Farmers urged to keep irrigation water off roadways

The Delaware Department of Agriculture has issued a reminder to farmers to make an effort to avoid spraying irrigation water over the roadways.

Due to high temperatures, farmers are likely irrigating more, which means more opportunities for end guns to spray water onto state highways. Wet roadways reduce pavement friction for motorists, increasing the possibility of dangerous hydroplaning incidents.

The Delaware Farm Bureau has co-signed the public service announcement for the sake of efficiency, safety, and maintaining a positive perception of the industry.

“As farmers, we try to optimize the quantity of inputs such as water we apply on our crops,” said Richard Wilkins, Delaware Farm Bureau president. “We also should avoid unnecessarily putting water on the roadways where it could cause safety concerns for motorists. We will all be much better off by voluntarily avoiding situations that stimulate complaints rather than seeing regulations created that restrict our reasonable use of end guns near roadways.”

Some industry leaders have chimed in that calibrating irrigation systems to avoid spillage should be easy.

“You used to be able to do it with a mechanical switch,” said Sussex County Farm Bureau President Dale Phillips, who farms in Georgetown. “Now most systems are controlled electronically, and you can program them, even with your phone, to stop the end gun at a given point and restart after the irrigation system has moved on.”

University of Delaware Irrigation Engineer James Adkins said some older systems didn’t have a mechanism to turn the gun off.

Some systems use a ramp mechanism at the pivot point to control the gun, he explained. These ramps are not perfect.

“They are usually slightly curved with the direction of the curve changing with system travel direction. As a system ages, the curvature increases as the joints and alignment cams wear, causing the reduced accuracy of the end gun shutoff based on pivot point angle,” Adkins said.

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