Farm Progress

Wuertz honored as subsurface drip irrigation pioneer

Howard Wuertz of Sundance Farms in Coolidge, Ariz., considered by many as the father of subsurface irrigation, receives Netafim USA’s 2016 Award of Advancement in Microirrigation.Wuertz’s selection for the award is based on his pioneering efforts and contributions to the adaptation of subsurface drip irrigation in agriculture.

July 23, 2016

2 Min Read
<p>Howard Wuertz, center, Sundance Farms, Coolidge, Ariz., has received Netafim USA&#39;s 2016 Award of Advancement in Microirrigation in recognition of his pioneer advances in subsurface drip irrigation. Wuertz is flanked by his sons Greg (left) and David. Farm Press 2009 photo.</p>

Howard Wuertz, a central Arizona crop farmer at the family’s Sundance Farms operation at Coolidge and considered by many as the father of subsurface irrigation, has received Netafim USA’s 2016 Award of Advancement in Microirrigation.

Wuertz’s selection is based on his pioneering efforts and contributions to the adaptation of subsurface drip irrigation (SDI).

“It is a great honor to be recognized by Netafim and industry peers for the steps we have made at Sundance Farms to achieve greater efficiency and productivity,” Wuertz says.

“We aim to generate awareness of the many benefits that SDI delivers and in doing so encourage growers in Arizona, and nationwide, to take measures to ensure the sustainability of their farming operations for many generations to come."

The award was presented by Netafim in partnership with the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Wuertz is a managing partner at the family’s 3,200-acre farm. During his career, Wuertz pioneered SDI use in the West in cotton, and then expanded its use in row crops, including alfalfa on his own farm.

“We realized a long time ago that successful farming in the dry Arizona desert is not only about using water more efficiently, but about being more productive with the resources we have,” Wuertz says.

“Subsurface drip irrigation has allowed us to boost our productivity per acre with less water than traditional irrigation methods.”

Using SDI, the Wuertz family not only reduced water use on the family farm by up to 50 percent but also increased yields.

Wuertz learned quickly that SDI required the development of special machinery for minimum tillage. He developed and patented five implements for cotton stalk destruction, drip tubing installation and tillage operations.

This equipment eliminated the need and the associated costs of annual removal and drip line replacement. 

Ze'ev Barylka, Netafim’s marketing director says, “We are inspired by his commitment to sustainable farming in a region with a harsh and often unforgiving climate. His approach to overcoming barriers goes hand-in-hand with the philosophy upon which Netafim was founded over 50 years ago.”

She added, “Howard is a perfect fit for this award.”

Former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt sought out Wuertz’s expertise on water conservation and invited him to join a committee which developed a water conservation plan which led to the state’s historic Groundwater Management Act.

The act is praised to this day for easing the impact of long-term drought in the Grand Canyon State which is now in its 16th consecutive year of drought.  

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