For Immediate Release: November 19, 1996
Media Contact: Claudia Chandler -- 916 - 654 - 4989

Energy Commission's Irrigation Program
Commended by U.S. Department of Energy

For its efforts to save both power and water, the California Energy Commission's Energy in Agriculture Program has received a 1996 National Award for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy from the United States Department of Energy.

The award, presented to the Energy Commission in Sacramento on November 13, gives special recognition to the water conservation aspects of the agricultural irrigation program "for its outstanding contributions in promoting an environmentally sustainable energy future."

"Since water pumping accounts for more than 30 percent of the state's total on-farm energy use, achieving irrigation energy efficiency and conserving water has become a priority of the Energy Commission's agricultural program," explained Energy Commission Chairman Charles Imbrecht at the awards presentation.

A total of 70 demonstration irrigation projects have targeted successful water and energy management projects. As an example of the program's success, Imbrecht cited a pepper farm in Ventura County that recently replaced a hand-moved sprinkler system with a sub-surface drip irrigation system. The innovation increased crop yield by 30 percent while reducing water use by 20 percent and improving the average yearly net revenue by $1,900 per acre.

"The new drip irrigation system allows the grower to use energy more efficiently, contributes to a decline in plant disease problems, and improves the efficient use of chemical fertilizers," Imbrecht said.

In addition to irrigation projects, the Energy in Agriculture Program promotes other agricultural advances such as newly developed greenhouse technologies, improved pest management and soil fertility practices, the development of sustainable agriculture and energy production.

"Since 1987, the program has provided financial support, technical assistance and educational materials to California's farmers," Imbrecht added. "By promoting energy efficient, cost effective and environmentally safe alternatives to conventional farming practices, it enhances our state's food and fiber industries."

For their leadership in irrigation innovation, Imbrecht also recognized the organizations contributing to the success of the program, including Dr. Charles Burt, Director of the Irrigation Training and Research Center at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo; Dr. Blaine Hanson and Dr. Larry Schwankl, irrigation specialists at the University of California, Davis; and UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisors.

"These agricultural professionals provide invaluable technical support and serve as key players in our educational outreach program," said Imbrecht.

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