We asked a production farmer in Senegal why it’s better to grow tomatoes with a Valley®center pivot than with drip? This is the story he told us:
“From 1972 to 1995 we had 11 pivots, the equivalent of 600 hectares (ha). The pivots had reached the end of their potential and, we decided not to continue making our own cultures and not to renew the pivots.
In 1995 drip irrigation was fashioned, so we just kept a 70 ha farm with drippers and we gave up the pivots. I arrived in 2007 as production farmer, so I reclaimed land, which was primarily drip. In 2009, we bought a Valley pivot and so we went back to the pivot technology!
I made this choice because with a Valley center pivot you can keep the temperature around the vegetation cooler. Here, the growing season is during the dry period of the year, so we really want to control the climate, especially if there is a major hot streak that can often happen.
Other pivot benefits are operating costs that are well below drip irrigation, simplicity, and reliability.
In the tomato industry, I have noticed that with straight fertilizers, insoluble fertilizer, and soluble supplements, the culture goes very well. With pivots, the inputs are much cheaper than with soluble fertilizers we use with the dripper.
Working pressure between the pivot and the drip system is fairly equivalent, sometimes the pivot requires even lower pressure than drip. Our 60 ha Valley pivot works at 2.6 bars in the center. For drip, I work with 14 ha areas, and I need 1 bar in each one. So with drip I need at least 4.5 at the pump. Therefore, I have less gas/oil/m3 consumption on the pivot.
Drip irrigation maintenance also is much more expensive: I reinvest in valves each year because they break. I have to pay irrigators because the valves need to be opened and closed, and I have to change the material because the drip lines must be changed every year.
The Valley center pivot also a one very big advantage: here we don’t control the rain, but we are able to still work the soils with moisture provided by the pivot. Pivots can do it: you water what you want and then work the soils as needed, which includes controlling weeds. A Valley center pivot can do everything you need!”