U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version


Document Type



Agricultural Research Magazine 60(5): May-June 2012 pp. 9; ISSN 0002-161X


At the Agricultural Research Service’s Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Laboratory in Kimberly, Idaho, agricultural engineer Brad King and research leader Dave Bjorneberg compared how irrigation from four commercial center-pivot sprinklers affected potential runoff and erosion on four south-central Idaho soils.

Though their results were inconsistent, they did observe that at the end of six irrigations, a 50-percent reduction in sprinkler flow rate reduced runoff and soil erosion 60-80 percent. They concluded that reducing sprinkler flow rate early in the growing season—before the development of a crop canopy—could help reduce irrigation runoff and soil erosion linked to center-pivot sprinkler irrigation. In addition, the scientists observed that sprinklers distributing water drops more evenly over the wetted area had the highest runoff and sediment yield. Conversely, the lowest runoff and sediment yields were associated with sprinklers that distributed well-defined rotating streams of water drops, regardless of how much kinetic energy was transferred to the soil by the droplets.