Calif. Profs Win Irrigation E3 Leader Awards

Irrigation E3 Leader Awards Go to Two California Faculty

The Irrigation Foundation has named 15 outstanding students and faculty as winners of the 2015 Irrigation E3 Program. The Foundation selected two faculty 2015 Irrigation E3 Leaders, both in California, Florence Cassel, Fresno State and Tim Ellsworth, West Hills College Coalinga.

This year’s class of faculty and students will receive an all-expenses-paid trip next week to the Irrigation Show & Education Conference, Nov. 9 – 13, in Long Beach, Calif.

Founded in 2012, the E3 program provides students and faculty with exposure, experience and education in the irrigation industry. Academics nominate outstanding students for consideration as E3 Learners and/or apply to become E3 Leaders themselves.

To qualify to apply for Irrigation E3 Leader status, an instructor must be teaching, or will be teaching within the next six months, irrigation-related coursework at a North American community college, university or similar institution of higher learning. Prior winners may not reapply.

Chosen faculty will have the opportunity to participate in education classes, industry sessions and networking events. Working with academics is essential to the Foundation’s mission of attracting people to careers in irrigation by supplying the irrigation industry with educated professionals. Faculty members help shape the future career paths of their students and keeping instructors up-to-date on the latest and greatest in the irrigation industry is a must. 

“This is the fourth year of the program, and the Foundation is sending a record number of students to the show,” said senior foundation manager Janine Sparrowgrove. “We are excited to give the students and faculty the opportunity to attend classes and gain exposure to industry companies and technologies.”

Florence Cassel Sharma, Assistant Professor Irrigation/Water Management, Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Department of Plant Science, California State University, Fresno researches optimizing water use efficiency through low and deficit irrigation practices, improving irrigation scheduling, and utilizing remote sensing techniques for water resources management, crop water use, and soil salinity assessment. Assistant director of research of the Center for Irrigation Technology, Sharma is a recipient of the 2009 Outstanding Research and Scholarly Activity Award for the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.

Tim Ellsworthagriculture technology instructor at West Hills College Coalinga, researches primarily soil science with a focus on precision agriculture and nutrient management. He currently serves on the advisory board for the Canadian Biochar Consortium.

Prior to West Hills, Ellsworth was a professor and faculty director of the online master’s program for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, a soil scientist with the USDA U.S. Salinity Laboratory, a visiting faculty member at the Centre for Water Research, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Western Australia in Perth and a senior scientist performing hazard assessments and hazard evaluations for the U.S. Army with regard to management of the U.S. Army Chemical Weapon Stockpile.

This year’s Irrigation E3 Learners are:

  • Samia Amiri, Oklahoma State University
  • Garrett Banks, Colorado State University
  • Colton Craig, Oklahoma State University
  • Spencer Davies, Brigham Young University
  • Daniel Greenwell, Auburn University
  • John Hawkins, Alamance Community College
  • Tsz Him Lo, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
  • Michelle Mbia, Prairie View A&M University
  • Ryan McBride, Brigham Young University, Idaho
  • Alan Rourke, Kansas State University
  • Daniel Selman, Brigham Young University
  • Amandeep Vashisht, Colorado State University
  • Christopher Weathers, Mira Costa College

Toro Company is the lead sponsor and the Carolina’s Irrigation Association is a supporting sponsor for this year’s program. 

Links:

Irrigation E3 Program 

Irrigation Foundation

Zoldoske honored as state’s Irrigation Person of the Year

The California Irrigation Institute recognized Dr. David F. Zoldoske as its Person of the Year at its 53rd annual conference on Feb. 2-3 in Sacramento.

Zoldoske, director for the Center for Irrigation Technology at Fresno State, is the 36th recipient of the award sponsored by the state’s oldest independent forum on irrigation and water.

“On behalf of the board of directors, it is a pleasure and honor to bestow this award upon our friend and colleague, Dr. Zoldoske,” said Inge Bisconer, California Irrigation Institute board member and past president. “He has worked tirelessly for decades to promote water and resource use efficiency in agricultural and urban applications in California and beyond. We are fortunate that he chose to apply his passion, energy, skill and expertise to help address one of the most important topics of our generation: water.”

