Center Pivot Numbers Up in Central Nebraska

According to the University of Nebraska ag department 72% of irrigated land in Nebraska is irrigated with sprinkler systems - primarily the center pivot.

Even though they've been around for decades, pivot dealers in central Nebraska say they're selling more and more.

Ed Stoltenberg owns and operates Stoltenberg Irrigation with his wife. He says the 2012 growing season is keeping them busy with a jump in sales of new Valley center pivots and service of other pivots.

"We're probably up 50% over what we have seen in the past - a lot of pivots going in, a lot of things happening," says Stoltenberg. "We're very fortunate to have a manufacturer that has two manufacturing plants and being able to keep up with the supply quite well."

The Groundwater Foundation says Nebraska is the largest producer and user of center pivot irrigation in the United States.

Stoltenberg says high commodity prices and high land values are prompting more people to put center pivots in.

"That's one thing about Nebraska, or this particular area down through the Platte River valley - there's not a lot of dryland to be changed over, but what is there is getting changed over," he says.

Officials with the Central Platte Natural Resources District say they've noticed an increase in the number of new center pivots over the last few years too, and they say they're happy to see them go up.

"We just think center pivots are the greatest water quality saver in the Platte valley," says Milt Moravek, Assistant Manager and Projects Director at CPNRD.

Moravek says farmers have to use more water when they gravity irrigate a field, and that excess water can drive nutrients like nitrogen below the root zone out of the crop's reach. He says a center pivot will produce better yields not necessarily because of water savings, but because of those nutrients.

"You have dramatically reduced your deep percolation of water below the root zone, and you have dramatically reduced your leaching," Moravek says.

He says there are cost-share and incentive programs available for farmers through the NRD and NRCS for farmers interested in changing to center pivots.

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