High water used to worry the heck out of farmers Hughy and Jamey Bland, especially on one flood-prone 900-acre soybean and rice field. But these days, the Corning, Ark., farmers turn on a 24-inch tile flood pump when water inundates the field, and within a few days, the water is out.

The pump is designed to work with an existing drain pipe, according to its builder, Hoxie, Ark., welder and manufacturer Rick Spargo, who constructs the pipes in three sizes. All three can move huge amounts of water in a short period of time.

For example, after one 10.6-inch rain, the water in the Blands' field was 6 inches deep on the high end and 8 feet deep on the low end. "But it took us only 42 hours to pump it all off," Hughy said.

"The reason I put the pump in was because in 1998, I lost $120,000 in yield on that field," he said. "Since then, it's saved me $50,000 to $60,000 every year. It will move an ocean of water."

Another rice and soybean producer using the 24-inch pump, Larry Ramthun, noted, "I'm not sure of exactly what the specifications are, but it will move a lot of water in a hurry. When the outside ditch is full and you have the flood pump running, the (discharge) water looks like water coming out of a hydro-electric dam."

Traditionally, farmers have relied on re-lift pumps, gravity and lots of hope when confronted with flooded fields. But using a flood pump is a new concept on fields that attract water year after year.

"We have 450 acres that drain into this area that has a levee around it," said Ramthun, who farms just south of Jonesboro, Ark. "We used a 10-inch relift pump, and every year we would lose beans on the lower part of the field and have to replant them. Rick told us he thought this flood pump could move the water faster. It did. We haven't replanted any soybeans in two years."

The pump consists of two pipes, a flood gate (flapper), propeller and drive shaft. One pipe serves as an extension of the existing drain pipe in a field. Running at an angle through that pipe is another pipe equipped with a drive shaft on one end and a short, powerful, auger-like propeller on the other.

The drive shaft end connects to either a tractor or power unit. If a power unit is used, a reduction gear will be necessary. "A tractor at 1,000 rpm is about tops on our pumps," Spargo said. "A power unit can run 2,100, plus it goes in the opposite direction. The reduction gear runs our pump at 700 rpms plus it turns it in the right direction."

Bland runs his pump with a 671 Detroit engine. Ramthun runs his with a John Deere 4T-115, turbo-charged diesel engine. "There's no lift to moving the water. It's shooting it straight through the levee," Ramthun said.

The propeller end of the pipe sticks into a hole dug into the edge of the field. That's to insure that the pipe has a constant supply of water. "Pay attention for the first couple of hours after you fire it up, Spargo said. "It can pull the water off faster than water can drain into the ditch."

For that reason, Spargo suggests that the intake on the largest (24-inch) pump be placed in a ditch at least 20 feet wide and 10 feet deep.

The pump has the power to put water just about anywhere the farmer wants it, in a reservoir or a ditch already filled with water, according to Spargo. "It will push the water on through even if the water level on the other side is a foot below the top of the levee," Spargo said. "It will keep packing the water in there."

The user could even fill a reservoir during a rainstorm when water is rushing down a ditch. "If the water is there, it will get most of it," Spargo said. "It will get after it, too. But getting water off the field is our main priority. Some towns and a lot of farmers do have severe flood problems."

Under normal field situations, the pump configuration and the existing drain pipe serve as a drain for the field. A flood gate on the field side of the pipe opens for draining and closes to keep water from re-entering the field.

Teflon bearings have been installed in the driveshaft portion of the pump which remains above water. Marine bearings are used elsewhere on the pump.

The primary structure of the pump is stainless steel except the blade, which looks somewhat like a compact auger — its length is approximately equal to its radius. "It's like a boat propeller, except it keeps pushing," Spargo said.

If the pump is greased regularly — and there's only one grease point where the drive shaft connects to the power unit — it could last 20 years.

Spargo, who was raised on a farm and worked offshore as a welder for 12 years, has been manufacturing the pump for six years. "So far all the ones I've made are working well. I'm not spending any time working on them."

Spargo manufactures the pump in three sizes: 12-inch (which is used in no-till), 18-inch and 24-inch.

Prices for the pumps are: $10,400 for the 24-inch, $8,800 for the 18-inch and $7,200 for the 12-inch. The 12-inch pump has a capacity of 3,200 gpm with 25 feet of head pressure and about 5,500 gpm with no head pressure. Specifications on the 18-inch and 24-inch pumps are pending completion of independent testing.

Engines Inc. is distributing the pumps. For more information, call 870–684–7361.

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com.