Savannah Valley District

“Test Before You Touch” Comes to Farms in Calhoun County

Charles Davis, Row Crops Agronomy Agent – Calhoun and Richland County

Center Pivot Irrigation is massive in Calhoun County. Nearly half of the county’s farmland is covered by over 400 irrigation systems, making it the most irrigated county in South Carolina. Irrigation has significantly impacted Calhoun County farms’ success, and in some years, is a difference between success and crop failure. However, irrigation comes with inherent risks. Center pivot irrigation systems are large sprinkler systems that move in a circle, irrigating the crop below. Powered by electric motors that drive gearboxes and move the system, they slowly travel across the field. Vast amounts of electricity are needed to power these systems, and therein lies the risk to the farmer. Any mechanical device can fail, and irrigation systems are no different. When the failure is the grounding system for the electrical motors, the life of a farmer is at risk. Farmers who touch an electrical panel that has lost ground are subject to injury or death as their bodies become the pathway for electricity to get to the ground.

During the summer of 2022, Clemson Extension Water Resource Agents and Extension Agronomy Agents began a safety program that promoted the idea that farmers should “Test Before You Touch.” A sticker to remind farmers of this was developed and promoted to farmers who use irrigation. Charles Davis, Clemson Extension Agronomy Agent in Calhoun and Richland Counties, took it a step further, purchased 50 touchless voltage testers, and began visiting farms and giving farmers enough stickers for their irrigation systems and two testers as a way of promoting irrigation safety. To date, he has distributed testers to sixteen Calhoun County farms and stickers for 218 irrigation systems. Distribution will continue into the fall and include farmers in Richland County who use center-pivot irrigation.

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