Mechanized Irrigation

Center Pivot Irrigation

Tailor the ideal irrigation system for your crops from end to end. With a custom system from Nelson Irrigation, you can make the most of your water application and ensure maximum coverage. From choosing the right plates and nozzles to picking suitable end gun options, we’ll help you devise an exceptional approach that’s reliable, effective, and efficient day after day.

Why Center Pivot Irrigation?

The center pivot offers the perfect platform for sprinklers to deliver the right amount of water in the right way.

Nelson Irrigation has a full range of products from the pivot point to the end gun. Create the system that’s right for your crops with control valves, pivot sprinklers, pressure regulators, and end guns, and the package is complete. Efficiency and effectiveness are at the heart of this superior center pivot irrigation package.

Center pivot sprinkler platform

Why Choose Nelson Center Pivot Products?

  1. Built in Walla Walla for Global Applications
  2. Innovative Sprinkler Technology for the Future
  3. Customizable Systems to Meet Unique Needs
  4. Flexible Configurations for Mount Up-Top & On-Drops
  5. Low-Pressure Options with the Nelson Advantage
  6. Exceptional Uniformity for Maximum Yield & Grade
  7. American Made with Precision Engineering
  8. Reliable and Built to Last for Year After Year
  9. Readily Available Parts & Accessible Service Technicians
  10. A Manufacturing History of More Than a Century
Sprinkler heads spewing water
Pivot Point to End Gun illustration with center pivot platform
End of Pivot End of Pivot
Pivot Sprinklers Pivot Sprinklers
Pressure Pressure
Headworks Headworks &
Pivot Point
Accessories Accessories

Efficient / Effective / Economic

Nelson Irrigation dates back to 1911, but a lot has changed in the field since, and we’re proud to provide clients with all the most advanced systems today. Our founding mission, however, has remained the same: Save water, save energy, and save labor while doing a better job of irrigating so crops can thrive.

Over the years, we’ve always prioritized this efficiency, and the inherent nature of the center pivot–a mechanized move system–had made it a labor-saving device. A revolutionary product, it decreases the length of pipe and the number of sprinklers needed to get the job done right, especially when compared to a solid set system.

Since the 70s, Nelson Irrigation has been devising ways to bring high-performing, low-pressure products to the pivot market. Whereas operating pressures of 50 psi were once the standard, our innovations have yielded systems with just 6-10 psi. This massive reduction has served to improve pumping costs over the years. Moreover, our highly engineered products–e.g., the Rotator sprinkler with multi-trajectory streams–provide a large wetted diameter that gets more water into the ground while eliminating runoff and waste.

When you match the right Nelson products to your specific soil and crop needs, you can ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness for minimum expense. Take our valves, for example. As hydraulically operated, sleeve-type valves, these custom devices are designed to perform smoothly while providing extremely accurate pressure control and high-flow capacity.

Sprinklers irrigating leafy greens
Sprinkler head illustration

Sprinkler Technology

Different crops, climates, soils, and farming practices demand different kinds of sprinklers. At Nelson Irrigation, we recognize that every client has unique needs, which is why we’ve devised a family of products with precision engineering to provide a multitude of functions. Put another way, modularity is the cornerstone of every Nelson system.

Our original 3000 Series centered around the 3TN nozzle. With the introduction of the 3NV nozzle, the 3030 Series does even more. To ensure every advancement we make to our sprinklers will actually benefit farmers, we work hand-in-hand with grower-cooperators in the Columbia Basin. They provide real-world input regarding irrigation needs, and we turn around and incorporate their requests for better functionality into our new designs.


At Nelson Irrigation, we’re always working to solve your problems before they crop up. As irrigation solution experts, we’ve spent more than a century innovating, testing, and manufacturing high-quality products, but you don’t have to take our word for it. See what past clients have to say about our irrigation systems by checking out the testimonials below.

One of the products from Nelson Irrigation I’ve been very pleased with is the R3000 system of rotator nozzles. The diameter of the wet surface is much bigger and really reduces the amount of run-off I have, especially on tighter soil.

Dave Collins

ABC Company

With the dependability of the pivots and of the sprinklers, you couldn’t ask for a better situation… Nelson and Valmont work together when they’re making packages. I pick my partners, and those are the two I pick for my irrigation system.

