Real crop circles seen from space

Originally published at:


Came expecting to see desert agriculture, was not diappointed.


Whenever I see these, I think of James McMurtry’s song Levelland

"Granddad grew dry land wheat. Stood on his own two feet.
'Till his mind grew incomplete, and they put him in a home.
Daddy’s cotton grows so high, sucks the water table dry
Rolling sprinklers ciricle round, bleeding it to the bone.


They grow food that way?

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/me raises hand

What’s a Nubian?


“It’s someone who doesn’t like to wear clothes, dear.”


Nothing much, what a’Nubian wit’ you?


I think I recall reading that it’s fossil water, millions of years old, and it’s almost gone.


Really? Nobody?


Center-pivot is relatively cheap, and energy efficient, but it’s fairly poor at water conservation. I think the article confuses irrigation and water conservation. If you swap out those words then the sentence actually makes sense in the real world: “The crop circles are a result of center-pivot irrigation, an efficient method for irrigation in agriculture.”

In Center-pivot there basically is an arm that pivots in the center of a field that swings around the field. Sprayers on the arm release water onto the field. The problem is that the arm must be taller than the highest point the crops will grow to. This means that for most of the growing time of the crops most of the water is sprayed into the air where a significant percent evaporates before reaching the ground.

There are alternate methods that don’t waste as much water to evaporation, but they tend to be more complex or expensive.

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Farm kid here. That used to be true, and it used to be rather power intensive as well.

We used to use centerpivots that require high pressure, with sprinklerheads not unlike the rotating ones in your city lawn. But they were typically ~15 feet off the ground on a cornfield.

On a 90F day, you lose something like 95% of the water to irrigation - a shitty deal when my dad spends $10,000/month or more on electricity to run the pumps.

Any farmer with half a brain will retrofit to use low pressure with sprayheads close to the ground - this cuts evaporation loss and power consumption significantly


I’d wear a dress made of fabric with that printed on it.

Living and traveling in the Midwest, I’ve seen more of these systems than I could ever count, but something always puzzled me about them – until only last month.

They’ve got wheels, and are supposed to roll in a big circle (kind of the point), but I’ve never seen one actually moving.

Turns out they rotate maybe once every 24 hours, so their motion would be mostly imperceptible to someone speeding by in a car.

Last month in Kansas, though, I had a chance to examine one up close, while parked. Every 10 seconds or so, the wheels rolled maybe a quarter turn. I was so excited. Yes, I’m a nerd like that.


Seems like even the irrigators with low-pressure spray heads typically have one high-pressure sprayer mounted to the very end of the boom – maybe to get just a little more radius (& crop acreage) out of that field.

that and they’re just so fun to watch.

but yes. The difference between irrigated an unirrigated acreage has been astounding this year.

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