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Precision mechanical move irrigation for smallholding farmers




LaRue, Jacob, author
U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage, publisher

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Mechanical move irrigation equipment typically has been designed for square fields 805 m long on each side, as much of the western United States was surveyed and laid out on a township grid system with these field dimensions. Center pivots commonly cover 52.6 hectares out of 64.8 total hectares. Because of this, a common misconception is that mechanical move irrigation equipment such as center pivots and lateral move equipment are only economically viable for large fields. But what about small holding farmers — are there economically viable solutions for them to utilize mechanical move irrigation such as center pivots? What options are commercially available for them to take advantage of the benefits associated with mechanical move irrigation such as precision irrigation, application uniformity, irrigation efficiency and low energy costs? This paper will discuss mechanical move equipment options available for small holding farmers and the infrastructure requirements for this type of equipment. These will be compared to other options a smallholding farmer may be considering for irrigation. Estimated relative costs for project development and operation will be presented for each. Case studies of mechanical move equipment for small fields installed in Asia and Africa will be presented and preliminary results discussed including the 'fit' of this type of equipment into the cultural structure of the area. Based on current data, a proposed economic model to assist with the evaluation of the suitability of mechanical move irrigation for smallholding farmers will be presented. The paper will close with a discussion of future needs and concerns.


Presented at the Role of irrigation and drainage in a sustainable future: USCID fourth international conference on irrigation and drainage on October 3-6, 2007 in Sacramento, California.

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