Mike Hawman

ABC Company

Nelson’s customer service is outstanding. They stand behind their products... They’ve done some replacements for things out here that I really thought went above and beyond what was expected, but it certainly has built the relationship with our customers.

Pat Shannahan

ABC Company


Nelson Irrigation Corporation is proud to offer PivotMapper – the first map-based information solution designed to connect you with important and quickly evolving information used every day to sell, operate and service center pivot irrigation systems. PivotMapper is based on the idea that it is easier to find information on a digital map than in a filing cabinet. PivotMapper makes it easy to quickly map locations and securely store information about the center pivots you manage. Imagine sharing with your team real time dynamic information, anytime and anywhere – in the dealership, on the road, and in the field.

Celebrating 50 years!

At Nelson Irrigation, we have been perfecting center pivot irrigation systems for half a century.

Innovation is an ongoing process, and we’re always looking for ways to enhance our irrigation systems, so you can improve your crop yield year after year. From our Big Gun® series to our sprinklers and regulators, we’ve got a long list of exceptional products that are always being upgraded so they ensure maximum functionality.

Sprinkler head manufacturing plant

World-Class Manufacturing

From our inception, we have made a conscious effort to maintain one manufacturing facility in our hometown of Walla Walla, Washington. This allows for total quality control, so we can provide the highest-quality systems to our customers. To this day, our products are made in America with integrity and ingenuity, and they’re built to last for years to come.

If you hear us mention the “Nelson Way,” we’re talking about our commitment to delivering state-of-the-art water application solutions. Every single member of our team takes our craft seriously, and we’re proud to hire brilliant people who would rather invent better devices than merely manufacture good ones that already exist.

Center Pivot Webinars

Overview of Nelson Center Pivot Sprinklers: Best Practices and What’s New

Preseason Water Application Startup Checks for Center Pivots

Pivot Wheel Track Mitigation & Maintenance

LEPA-LESA-LENA Irrigation for Center Pivots

End of Iron

Irrigation and Soils

Center Pivot Irrigation Latest Related Blog Posts


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In today’s increasingly competitive global market, high production efficiency is essential for producers to grow their economic return.

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Profitability In Irrigation

By: Nelson Irrigation Thursday, August 1, 2019

Successful growers know the importance of irrigation uniformity in maximizing these inputs for yield and grade. At the same time, rising energy costs are a continuing challenge.

GeoCropical® Solutions

Our devices have endless customization options, which means they can be tailored to your particular GeoCropical® profile with ease. We have a full line of sprinklers that are fine-tuned for specific climates, soils, terrains, crop rotations, and water qualities.

The following crops thrive with mechanized irrigation: corn, potatoes, sugarbeets, sugarcane, soybeans, hay, forage, and more. If you happen to grow something else, though, give us a call to discuss your unique needs. At Nelson Irrigation, we’re always up for a new challenge!

Geocropical globe illustration

Center Pivots in the Media

The YouTube channel Smart Every Day has recently published a great video on center pivots. In depth look at how a center pivot is assembled and the basic concept about irrigating in a circle. See it here


How does a center pivot move?

A center pivot uses a self-propelled lateral pipe that is fixed at one end and rotates to irrigate a circular area. The lateral pipe is separated into spans that are supported by towers, and each tower has a drive unit with motor-driven wheels. Most center pivots are electrically driven, but some are hydrostatically powered.

What are the advantages to center pivot irrigation ?

Center pivots are one of the most cost effective irrigation methods. They require very little labor to operate, and can last for decades if properly maintained.

What are the disadvantages to center pivot irrigation?

Center pivot irrigation systems tend to apply water at a rate that is faster than the soil can absorb it. This can lead to runoff and other problems. For this reason, their effectiveness is limited on clay soils and steep slopes.

What is center pivot irrigation used for?

Center pivots are most commonly used on field and forage crops such as alfalfa, hay, corn, soybeans, wheat, potatoes, cotton, and more.

How much water does it take to run a center pivot

The amount of water required to run a center pivot depends on the size of the field, crop type, and climate.

How long does a center pivot system last?

