Sprinkler mechanized irrigation systems: alternatives that gain ground

What are the benefits, limitations, experiences and advances in research around frontal displacement sprinkler irrigation?l.

The mechanized systems of irrigation by aspersion go, little by little, adding area in the Colombian agro-industry of the sugar cane. It is estimated that these technologies are used in about 12,174 hectares today.

Among these types of sprinkler systems are the barrels, the pivots and the frontal displacement equipment, which are characterized by providing uniformity in the application and efficiency in the use of water.

The Pasoancho 6 hacienda, with 45 hectares planted in sugar cane, is one of those properties where the frontal displacement irrigation system has already displaced gravity irrigation through windows.

From this experience and the evaluations that Cenicaña performs today to know the performance of uniformity and efficiency in the application of the system, lessons and learnings can be drawn to guide the decisions of adopting new technologies for more efficient management of water in the crop. .


  • Easy automation, operation and maintenance.
  • Low demand for labor for its operation.
  • It offers the possibility of watering large areas.
  • It allows the application of frequent irrigations with small sheets.
  • High uniformity in water distribution as long as it is well designed and maintained.
  • It allows to apply fertilizers and chemical products with the irrigation water (chemigation).
  • It has in one place the water and energy intake.
  • Possibility of decreasing mechanical work.
  • Observation of the application of irrigation.
  • Installation at any growing age.
  • Increase of the productive area by eliminating irrigation channels.


  • Requires prior knowledge of the quality of the water used for irrigation.
  • Requires training of personnel operating the equipment.
  • Investment of the basic structure between 1400 and 2000 USD / ha.
  • The uniformity in the application of water is affected by the presence of strong winds, especially in the afternoon.
  • High intensity of water application at the end of the lateral line.
  • Limited range on uneven or rough terrain (buildings, power lines, trees, etc.)
  • It is preferable to have the entire crop at the same age.
  • Requires maintenance of equipment wheel tracks.

The experience in Step 6
Area: 45 hectares with cane
Agroecological zone: 11H0 (64% of the area) and 18H1
• Location: township of Rozo, Palmira.

"Before we used to irrigate by gravity with window pipes, but the amount of wasted water was notorious, it was not enough to 'turn the farm' and we were short according to what was indicated in the water balance.

We started evaluating more efficient alternatives and we considered drip irrigation and front displacement irrigation, but we were very concerned about the dripper filters and the maintenance of these; whereas by frontal displacement we did not need to be experts to verify that the system was working. Of course, the investment was high, but the trickle was not cheap either; what's more, they could be around the same price.

With this system we went from applying 1800 m3 / ha to 800 m3 / ha, also knowing that we are applying water directly to the plant. In addition to this saving in water consumption, another advantage of frontal displacement irrigation is that it is programmed to apply the sheet of water according to the age of the crop, the system is automated and therefore there is savings in labor or it can be used in other tasks; It is also completely visual and allows you to easily check if it is working and the planting area is optimized because the equipment marks the footprint (40 cm) when moving and no alleys are needed.

We have found the greatest difficulty with the height reached by the cane variety (CC 01-1940), which surpasses the equipment and has made it difficult for us to apply the last irrigation in the three cuts that we carry and that later the plant charges us. Probably if all the risks had been applied, the first cut would have exceeded the 170 TCH it reached ”.

Angela Maria Cabal
Cane cultivator

The cultivator Angela María Cabal shared her experience using mechanized sprinkler irrigation systems.

Center pivot sprinkler system evaluation

Initial evaluations are currently being carried out to find out the applied foil and distribution uniformity of the central pivot sprinkler irrigation and thus determine the distance that must exist between the towers and how the wind affects uniformity. For this, it was necessary to calculate the Christiansen Uniformity Coefficient (CUC).

A CUC of approximately 80% was determined, which allows it to be classified from acceptable to good in terms of uniformity.

These same evaluations concluded that uniformity in the towers should be improved from the middle of the equipment to the end, as it is the sector where the greatest amount of area is irrigated. However, the results of the hydraulic evaluation have shown that the application efficiency is 86%.
Assessments will continue to deliver adjustment procedures to system operation, determine the distribution of the sheet of water on the soil surface, and verify how it actually occurs in the soil profile.

Information Letter | JUL 2019: 16-17  PDF version 

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