Nebraska: Center Pivots Take Beating from Severe Storms — DTN

    Joel Grams has farmed for 28 years and had never once had a center pivot irrigation system damaged or destroyed by a severe storm.

    That was, until the weekend of June 14-15.

    The Minden, Neb., farmer had one pivot severely damaged after being flipped on its side after a strong windstorm blew through his area of south-central Nebraska late Saturday, June 14, into Sunday morning.

    He is not the only farmer in the region with a center pivot down.

    “People have been saying the area around Minden could have as many as 500 pivots down,” Gram told DTN last week. “There are quite a few of them down.”

    Grams farms in both Kearney and Franklin counties. In the 2012 Farm Census, Kearney County had 194,547 acres of irrigated lands while Franklin County has 85,752. The data does not specify how many of these acres are irrigated by center pivots or by gravity irrigation.

    Severe storm after severe storm has battered the Cornhusker State in recent weeks, damaging crops, farm buildings and grain bins as well as center pivot irrigation units. Damaging winds and large hail blew through the state starting on Mother’s Day and continuing through last week with deadly tornadoes in northeastern Nebraska.

    Gary Zoubek, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator for York County, said a strong windstorm in his county on Mother Day’s caused significant center pivot damage. As if that wasn’t enough, another strong windstorm came through on June 3, causing more center pivot damage in York County.

    Zoubek said pivot dealerships that install and repair center pivots have been “very busy” replacing and repairing damaged pivots. While he didn’t know the exact number of damaged pivots in his county, Zoubek estimated more than 100 pivots were damaged.

    “I’ve seen a lot of new pivots on the ground and damaged ones pulled to the edges of the fields,” he said.


    Center pivot manufacturers have plans in place to handle the increased demand for center pivot components after storms during the growing season. However, this many storms in such a short amount of time does force manufacturers to adjust some of their storm plans.

    Rich Panowicz, vice president of North American sales for Valley Irrigation based in Valley, Neb., said his company does have a plan in place in these situations. However, he said the company also has to be flexible in instances such as this year with storms hitting various parts of Nebraska, a state very dependent on irrigation.

    “We do plan for a certain amount of components, but we also can adjust our inventory and prepare extra stock,” Panowicz said. “We have two factories, one in Valley and one in McCook, so we do have a lot of flexibility there.”

    Panowicz said he did not have specific order numbers for the month of June after storms began to pummel areas with center pivots. He did say the order numbers for center pivots for Valley were higher than a typical mid-June period.

    He added that Valley’s goal is to help affected growers during these events that are tremendously challenged with crop and equipment damage. Certainly, these events help sales, but Valley and its dealers’ No. 1 goal is to get growers back on track to raise a crop, he said.

    Valley works as a team with their dealers across the state to try to get equipment out to the dealers in a timely fashion for farmers in need of replacement center pivots, Panowicz said. There are many factors at work in determining how long it could take a farmer to replace damaged or destroyed center pivots. These factors range from insurance considerations on the pivot itself to the conditions in a particular field and erection crew set-up schedules.

    Grams said he texted his dealer early Sunday morning following the windstorm in south-central Nebraska to let him know that one of his pivots was damaged. His dealer called him Monday morning to let him know he is on the list to get a replacement pivot, he said.

    “There was no chit-chat; he was onto the next call,” Gram said.

    When asked when he thought his damaged pivot could be repaired, Grams said he was hoping in about a month or so. Rains have fallen pretty regularly in his region early in the growing season, but getting into July and August, his corn and soybean crops likely will need to be irrigated at some point, he said.

    In addition, Grams’ brother also had a pivot down, but his brother also had the roofs of two grain bins ripped off in the storm. Grams’ bins were right across the road from his brother’s bins, but his bins did not sustain any damage.

    After seeing the damage of the tornadoes in northeast Nebraska from earlier last week, Grams feels very fortunate this was the only damage he incurred. While some of his acres saw some hail damage, the majority of acres made it through the storms OK.

    Panowicz said center pivots with corner systems with the ability to water corners of fields were hit especially hard by the recent windstorms due to the fact that there was a high population of corner machines in some of these storm areas. Valley works hard to ensure that a good amount of inventory is in place to accommodate corner machine repairs and replacement when these types of storm events occur, he said.

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