A center pivot is made of galvanized steel and can last decades when properly maintained, but the actual lifespan depends on the number of hours it is operated per year, water quality, and other factors. Likewise the sprinklers and other components will likely need to be replaced multiple times over the life of the center pivot pipe and structure itself.

What are the main types of Irrigation?

The main types of irrigation are sprinkler, drip, and surface. Sprinkler irrigation systems include mechanized irrigation such as center pivots, and non-mechanized systems like solid set systems. Drip irrigation uses small emitters to apply water individually to each plant at very low flow rates. Surface irrigation consists primarily of flood irrigation, which can be done with a variety of methods including gated pipe, border strip, and others.

Does center pivot irrigation save water?

Any irrigation system that is properly designed and managed can save water compared to an inefficient system. All irrigation types - sprinkler, drip, and surface - can achieve 90%+ efficiency when properly applied. Thus, no irrigation system inherently saves more water than another; it depends on whether it is properly applied, operated, and maintained.

Glossary and Industry terms

3NV Nozzle

A removable nozzle style from Nelson Irrigation that is acts as a nozzle, shut-off valve, allows external cleaning and has two flushing modes. The 3NV nozzles fit into Nelson 3030 bodies

3TN Nozzle

A nozzle system that fits the 3000 Series Nelson pivot sprinklers

Accelerator Sprinkler

A low pressure sprinkler that has plate geometry to allow it to rotate at a faster speed as the nozzles get larger along a center pivot. This is to provide a more spinner like action and smaller droplets at the outside of the pivot where the application rate is the highest.


When the air in a pipeline, alive or pump is trapped and compressed to prevent the free operation of the irrigation system

Center Pivot

A self-propelled irrigation machine that rotates around a central structure and uses multiple sprinklers to irrigate


The application of chemicals to a field, using the irrigation water and system to carry and apply the chemicals.

Coefficient of Uniformity (CU)

A formula to describe how wet or dry some areas in an irrigation zone are, compared to the Mean application rate of the entire area measured in that zone.

Diameter of Throw

The measurement of the total reach of the wetted pattern, in both directions from the sprinkler itself


Where water leaves at and determined flow rate from a pressurized pipeline, to atmospheric pressure

End Gun

Large sprinkler emitter that irrigates beyond the end of the pivot lateral


The combined water total of the water that evaporates off of the leaf surface and soil, along with the consumptive use of the plant through transpiration

Friction Loss

The water pressure loss due to water flowing down a pipeline, against the side of a pipe wall that is stationary.


A u shaped pipe at the top of the pivot span pipe that diverts the water from an outlet towards a hose or rigid drop leading to a sprinkler emitter.

Hose Drop

A sprinkler mounting method, usually paired with a gooseneck that uses a hose to mount a sprinkler in an inverted position

Irrigation Boom

An irrigation machine that is pulled by a hose reel and uses multiple sprinklers to irrigate


The process of water entering into the soil


A self-propelled irrigation machine that travels the length of a field and uses multiple sprinklers to irrigate


Low Elevation Precision Application sprinkler package


Low Elevation Nelson Advantaged sprinkler application package


Low Elevation Spray Application sprinklers


A style of sprinkler, where the nozzle sprays water onto the plate off center (off-Axis) from the tip of the plate.

Operating Pressure

The pressure that a pump, valve or sprinkler is operating at when an irrigation system is operating.

Pivot Chart

Document giving the all of the specifics of a pivot, down to flows, pressures, and locations of individual sprinklers

Pivot Point

The structure at the center of an irrigated field that anchors a center pivot machine

Pressure Regulator

A device that reduces an inlet pressure to a desired lower pressure

Percent Timer

A method for controlling the speed of a center pivot using a percentage of the maximum speed of the drivetrain used

Random Droplet Sprinkler

A sprinkler that creates a droplet pattern over a wide range of driver sizes. It is used to address certain soil and wind concerns

Rate of Flow

Using the water velocity in a pipeline to control the opening of a valve

Rotator Sprinkler

A sprinkler that Rotates on a center axis, driven by the thrust forces generated when the water leaves the plate, while being dampened by the Rotator Brake. Rotator sprinklers do not have any moving seals exposed to water pressure


