UC Davis scientists receive sustainable water use award

One California, One UC Davis
UC Davis plant scientists get award for water sustainability practices

UC Davis experts are part of a team of scientists to be honored by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities for helping growers throughout California and the west save time, money, and water.

The team’s award-winning project, known as “Microirrigation for Sustainable Water Use,” will receive the 2014 Experiment Station Section Award of Excellence in Multistate Research at the Association of Land-Grant Universities’ annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, on November 3. The award is presented to one workgroup from across the nation each year to salute successful, well-coordinated, high-impact research and extension efforts.

“We’re thrilled,” said Professor Ken Shackel with the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, a key member of the multistate micro-irrigation workgroup. “It’s quite an honor to be selected for this prestigious award.”

Without much money or fanfare, the sustainable-water-use group has been working since 1972 to find practical ways growers can optimize irrigation to reduce water waste, protect groundwater and enhance crop productivity. Their long list of accomplishments include developing drip-irrigation technology, designing infrared thermometers to measure plant-canopy temperature, calibrating soil-water sensors, measuring water evaporation rates for different crops under different climate conditions, and helping growers adopt and adapt to new technologies.

Currently, there are 38 agricultural engineers and plant and soil scientists working on the project, representing 17 universities, three USDA-ARS labs and one USDA center. At UC Davis, Shackel is joined by Professor Jan Hopmans from the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, Professor Patrick Brown from the Department of Plant Sciences, and Lawrence Schwankl, a newly retired Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, whose webpage on Maintenance of Microirrigation Systems recently received the Educational Aids Blue Ribbon from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

The award comes with a $15,000 prize. Support for this award comes from the Multistate Research Fund established in 1998 by the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act (an amendment to the Hatch Act of 1888) to encourage and enhance multistate, multidisciplinary research on critical issues.

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