Zoldoske is the third recipient with Fresno State ties. Winston Strong, former plant science and mechanized agriculture professor was recognized in 1985 for his pioneering work in sprinkler testing, and former Center for Irrigation Technology director Kenneth Solomon was honored in 2004.

The annual conference brings together water experts, government agency representatives, water district managers, innovative farmers, urban water managers and commercial interests to focus on pressing water issues, explore innovative solutions, and discuss results of research and practical experience in the field.

Zoldoske was recognized with a similar national award in November 2013 as the Irrigation Association’s Person of the Year.

Fresno State has been involved in irrigation testing and research for more than 60 years, and Zoldoske has played a key role for four decades. He started his irrigation career as a graduate student research assistant before beginning work as a full-time research technician in 1983.

In 1994, he was named director of the center that is internationally-recognized as an independent testing laboratory, applied research facility and educational resource.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by a group representing all of California’s irrigation partners,” Zoldoske said. “The award is more of a recognition of our talented staff and all their successful and hard work. We have been tied closely with the California Irrigation Institute since the 1980s, and look forward to working with them for many years to come.”

State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) Built on Collaborative Partnerships

CDFA continues to accept applications for the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, or SWEEP. The deadline to apply is July 15, 2014.

The program is designed to provide financial assistance to agricultural operations for the implementation of water conservation measures that increase water efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Approximately $10 million has been made available for SWEEP through emergency drought legislation (Senate Bill 103).

Although CDFA is leading this effort, the development, implementation and success of this program is dependent on collaborative efforts across state and federal agencies and with multiple partners.

CDFA is working closely with the State Water Board and Department of Water Resources on several aspects of the program, including program design and the collection of applications through the State Water Board’s electronic application program, the Financial Assistance Application Submittal Tool (FAAST).

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) and the CDFA Environmental Farming Act Science Advisory Panel have been valuable assets by providing guidance and feedback on many aspects of program design.

SWEEP requires a high level of technical expertise to review the applications. Irrigation experts from the Cal Poly Irrigation Training and Research Center, the Center for Irrigation Technology at Fresno State and the University of California’s Cooperative Extension are partnering with CDFA to provide application technical review and recommendations for funding.

Verifying that projects are implemented at the farm level is a critical part of SWEEP. CDFA is partnering with the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, which regularly works with farmers and has conservation practice experience on irrigation systems, to verify the projects. 

SWEEP was implemented under the 1995 Environmental Farming Act, which recognizes that many farmers engage in practices that contribute to the well-being of ecosystems, air quality and wildlife, and states that CDFA shall provide incentives for those practices.

 

California’s ‘Exceptional Drought’

Long Term Solutions, Desperately Needed For California Drought

 

By John Vikupitz, president and CEO of Netafim USA in Fresno, California

 

Aaron Barcellos, a partner with A-Bar Ag Enterprises in Los Banos, is a fourth-generation farmer. His 7,000-acre operation produces crops, including pistachios, pomegranates, asparagus, and tomatoes.

The farm creates jobs for up to 40 people full-time and over 100 at peak season. This year, the operation took an unprecedented move in letting 30 percent of its productive acreage go fallow for lack of water, redirecting available water to permanent crops and to honor tomato contracts.  This fallowing of acreage has resulted in a loss of work for over 30 part-time employees and an estimated loss of $10 million to the local business economy from his operation, alone.

“It’s a ‘batten down the hatches’ year,” notes Mr. Barcellos. “We are trying to survive this year while hoping the severity of this drought will provide momentum for more long term solutions to our water crisis.”

California’s ‘exceptional drought’ – said by University of California (UC) Berkeley paleoclimatologist B. Lynn to perhaps be the worst in 500 years – places the state at a critical juncture.

California’s historic low precipitation of 2013 and the below normal 2012 precipitation left most state reservoirs at  between six percent storage in the Southern Sierra to 36 percent in Shasta – levels not been seen since the 1977 severe drought. Snowpack is nearly non-existent.

The U.S. Drought Monitor reports nearly half of the U.S. is in some form of drought.

Water is one of life’s greatest conveniences. Turn on the tap and water appears, often at less cost than other household bills, providing the lifeblood for food production, human health, climate, energy and the ecosystem.

We may take water for granted until we’re in danger of losing it as sources dry up. We may not contemplate the support system and cost that brings water to the tap: the extensive pipe conveyance system, treatment plant, chemicals needed for purification, labor and energy costs.

