General Question

occ's avatar

Why are some agricultural fields circular (especially in the midwest)?

Asked by occ (4003 points ) July 12th, 2007

On the last few flights I've taken across the country, I've noticed that once the plane is over the midwest, when I look down, many of the fields are circular. You can see that the boundaries are square, but then there is a green circle of irrigated crops inscribed in the brown square. I noticed this somewhere over colorado and it seemed to be true as we flew over a number of midwestern states..by the time we got to the east coast the fields were planted in full squares again. Is this due to some kind of irrigation technique? Might it have to do with the biblical command to leave the corners of your field for the poor? I really have no idea.

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9 Answers

mvgolden's avatar

I don't think it has to do with the biblical commandment since you would have to irrigate the crops in order to leave them for the poor. I think it is do to the irrigation technique. I have seen devices that pivot on a central point and are supported by wheels on the end with a bunch of nozzles above all the crops. As the wheels move the whole things moves in a circle. That way the water can be piped to one point in the center of the feild. At least that is what makes sense to me.

nomtastic's avatar

yeah, i think it's more sprinkler than bible, though i've wondered the same thing myself. have you asked a flight attendant??

redfood's avatar

I was on a kibbutz (in Israel) that had cicular fields because they had a irrigation system that moved in a circle - think a very big sprinkler, anchored in the center, that moves around the field like the hand of a clock. I think its called "center pivot irrigation."

extolsmith's avatar

In Northern California farms often use a watering pip, fixed with sprinkler heads, on wheels and move it vertically or horizontally from one side of the field to the other, giving the appearance of a rectangle or square. A motor is fixed to one side, which propels the pip on wheels forward in a straight line. This same device could be set up to move in a wide circle with a fixed point in the center.

The harvesting equipment would also need to be taken into consideration. Here we often harvest hay, straw, and silage with trucks that drive in fairly straight lines (but not entirely, do to creeks, trees and hills) spitting the product into secondary trucks that drive along beside the first. Circular fields may use equipment that consolidates this process into one automated device which does not deviate from the circle. The crop itself may require more persision when it comes to watering and collecting and a circular field with a fixed central point may grant that.

As for the Biblical reference. I do not believe passages speak of corners, rather edges.
http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/search/?q=Leviticus 23%3A22

nana's avatar

I had the same question; having just returned to the east coast from a trip to Wy. The sprinkler system makes sense to me.

sferik's avatar

There’s a great photo of this phenomenon here.

pekenoe's avatar

Center Pivot Irrigation

FarmerJoe's avatar

You are all wrong!!!

It is to confuse them damn Aliens!!!

aristillus's avatar

I think it is a waste of space, they should think on a better system for irrigation/harvesting.

Also, the bible refers to harvesting, not necessarily to leaving a frame of land for the poor, here it is: “And kwhen you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”

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