Irrigation

The alternate name for the Great Plains is the Great American Desert. As a result, farming on the Great Plains, while always possible to some extent (though not always successful), didn’t really become as big as it is today until irrigation was introduced. While even today, irrigation is not universally used, it is more widespread than it was in the first half of the 20th century.

Of the types of irrigation practiced today, while I saw a few places with drip lines, center-pivot irrigation systems—or just “pivot” for short—were what I saw most commonly.

The pivot was invented in 1947-48, and at Pioneer Village, they had an early example of this revolutionary system. (Revolutionary because it not only watered automatically, but also because it actually made far more efficient use of water resources than earlier methods.)

NE-Pioneer-VIll-early-pivot

In case you wondered why, when you fly over farming areas, you see a lot of green circles on the ground, this is why—the pivot turns on a central point, watering a circular area. They do make pivots now with an arm that can extend outward at the corners, but these systems are expensive, so they are not the sort of thing you replace simply because there is some new tweak that looks good.

There is a lot more about the invention of the pivot and its impact in my book, Midwest Maize, but I couldn’t resist at least showing the early version of this system.

And because you probably won’t see the actual pivot very often, but rather the outstretched arm that carries the water, here’s what that outstretched arm looks like.

NE-Arapahoe-corn-and-pivot-

2 Comments

Filed under Agriculture, Farming, History, Midwest, Midwest Maize

2 responses to “Irrigation

  1. It’s really fascinating to learn that the center-pivot irrigation system had been the most revolutionary way to irrigate when it was invented in 1947 because it watered automatically. Grandpa would sure love to get this center-pivot technology installed for his expanded vegetable gardens to effectively utilize his deep well-pumped water. What’s good with the modern pivot systems is that they now have robotic arms that extend far beyond the center to reach farther out into the fields and gardens. This would save Grandpa of trouble getting to water his vast fields simultaneously at the same time. This is truly an awesome machine!

    Like

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