Agricultural industry irrigation professionals, researchers and farmers attended the recent Irrigation Association (IA) annual meeting in San Diego, Calif. Several awards and announcements specific to agriculture, separate from golf course, commercial landscape and residential property, were presented.

There were a total of 5,300 attendees and 304 trade show exhibitions in San Diego, and attendance was up nearly 20 percent, the IA reported.  

During the general session, IA recognized contributions to the industry and honored winners and runners up of the New Product Contest for their innovative products from 2011. Annual awards were given to individuals and organizations for their efforts to advance irrigation practices, technologies and the industry overall. The winners of IA’s Smart Irrigation Month Contest were commended for their integration of Smart Irrigation Month messaging.

AG NEW PRODUCT AWARDS: IA presented award recognition for the most innovative products released in the last 12 months; it recognized first and second place innovations in the categories of golf, specialty, landscape and agriculture. Of main interest to the audiences of is agriculture winner Valmont Irrigation for their Valley Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) with CropMetrics VRI Optimization. The runner-up winner was HIT Products Corporation for their Water Tool Sand Media Modular Filter.

The IA Agriculture Industry Achievement Award winner was George Sesser, Nelson Irrigation Corp., Walla Walla, Wash. The National Water & Energy Conservation Award went to the USDA ARS Water Management Research Unit, Fort Collins, Colo. Person of the Year went to an agriculturalist: Howard Wuertz, Sundance Farms, Coolidge, Ariz. The Crawford Reid Memorial Award went Jack Keller, Ph.D., Keller-Bliesner Engineering at Logan, Utah.

The Smart Marketing Contest recognized the best Smart Irrigation Month marketing ideas and campaigns by different irrigation segment industries; the agriculture winner was Reinke Manufacturing, Deshler, Neb.

INFORMATION ABOUT WINNERS: Information about the Agriculture Industry Achievement Award from IA explained why Sesser earned the award. “An accomplished engineer, Sesser has worked at Nelson Irrigation Corp. since 1976 and has been a key contributor to the success of Nelson Irrigation’s product offerings. Sesser has contributed to more than 20 patents at Nelson and is considered one of the fathers of Rotator technology for irrigation sprinklers. His engineering successes, ideas and philosophies have had a major influence on the irrigation industry. Sesser is also the recipient of several AE50 awards from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

The National Water and Energy Conservation Award honors achievement in the conservation of water and energy relating to irrigation procedures, equipment, methods and techniques. “The ARS Water Management Unit led by Thomas Trout, Ph.D., continues to research irrigation methods and has contributed to dam development, flow metering, irrigation control structures, evapo-transpiration, crop water use, center pivot energy management and sprinkler irrigation design and evaluation,” IA noted.

“The unit’s current research is focused on developing management practices that can help sustain irrigated agriculture in the Great Plains and throughout the western U.S. with declining water supplies. The research is helping to develop better understanding of how crops respond to deficit irrigation and how to maximize productivity with limited water,” IA further reported.

Person of the Year is IA’s “longest-awarded honor” and is for recognizes a person outside of the commercial irrigation industry who has made outstanding contributions toward irrigation practices acceptance.

Wuertz has been called the “father of subsurface drip irrigation” in America, particularly in the West, according to IA. He has developed “an entire cropping system to manage soils and nutrients as well as water and energy.” He has five patents on tillage equipment used to assure that buried drip tape stays in place and undamaged. His regularly hosts international visitors to his farm to share his best practices.

The Crawford Reid Memorial Award recognizes an individual’s outstanding contributions to advancing both the irrigation industry and proper irrigation techniques and procedures outside of the United States.

IA explained that Keller-Bliesner Engineering’s leader has contributed in many countries. “Through his public and private activities, Keller has provided advisory services in irrigated agricultural development and water management in more than 60 countries. Many of his professional activities involved leading multidisciplinary teams to conduct irrigation project design, planning and evaluation and regional irrigation sector analysis. He serves on the U.S. and international boards of International Development Enterprises, a nongovernmental organization that focuses on rural poverty alleviation through a market creation approach to development using irrigation as an entry point.”