Read the current Progressive Forage digital edition

Equipment Hub: Irrigation pump maintenance

Published on 29 April 2019

Do you remember the last time you changed the oil in your pickup truck? Do you know how old the tires are or the last time it was inspected?

Of course you do. It is easy to recognize the importance of regular vehicle maintenance, but because you likely do not spend nearly as many hours in front of your irrigation pump as you do in front of the pickup dashboard, remembering to schedule regular maintenance checkups is not as easy to remember. But just like your vehicle, your irrigation pumps need routine maintenance to run at their best.

This article will first explore some maintenance benefits of choosing to power your irrigation pump using a Tier 4 Final engine before providing some recommendations to maintain your pumps both pre-season and in-season.

Why Tier 4 Final?

If you are in the market to replace or repower your existing irrigation pumps, it may be a good time considering upgrading to equipment powered by a Tier 4 Final engine, if you haven’t already.

Regular maintenance is important to every diesel engine, regardless of its emissions standards, but standard maintenance intervals have increased dramatically thanks to Tier 4 Final technology. The longer service intervals required for Tier 4 Final engines can improve the total cost of equipment ownership, helping you save money over the lifetime of your machine.

Many diesel engines prior to the Tier 4 Final emissions standards required service at approximately every 250 to 300 hours to maintain proper function and performance, but upgrading to a new piece of equipment will allow you to extend the service interval by up to 100 percent on those engines. Most manufacturers of Tier 4 Final diesel engines today recommend servicing the engine at every 500 hours, but there is some variance in the industry.

Some Tier 4 Final engines also benefit from functioning without the use of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) or diesel particulate filters (DPF). This state-of-the-art technology operates solely by selective catalytic reduction (SCR), an emissions reduction system that injects diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) into the exhaust stream to reduce emissions.

Engines able to meet emissions standards using SCR-only technology have functional advantages that should not be overlooked. First, many engines that use EGR or DPF require the machine to stop for regeneration, a process of cleaning the DPF that can cause unnecessary and inefficient downtime. Second, as SCR-only engines require fewer parts, they’re much simpler to service, creating more of a “fit for life” approach to the after-treatment system. Lower wear on parts and longer maintenance intervals are both direct benefits of a simpler engine architecture that uses only SCR technology to reduce emissions.

As always, make sure you are clear with your equipment dealer on engine service requirements to ensure long life for your Tier 4 Final engine.

Pump maintenance

Committing to pump maintenance all season long, not just pre-season, can improve the efficiency of your irrigation, optimizing yields and oftentimes extending the life of your equipment. Here we will discuss various pump maintenance strategies, but remember to always refer to your owner’s manual and follow the recommendations of the manufacturer first, as there may be specific instructions for your equipment.

Prepare for growing season

Irrigation equipment should always be inspected thoroughly prior to planting season so you can be prepared for the upcoming growing season. Before planting is the best time to check your engines, nozzles and pumps.

As with any engine, be sure to change the oil and other fluids, spark plugs and filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It would also be a good opportunity to start up the engine and let it run long enough to expel any extra grease that may have built up. Also take time to inspect the nozzles to be sure they are properly connected, free of debris that may cause plugs, and reset them as necessary to ensure even spacing.

Pumps will require pre-season inspection as well, and particular care should be taken to check centrifugal pumps for free movement, make sure gaskets are sealed tight, identify and repair leaks (if any), and complete any necessary lubrication.

Set an in-season schedule

Perhaps one of the most important reasons why it is always easy to remember to change the oil in your vehicle approximately every 5,000 miles is because the automotive industry has established its standard interval over the years and across (most) manufacturers. The standard interval for pump maintenance might not be as well-established as a habit for producers, but setting a schedule based on your operation’s needs that works for you will be the first step.

It may be helpful to record the number of hours your pumps were in operation each month so your schedule can be further optimized for the next season.

These mid-season inspections can help ensure your water application is as even as possible, helping to increase yields and also provide growers an opportunity to diagnose and correct potential issues before they become an expensive problem to repair.  end mark

Aimee Culbert is a communication specialist with FPT Industrial, North America. Email Aimee Culbert.