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HONORING INNOVATION: The irrigation industry continues to recognize new approaches to water management, irrigation tech and ingenuity with its annual awards.

Irrigation group recognizes innovators

Irrigation Association highlights new ideas, creativity with its 2017 awards.

The irrigation industry is constantly moving forward with new ways to manage water for more efficient use. The Irrigation Association works to recognize those efforts with industry awards given out during its annual meeting each November. The association announced several awards in four areas: Industry Achievement, National Water and Energy Conservation, the Vanguard and Innovator of the Year. The last two categories were new for the group.

The Industry Achievement Award went to Clarence Prestwich with USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service. Prestwich works in the agency's West National Technology Support Center in Portland, Ore. Prestwich was recognized for a career that "demonstrates outstanding contributions to the advancement of the irrigation industry and its products and programs."

The National Water and Energy Conservation Award went to Steve Loring of New Mexico State University for his work on a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture research program, "Scaling Microirrigation Technologies to Address the Global Water Challenge." The research is looking at how water scheduling along with microirrigation can help improve water use efficiency.

Driven by the need to meet a growing food demand without the ability to use more water, the project is looking at a number of tactics to improve water efficiency. The project can be searched online by its title USDA-NIFA Multistate Project W-3128 for more information.

One award, two categories
The Vanguard Award has two categories — landscape and agriculture. In landscape, the award was for work done to revitalize the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The companies involved in that project included Irrigation Consulting Inc., Rain Bird, Hunter Industries, The Toro Co., Harrington Corp., Flowtronex, BrightView, Paige Electric, Oldcastle Enclosure Solutions, VAF Filtration Systems, T. Christy Enterprises, Campbell Scientific, Buckner Superior, Sure-Flo Fittings, 3M, Lasco Fittings, and ISCO Industries LLC.

For agriculture, the honoree is Senninger Irrigation. Mark Healy, vice president, worked with Leon New from Texas A&M in the 1980s to develop the first low energy precision applicator (LEPA). Healy has now been working with manufacturers, dealers and growers over the past several years to develop bubbler inserts and bubbler pads to meet specific needs of LEPA users to be deployed with close drop spacing.

This close-spacing approach allows the ability to keep applicators low to the ground, which saves water and energy. It's possible with this approach to apply water needed in fewer pivot passes. The approach can also achieve more uniform root zone coverage, increase yield using less water, help leach salts and avoid wetting the crop canopy.

Collaborators in this work involve a group of manufactures, irrigation dealers and growers, such as Rick Grimes, owner of Southwest Irrigation in Casa Grande, Ariz.; Rod Stillwell, with American Irrigation in Garden City, Kan.; John Maurer, manager of Triple D Ranch in Dyer, Nev.; and Bob Holloway, a grower in northwest Kansas.

Talking to consumers
The Innovator Award goes to a consumer-focused radio program developed with The Toro Co. called The Water Zone. The idea, hatched at the height of the California drought, was aimed at helping homeowners manage their own water resources properly. The hosts of the program were Robert Starr and Mike Baron, and they worked with a California radio station to develop the program. The consumer education effort included guest appearances from a range of speakers including legislators, water agency managers, meteorologists, ag specialists, builders and horticulturists.

You can learn more about the program by visiting irrigation.org.

Source: Irrigation Association

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