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UVI Water Conservation Project Receives National Excellence Award

University of the Virgin Islands Assistant Director of Agricultural Experiment Station Thomas Zimmerman assists student.

The University of the Virgin Islands is one of 19 land-grant universities to receive the 2014 Experiment Station Section Excellence in Multistate Research Award. The award recognizes UVI’s exceptional collaboration on a multi-state research project that helps farmers better use micro-irrigation (MI) systems to irrigate their land, especially during droughts and water shortages. The project was selected out of more than 300 multi-state projects.

The UVI project name will be added to a plaque at the USDA Waterfront Centre in Washington, D.C., and the group will receive $15,000 to support their ongoing work.

Conventional irrigation systems that apply high volumes of water over wide areas can lose a lot of water through runoff, leaching, or evaporation. As a result, conventional irrigation systems often over- or under-water plants.  Instead, MI systems use special timers, sensors, and a network of narrow tubes to deliver the right amount of water at the right time.

UVI’s project, titled “Scaling Micro Irrigation Technologies to Address the Global Water Challenge,“ is located at the Agricultural Experimental Station on St Croix.

“Our focus is to automate soil moisture monitoring and control irrigation,” said Dr. Rhuanito Soranz Ferrarezi, UVI Research Assistant Professor, Horticulture and Aquaculture. “We are measuring the water available to plants, and irrigating based on plant demand to reduce the amount of water and fertilizer applied and the pumping costs.”

Dr. Ferrarezi recently joined UVI to head the project.  He said the project has many benefits to farmers, including improved water productivity and water quality, and improved crop production and profitability.

 UVI researchers participating in the project, W-2128 Micro-irrigation for Sustainable Water Use, were honored for their efforts during an awards program held at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

"The Multi-state Research Program is one of the best kept secrets of the land-grant university system. This award recognizes outstanding interdependent efforts of researchers and extension specialists that have come together to tackle a priority issue that no one institution can address on their own,” said H. Michael Harrington, Executive Director of the Western Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors.

For more information contact UVI’s Agricultural Experimental Station at (340) 692-4041 or