Consequently, every drop saved by one water user benefits all users.

Homeowners may do their part in water conservation by installing low-flow fixtures – often incentivized through government rebate programs – by washing vehicles less or taking shorter showers. The payoff: lower water bills.

The agricultural sector is doing its part, too, using water-saving technology investments that reap returns for Californians, as well as those elsewhere benefitting from its exports. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), the state produces nearly half of U.S.-grown fruits, vegetables and nuts and leads the world in almond and pistachio production. California’s 80,500 farms and ranches received a record $44.7 billion for their 2012 output.  Exports totaled more than $18 billion.

Tens of thousands of productive acres are being fallowed. The number of jobs, specifically those of farmworkers, will subside as food prices increase. California, the nation’s top dairy producer, is shipping cows out of state due to water uncertainties with no guarantee that alfalfa and other crops cows consume will continue to be available.

It’s critical that people appreciate their food source. California’s regulations ensure safe and reliable food, while California’s highly progressive and efficient farmers enable that food source to be the cheapest in the world Mr. Barcellos points out.

Food safety and quality drive those innovations, as well as economics. Regulations mean the cost to produce food and get it to the store requires farmers to be highly efficient to remain competitive.

Mr. Barcellos farms in five different irrigation districts with various water rights and water supplies. A-Bar Ag Enterprises has converted 5,500 acres from flood irrigation to drip irrigation creating a combined water savings and production efficiency of over twenty percent.

“What we do in California with the different irrigation technologies creates significant efficiencies in water application without waste, enabling farmers to increase yields with fewer inputs. With that said, it doesn’t matter what the crop – it still takes water to grow it,” Mr. Barcellos points out.

According to The Center for Irrigation Technology at California State University, Fresno, Agriculture uses 40 percent of all dedicated water, including environmental, municipal and industrial uses in order to meet the needs of the eight million irrigated agricultural acres in California.

When farmers were short on water, they used to purchase it on the open market or pump more ground water. This year, there is no water to buy and wells are starting to run dry, says Mr. Barcellos.

While the federal government has offered temporary food money for farmworkers, “the people in our communities want to work, not receive handouts from a food bank,” Mr. Barcellos says, adding that it’s time to work on long-term solutions to water problems.

California’s water system was developed for 20 million people, with residents and farmers sharing the water supply, with those same resources later shared to meet environmental concerns. That – and the nearly doubled population – has taxed the water system, Mr. Barcellos says.

“We haven’t spent any serious funds to improve California’s infrastructure since the early 1970s to keep pace with population growth and environmental demands,” Mr. Barcellos says. “If the environment needs more water, let’s use sound science and invest in more storage and better conveyance systems for long-term solutions.”

Following Governor Edmund Brown Jr.’s January declaration of a drought emergency, the State Water Project cut water deliveries to all 29 public water agencies to zero for 2014.

Even if there is some short-term relief, mitigation is needed to protect against long-term unpredictable weather patterns.

UC Berkeley’s David Sedlak, professor of civil and environmental engineering, explains:  the drought notwithstanding, California’s aged infrastructure calls for increased investments in water recycling, rainwater harvesting and seawater desalination with a focus on local water supply development.

The United States Department of Agricultural (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS), California indicates three priorities: protecting soils made vulnerable by water cutbacks, protecting drought-impacted rangeland, and stretching every drop of irrigation water using improved hardware and management Farmers and ranchers are encouraged to develop a water conservation plan and seek funding opportunities such as the $30 million available through USDA NRCS California to help drought-impacted farmers and ranchers with conservation practices and the $25 million to help pay for conservation practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

Irrigation is the final stop on the train that begins with water supply and continues with delivery methods. Water conservation technology – much of which has been proven overseas for decades on arid farmlands – offers a solution right now to apply water more precisely and even improve crop yields and quality.

Our world’s growing population calls for large-scale farming to provide food. For decades, California farmers with reasonable and secure access to water have used water conservation technologies to continue farming and create more water for other purposes, such as the needs of growing urban areas and for environmental remediation, which uses half of California’s water supply.

Farmers like Mr. Barcellos are great stewards of the environment. Many California farmers have successfully adopted this technology to a large degree, using water more efficiently and leaving more in the system for other uses. We need to expand that effort more.