect irrigation system. Every type has pros and cons. This system is no different. The negatives associated with the center pivot include:

  • High initial cost
  • High maintenance cost
  • Not suitable for irrigation of fields of rectangular or square shape
  • Field surface should be flat
  • Not suitable for irrigation in windy conditions; uneven water application may occur and applied fertilizers may be carried away.


The center pivot irrigation system is a type of overhead sprinkler irrigation. This is a unique system which differs from the other in that a specific field shape is recommended for proper irrigation, irrigating most efficiently in round-shaped fields.



Unknown to many farmers, this system provides many advantages that other systems are unable to supply. Along with water management, it enhances water efficiency and overall farm productivity and profitability.

In aiming to reduce crop production cost and save energy, farmers must utilize modern and enhanced farm technology; one of them being the center pivot irrigation system.



Text sources: Encon2.4


Image sources: Agriculture Guide