Tamar Semida

Aswan, Eqypt
TL Sprinkler Irrigation
T-L pivots definitely have more advantages in comparison with the electric pivots, such as the low preventive maintenance and repair costs. This means lower requirements for operating and maintenance staff and maximum time efficiency for higher income.

When Tamer Semida has trouble with a center pivot irrigation system, he always hopes that the problem is something he and his crew can repair themselves. Otherwise, he often has to wait two or three days for a repairman to make the 250- to 375-mile trip to the farm. And that’s just one-way.

That’s one reason Semida has advised his employer, as well as other companies in Egypt, where he serves as head of the agriculture section for the Jenaan Company, to buy only T-L pivots when purchasing new units or replacing old electric units. Semida speaks from experience, too, having worked with center pivot systems since 2004.

“I worked for a year in the Sinai in food crop production where they had several different irrigation methods, including drip, sprinklers and pivots,” he says. “The most effective and lowest cost system was the pivots, even though the electrical and mechanical malfunctions caused some troubles.”

From 2005 through 2007, Semida worked with the National Research Center on an agronomical consulting project involving fertilization management. Unfortunately, he again saw his share of electrical malfunctions. It wasn’t until he joined the Jenaan Company in 2008 that Semida discovered there was an alternative.

“In August 2009, the chairman of the company told me he had bought another pivot system that worked on hydraulic oil,” he recalls. “That was the first time I had heard about T-L. I could not believe it. The T-L is an amazing pivot, which has worked all this time without any malfunctions.”

Located in the extreme southwest corner of Egypt in an area known as the Sharq El-Owienate Project-New Val- ley governorate, the Jenaan Company currently produces a wide variety of crops, including alfalfa, Bermuda grass, wheat and vegetables. However, because the farm is situated in the desert, approximately 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Dakhla City, Egypt, and 600 kilometers (375 miles) from Aswan, Egypt, it’s virtually impossible to produce a crop without irrigation.” Pivot irrigation systems are the most effective and lowest in cost for food and feed crop production,” Semida says, noting that the company’s current inventory includes 160 center pivot units, consisting of 25 T-L hydraulic- drive pivots and 135 electric units from two other companies.

“That’s because one pivot can cover between 118 and 150 acres and one person can operate more than one unit … which means we can easily spread the agriculture investments to further reduce the cost of human power in comparison with the fixed irrigation systems (drip and sprinkler).”

Semida says that by using a regular preventive maintenance program, he believes he can keep most of the pivots working without problems or downtime. Still, he has found that T-L pivots, with their hydraulic drive system, offer a superior advantage when it comes to reliability.

“T-L pivots definitely have more advantages in comparison with the electric pivots, such as the low preventive maintenance and repair costs,” he says. “This means lower requirements for operating and maintenance staff and maximum time efficiency for higher income.”

Although the Jenaan Company project was initiated to grow and export hay and forage crops like alfalfa, millet, oats and Bermuda, it has since expanded to include wheat and potatoes and is currently studying the viability of other crops, including vegetables.

“Jenaan Company now has 33,000 acres divided into two projects in southwest Egypt,” Semida explains. “The old one includes 20,000 acres with all of it being sowed. The recent one includes 13,000 acres, which are under construction to add wells and roads.

At the same time, there are negotiations between the company and the Egyptian regime about Jenaan’s plans to expand its agriculture investments to reach 100,000 acres in the Toshca project which is closer to the city of Aswan.”

Regardless of the location, Semida and his staff have to contend with challenges most North American farmers never have to face … like endless sand. Still, the predominance of fine sand and sandy soil isn’t the biggest problem. That would be the heat, which can easily range from 100 degrees to well over 110 degrees Fahrenheit during the afternoons in June, July and August.

“The heat is the biggest challenge we face because it can cause oil leakage in the gearboxes,” he says. “That leads to failures in the gearbox or couplings and stops the continuity of our work.”

Due to the dry conditions, Semida says the irrigation schedule is 12 hours per day in the winter and 18 to 20 hours per day in the summer. At full speed, the pivots can make a full revolution in approximately 12 hours and apply around 3,000 cubic meters (792,500 gallons) of water.

At 60 percent speed, which is closer to the average, a pivot will take 20 hours per revolution and apply about 5,000 cubic meters (1.3 million gallons) of water.

Because the sandy soil is low on nutrients, the center pivot units are also called on frequently to apply liquid fertilizer as a supplement to the nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and micronutrients applied before and after planting.

In the meantime, weed control depends on the crop, the export restrictions and management of the particular farm. Semida says the weed density also differs from field to field, which is part of the reason they follow a diverse rotation program.

“Jenaan’s plan is to take about 30 cuts of alfalfa hay, which means a field is in alfalfa production for about three years,” Semida says. “After that, the crop rotation includes wheat, corn, potatoes, barley and millet to create diversity of the crop type and the soil microbiology, while enriching soil fertility.” All of that, of course, depends on a steady water supply.

“Within the company, we have a very well-trained staff of engineers and technicians who do the maintenance work on the pivots, engines and pumps,” Semida concludes. “However, I am trained to do most of the maintenance and instruction, as well. In fact, I remember in 2008, when the farm wasn’t as large as it is today, when I would carry a tool bag in my car and when I’d see a defect, I would stop and repair it myself without any help.”

Fortunately, as the number of T-L pivots continues to grow, the use of that tool bag is even less frequent.