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Microsoft in your community

Promoting efficient irrigation for fruit quality and environmental sustainability in Quincy

Recently, hotter summers in central Washington have increased stress on fruit trees, affecting fruit size, quality, and crop yields. This stress has had a strong impact particularly in pear orchards, where declining yields threaten profitability. Increasing efficient water use would help to maintain a strong, profitable farming community without putting additional pressure on water resources also needed to maintain healthy spring Chinook, steelhead, and bull trout populations.

Cascadia Conservation District logo

Encouraging efficient water usage

To that purpose, the Cascadia Conservation District in partnership with the Washington State University (WSU) Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center has implemented irrigation upgrades and provided a framework for developing a cost-share program to incentivize efficient water use. Microsoft contributed $65,000 to this project as one of three in central Washington that are part of a corporate water stewardship strategy that invests in water replenishment projects to alleviate water stress in communities and locales where Microsoft operates facilities. This project is also part of a partnership with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF).

Pears

Protecting pear crop yields

Project partners have established five demonstration plots to show how irrigation efficiency strategies address major challenges in pear orchards, including lack of sufficient irrigation due to uneven pressure and poor distribution because of hills or sandy soils with low water holding capacity. Because producing an acre of pears in the Wenatchee Valley requires approximately 1 million gallons per year, a 10 percent increase in efficiency would produce water savings of 100,000 gallons per acre per year. The partners will subsequently establish a cost-share program to incentivize the implementation of scientifically based irrigation efficiency strategies.

Determining water savings and crop impact

It is estimated that this project will result in a 10 to 30 percent increase in irrigation efficiency. The volumetric benefits are determined using WSU Irrigation Management and Water Measurement Calculators. Calculations consider specific irrigation infrastructure along with irrigation frequency, set times, water depth, water application rate, and infrastructure type. Grower logs are being used to determine application time and duration, in the hopes of maintaining or increasing yield while sustainably and efficiently using water resources.