Irrigation in Illinois

Difficult to see, under right brake lever the white fuzzy area is irrigation spray

On rides south of town Thursday morning, and again Saturday evening I found 2 irrigation systems operating.  It has been hot and dry for several days — this following a very wet spring and early summer.

Why there is increasing irrigation here is a question I have been unable to find an adequate answer.  Certainly we have the water resources of the Mahomet Aquifer, but why more irrigation systems are appearing is difficult to assess.

They are still somewhat of a rarity, that is to say, the vast majority of fields are not irrigated, and in the ones that are, the system is seldom used due to the normal rainfall we receive.

The economics of it all escapes me, and my Ag Expert neighbor as well. The cost of a test well, then the actual well, the diesel or electric powered pump, and the system itself is expensive. Upwards of 100,000 dollars. Whether it eventually pays to do so is the question no one seems to have an answer.

The two systems pictured are within a mile of each other, and located on glacial outwash of sand and gravel — those soils are somewhat more prone to drying out quickly.

Here is some info about Illinois irrigation — what we are seeing are field crops, not truck farm or specialty crops.  The soils here are not particularly sandy for the most part as suggested in the article, except as noted above.

Illinois Irrigation Map

Obviously, the farms that install the system must believe it is worth it.

Maybe our farm friends in Blue Mound Township can add some information about all this.

So here are a few photos of two different systems in operation, both within  a mile of each other.

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The area irrigated is very small in comparison to the total farmed area.

Very much enjoy all the entries you all have provided -- great to see the everyday cycling venues. Being in eastern Illinois, scenery certainly isn't our forte, but oh well, the roads are normally quiet. Look forward to more and more entries from all of you, I do have a few over on BL -- in Bill's Day Rides, and one journal.

10 response to "Irrigation in Illinois"

  1. By: Bill Stone Posted: July 21, 2019

    Interesting, Rich. I don’t think I’ve ever seen corn or beans irrigated in McLean County. My ace support crew says she’s not aware of any, but she will investigate further when she is in Blue Mound township at the end of next month. If I end up going along with her, I will prowl the back roads of the county on the Ogre looking for geysers.

    PS: Based on your photos, should be no need to irrigate for quite awhile after all that rain, unless the soil is so sandy it drains away too quickly. Way better to get modest amounts of rain at short intervals rather than enough for a whole summer dumped all at once! For farmers, not bicyclists.

    • By: Rich-Illinois Posted: July 22, 2019

      Hi Bill,
      The Illinois Irrigation map shows very little activity in McClean County — small cluster in the extreme southwestern part and a speck or two in the northern area. So, either the groundwater resources arent there to support it, or, more likely, McClean farmers are considerably smarter! 🙂

      The storm with all the rain hovered over Northern Vermilion, and reports from not too far north or south were far less if at all.

  2. By: Lah Posted: July 21, 2019

    I remember on one of my trips to Europe, seeing a few places that were irrigating, with water from a river. One time, I was sprayed and I still remember how awful I smelled until I got a shower and changed my clothes. I wondered what that gross river water was doing to whatever they were growing.

    Interesting post. A lot of families where we live have irrigation systems just to keep their grass green. This past week, I’ve run ours several days in a row because things are burning up in this heat. Times have certainly changed. My maternal grandparents didn’t even have water or electricity. I remember seeing my grandmother watering her flowers with the water she pumped from the well, but I imagine the crops had to wait for rain. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

    • By: Rich-Illinois Posted: July 22, 2019

      Yup, the times have changed.
      Gramma’s place in southern IL had no water or electricity, ‘coal oil’ lamps, and burned corn cobs in the cook stove. Hand pump for water, and coal fired stoves for heat and an ice box that was exactly that.

  3. By: Suzanne Posted: July 21, 2019

    Interesting, I’m curious to know if that turns out to be a sound investment. Someone preparing for global warming?

    • By: Rich-Illinois Posted: July 22, 2019

      Thats my question too — My Ag Expert neighbor farmed a huge area and he is not impressed with the expense/reward ratio at all.

  4. By: The Navigator Posted: July 22, 2019

    Hmmm… that does seem interesting. Please share if you get an update. I have the tried and true method for getting a farmer to appear from whom you could ask questions. Wait until very early in the season when there is no corn to hide in. Drink lots of water… desperately need somewhere to pee before the next town. Finally, when you are nowhere near buildings and haven’t seen anyone in ages, drop down into a ditch, drop your knicks… and voila!, a farmer appears. Worked for me quite a few times traversing IL and IN 🙂

    • By: Rich-Illinois Posted: July 22, 2019

      LOL You are a farmer magnet!!
      At least it gave you the opportunity to ask, oh, by the by, about that irrigation system over there . . . . . 🙂

  5. By: The Navigator Posted: July 22, 2019

    On my way across Nebraska on one of my bike trips, I came across a historical sign in the middle of nowhere saying the fields nearby were some of the first to be used for centre-pivot irrigation. The next little town down the road is the world headquarters for Reinke – one of the innovators of centre-pivot systems. It was a very nice town for its size – Reinke obviously put some money into it. Here’s some info:

    • By: Rich-Illinois Posted: July 22, 2019

      Very interesting reading! Thanks!
      Like so many things, there is way more to know about the subject than most realize.

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