Process of changing out the existing sprinkler package on a pivot to change flow rate, sprinkler type, or replace worn out equipment

Run Off

Applied water that flows over the soil surface away from the application site, rather than infiltrating the soil

Rotator Motor/Brake

The mechanism in a Nelson Rotator that acts as a brake to counteract the thrust force of turning a Rotator plate generated as the stream leaves the plate

Sprinkler Overlap

Ratio of sprinkler radius to sprinkler spacing

Span Pipe

Large pipe that is a major structural component of a center pivot machine and serves as the mainline delivering water to each sprinkler

Span Outlet

Threaded coupler on the span pipe for attaching a sprinkler

Spray Sprinkler

A sprinkler where the nozzle sprays water onto a non-moving plate

Stochastic Sprinkler

An imaginary sprinkler that the marketing team made up to hopefully sell to a computer gaming company. A sprinkler that does not actually use water, but rather creates it. Pretty cool

Soil Type

The blend of sand, silt and clay that make up overall soil type. This is not soil structure, but a simple description of the percentages of sand, silt and clay particle sizes in the soil,

Sprinkler Height

The height above the ground where that the sprinkler is mounted.


The degrees from the ground up, at which a sprinkler throws the stream of water


A description of how equally water is applied to a soil surface or crop

Water Hammer

The action of water being slammed back and forth in a pipeline at extreme pressures due to entrapped air or fast valve closing speeds

A Brief History of Center Pivots

In center pivot irrigation, the equipment rotates around a pivot, thereby watering a circular area. Sometimes called “water-wheel” or “circle irrigation,” the center pivot method is renowned for its ability to use water efficiently and ultimately maximize a farm’s overall yield. This approach is especially effective on large land fields. While center pivots were initially water-powered, today’s systems are typically propelled by electric motors. The advancement of these systems is an interesting one; read on to learn more!

Invented in 1940 by Frank Zybach, a farmer in Colorado, center pivot irrigation was initially finicky. Zybach honed the system over the years and by 1952, he was ready to go into business. He partnered with A.E. Trowbridge, who put up $25,000 and received 49% of the patent rights in return. The two men opened a shop in Nebraska and sold 19 systems during their first year in business.

Initially, few farmers understood the benefits of using center pivots to irrigate their crops, but Zybach was not deterred. In fact, during the early years, he didn’t even try to sell the system; instead, he focused on improving the overall design so eventually he couldn’t be ignored.

In 1954, Zybach licensed his patent to Robert Daugherty of Valley Manufacturing. Daugherty’s engineers spent another decade refining the center pivot irrigation system and ultimately converted it from a hydraulic power system to an electric one. Valley Manufacturing evolved to become Valmont Industries, with Valley remaining a subsidiary that continues selling center pivot irrigation equipment to this day.

The center pivot system has undergone a lot of innovation over the years. Today, it’s comprised of several segments of pipe–typically aluminum or galvanized steel–with sprinklers positioned along them. The sprinklers are supported by trusses, which are mounted on wheeled towers. The machine as a whole moves in a circular pattern and is fed with water from the pivot point at the center.

The center pivot system was designed for relatively flat terrain. One major advantage of its configuration, however, is that it can function in undulating country, or fields that essentially roll up and down in a wave-like pattern. As such, center pivot irrigation has made it possible to irrigate areas that are unsuitable for other systems, including those in the Middle East and the Sahara.

Sprinklers irrigating leafy greens
Center pivot irrigation system Sprinkler platform at sunrise
Sprinkler platform irrigation crops

Download our Center Pivot product Guide

Check out our handy pocket guide for quick access to product performance and center pivot tips and tricks. Pages 16-19 cover important calculations such as determining depth of water applied, average application rate, required system flow and more!

Pivot product Guide
3TN & 3NV Nozzle Chart
Pivot Start-up Checklist
3030 - Полный Брошюра - Оросительное Оснащение
серии 3030
Pivot Design Form
Orbitor FX Center Pivot Sprinkler
3030 Series Center Pivot Sprinkler
Nelson Irrigation Center Pivot Sprinkler Options
Nelson White Plate Rotator® Irrigating Corn
Nelson Orange Plate Rotator Sprinkler
Irrigating Corn with the Nelson Orbitor