NEWS
Farmers Pivot Back After Storms
Russ Quinn DTN Staff Reporter
Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:42 PM CDT
(Page 1 of 3)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Straight-line winds that blew through south-central Nebraska on June 14 toppled whatever was in their path -- including center pivots. In 27 years of working in the irrigation equipment business, Monty Vonasek had never seen so many center pivot irrigation systems damaged in a single storm.

Center pivots were among the farm infrastructure damaged in the Pilger, Neb., area following twin tornadoes that destroyed the town on June 16. Farmers across the Midwest saw extensive damage from a rash of severe weather earlier this summer. (DTN file photo by Todd Neeley)

"The worst storm we had in the past, we had 70 machines down; with this one storm, we had 260 machines go down," Vonasek, owner of Central Valley Irrigation, Inc. in Holdrege, Neb., told DTN.

And Mother Nature was just getting started.

Two significant wind storms on May 11 and June 3 caused significant damage in east-central Nebraska. Then, on June 16-18, deadly tornados struck northeastern Nebraska with two destroying much of the town of Pilger on June 16, killing two people and causing millions of dollars in property damage.

Another wind storm in south-central Nebraska on July 9 damaged crops and structures in Vonasek's home area. This storm caused another 35 center pivots of his customers to be damaged, he said.

CHALLENGE FOR IRRIGATION COMPANIES

Matt Huber, who works in sales for Scott-Hourigan Company, a dealer for Zimmatic center pivots located in York, said their region had "a lot" of pivots down after a couple wind storms hit their area earlier in the growing season. After assessing the situation, the company pushed hard to either replace or repair damaged center pivots in their east-central Nebraska area.

"Lindsay Manufacturing (manufacturer of Zimmatic center pivot irrigation systems) was very good in getting us the parts we needed to get out there and either repair or replace the downed pivots," Huber told DTN.

Huber said all of the damaged pivots their customers reported to them have been fixed and they are up and running. He estimated the work generally took about a month to move through the damaged pivots.

Bill Kranz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor and Extension irrigation specialist at the Haskell Agricultural Laboratory in Concord, Neb., in the northeastern part of the state, said he was very impressed by the irrigation dealers in the region and how quickly farmers had their pivots back upright and operating again.

"I know right around the (research) farm, I can probably think of 20 pivots that were tipped over," Kranz said. "Most of them are back up and running again."

Much like the east-central and south-central parts of the state, the northeastern region of Nebraska also had its fair share of storms which damaged center pivots. Kranz said a wind storm in early June started things off, followed by the deadly tornados in mid-June and another wind storm about a week after the tornadoes.

Despite the obvious weight of the irrigation systems, Kranz said strong summer storms can play havoc with center pivots. If the winds of a storm are strong enough, center pivots will be damaged, he said.

In some cases, how the pivot sits in the field in relationship to the wind's direction can determine if it will be tipped over or not, he said. A unit with its towers facing the winds generally has a better chance of being flipped over than a unit protected by trees or topography or even sitting in a way that the wind cannot catch it.

Kranz said he has even known farmers who, if they have enough time before a storm, will run the pivot full of water so the added weight will hopefully keep the irrigation system upright.

TIMELY RAINS HELP

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