Chemigation (a.k.a. fertigation) uses a center pivot or subsurface drip irrigation system to apply fertilizer or pesticides to growing crops. It allows producers to spoon-feed fertilizer to a crop at the precise time when the crop needs it, cutting down on the amount of fertilizer leached below the root zone and lost by the crop.
To begin using chemigation in your operation, there are a few things you should know. First, you will need a person with a chemigation certification number. This person can be you, someone you know, a crop consultant, or coop representative. To get a certification number, this person must attend a training course and pass a written exam.
- Contact your local Nebraska Extension agent for training details.
- Get a permit from the NRD. You can apply for a permit at any time during the year, but we suggest applying early, preferably before June 1.
- Pass a field inspection at the injection site. A field inspection has four key components.
- Approved chemigation mainline check valve: This valve differs from a normal check valve in that it has a removable vacuum relief valve and a low-pressure drain.
- Electrical or mechanical interlock: This ensures that if the well would shut down, the pivot gets stuck, or the pivot loses pressure that the entire chemigation and irrigation systems shut down.
- Chemical injection check valve: This small valve fits between the fertilizer tank and the irrigation system. Its purpose is to prevent the backflow of water from the irrigation system into the fertilizer tank.
- Drain hose attached to the low-pressure drain: The hose must drain any water from the low-pressure drain at least twenty feet away from the well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to pump water, and do I need to have the injection pump at the site to pass a field inspection?
Yes, you will need to pump water. No, you do not need to have the pump present at the time of inspection. Water is needed to check the mainline check valve. We need to know that water is not passing from the irrigation system back down the well. The injection pump is not required to be on-site, but the electrical plug-in is. We are able to use a voltage tester to check the plug-in. If the interlock is functioning properly, the plug-in will lose current when the system is shut down.
Permits are issued on an annual basis each spring, with permits required on all injection sites. When a site is applied for initially, it will have to pass a field inspection before it can be used. If the permit is renewed annually, routine field inspections will be conducted every three years.
Chemigation Cost-Share Incentive Program
The district is looking for ways to incentivize producers who try fertilizer application using chemigation as a means of increasing adoption of this practice. Chemigation is a useful way apply chemicals and fertilizer onto fields using a center pivot to control application uniformity. All that is necessary to chemigate is an applicator's license, the appropriate safety equipment, and a permit from the NRD. The goal of this incentive program is to increase the number of producers using this fertilizer application method by giving cost-share to producers to help offset the startup cost.
Properly functioning and managed chemigation systems can provide a variety of benefits such as:
- Precision: Chemigation allows for precise application of chemicals and fertilizer to crops and soil surface.
- Efficiency: In some cases, chemigation can reduce total fertilizer application and is proven to increase crop yield making the practice more cost-effective than other forms of application.
- Safety: Chemigation is one of the safest ways to apply fertilizer, given the appropriate safety equipment. It also safeguards water quality, as the fertilizer is applied in-season, thus reducing the likelihood of leaching.
For approved Chemigation Equipment Cost-Share Incentive Program applications, the maximum cost-share rate is 50% of the actual cost, up to $1,000 per site, for the purchase of new chemigation equipment and chemigation permit. This program is intended for new chemigation sites and those that have not had an active chemigation permit in the last ten (10) years. The minimum cost-share payment is $100.00. NRCS, NSWCP, and NRD funds will not be combined for any practice. Eligible applicants will need to keep their permit active for 3 years. Any equipment purchased prior to application authorization is ineligible for cost-share. Application approval will be based on fund availability. Following approval, producers must provide a receipt for equipment purchased, a copy of their chemigation permit, and any other forms deemed necessary by the district in order to receive cost-share funding.
- Chemigation Injection Pump
- Chemigation Interlock
- Chemigation Injection Valve
- Chemigation Mainline Check valve Low-Pressure Drain
- Required Low-Pressure Drain Discharge Hose
- Landowners or operators are eligible
- All irrigation types allowed in Title 195
- Center pivot
- Subsurface drip - Class V permits on file with the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy
- Surface Water
- Sites must be new to chemigation or have not held an active chemigation permit in the last ten (10) years
- Participation will be limited to one (1) site per landowner or operator
Upon application approval:
- The district will notify applicants via email and in writing of approval.
- Approved applicants will call the district office to request an authorization number.
- Approved applicants will have 30 days to purchase equipment and submit chemigation permit paperwork to the district office.
Prior to submitting a chemigation permit, the producer must:
- Have equipment purchased, installed, and ready for inspection.
- Have an applicator’s license or have an eligible applicator.
At the time of cost-share claim, producer must:
- Have submitted receipt(s) of equipment purchased.
- Have submitted all forms required by the district to collect cost-share (program application, W-9, citizenship form, and permit application).
- Cost-share will be disbursed after a successful inspection.
Approved applications will be notified via email and in writing. Once approved, the applicant must call the NRD office for an authorization number. Upon authorization, the applicant will have 30 days to complete the practice. Any purchases of materials made prior to authorization are not eligible for funding. Upon completion of the practice, district staff will schedule an inspection before payment recommendation is presented to the Board of Directors for approval.
The maximum cost-share rate is 50% of the actual cost, not to exceed $1,000 per site, for the purchase of new chemigation equipment and the necessary chemigation permit only.