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How locality and soil types plays a roll in your irrigation equipment

RST Irrigation Ltd are in an enviable location in the country. In the heart of East Anglia, within 1/2m of Sufflok, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire border, they are on the edge of the fenlands and only a few miles from the Brecklands. The two areas are quite different from each other. The Fenlands feature dark soils (and some white eau), which can range from light to heavy black and encompasses peat, clay and silt soils. The Brecklands have sandy free draining mixes of sand and silt plus pockets of clay and flint. These two areas often require different hosereel irrigation machinery.

Typically (but not always), in the fenland areas, the hosereels are slightly smaller than those in the Brecklands. The Lindsay Europe manufactured Perrot irrigation hosereels imported by RST Irrigation sold in the Fenlands are usually from 110/400 up to 110/600. It’s uncommon to have hosereel pipe lengths much longer than this as the drag on the soil can make it difficult to pull the pipe out and if the soil is moist, difficult for the machine to wind the pe pipe back in. The larger hosereels working in the fenlands often have four wheels to reduce the weight per wheel as some areas can have particularly soft soils. The Perrot range of hosereels can offer twin axle arrangements throughout the range, but more importantly, these axles have a rocking action so all four wheels stay in contact with the ground at all times. Some other manufacturers have fixed axles and these machines are not so stable. The larger size of Perrot hosereels features hydraulic brakes as standard and self loading gun carriages. The gun carriages are often set in the offset format, meaning the pe pipe lays where the tractor wheel has been. This helps to reduce the drag on the hose from contact with the soil.

It’s quite common in the Fenlands to use diesel powered pumpsets, taking water from local ditches and drains, to provide pressurised water to hosereels. RST manufactures pumpsets in their workshops at Sedge Fen to suit the exact requirements of the customer. These pumpsets can supply one, two or three hosereels. The latest design of control panels allows for remote starting with a dedicated program to fill the pipeline slowly to allow any trapped air to escape safely. RST designed their own tanker primer system to prime the suction line effortlessly. Some farmers will move the pumpset each time they move the hosereel, others will use aluminium pipes to transfer the water. RST irrigation imports Raesa aluminium pipes and fittings and regularly sells in excess of 25,000m of Raesa pipe every year.

The hosereels working on the Breckland soils are generally a little larger than those in the fenlands and can be as long as 700m. Longer pe pipes have thicker walls, which causes higher water friction losses, so to maintain a reasonable pressure at the end of the pe pipe, larger diameter pe pipes of 120 and 125mm are becoming common. The friction on the Breckland soils is lower than the Fenlands, so the additional drag of heavier pe pipes is not normally a problem. However, areas with flints can wear the pe pipes quickly so there has been a trend of late to use centre pull gun carriages, so the pipe lays on destoned soil beds. 

The Breckland areas would typically have borehole or reservoir pumps to supply water to the fields via buried PVC pipelines. RST installs electric powered pumphouses throughout East Anglia, using the latest high efficiency pumps and motors and variable speed inverter drives to control the pumps. RST have installed pumping systems suitable for one hosereel, up to systems designed for 10 hosereels. Each pumping system is unique in design to best suit the customers requirements.

Common to both areas is the desire to know more about the hosereels and pumping system as the operator is rarely present when these are in use. RST are the sole importers of the Raindancer system. This monitors and tracks the position of the gun carriage/boom/Linear and records this data along with the pressure at that point using a pressure transducer. With a GSM module fitted in the hosereels speed control, the operator can start, stop and alter the retraction speed of the hosereel, all through the Raindancer app. Another new product from the same supplier is the gun control system. This bolts underneath the raingun and controls the arc the raingun throws. As the Raindancer system has all the fields mapped, it doesn’t matter where you position the hosereel, the raingun will always adjust so the water never exceeds the boundary of the field. This saves water usage and also adds to reduce under irrigated areas in the field. As the arc of the raingun changes, so does the retraction speed of the hosereel to ensure the application of water remains the same. From the Raindancer web page, you can print management reports of water usage by the field, crop type and application device. As the Raindancer system will send notifications of faults, at the end of each day, you can log in to confirm all machines are running, rather than having to visit each machine late at night and at the beginning of each day to see if a problem occurred overnight. The Raindancer company also makes a ‘Beacon’ module to fit electric powered pumphouses that displays on the same app, allowing the operator to start, stop and reset faults remotely. The app also shows the operating pressure and flowrate leaving the pumphouse.