Monday, March 30, 2009

Missouri Man Develops Sustainable Irrigation System for Organic Vegetable Production

Dan Kuebler and his solar irrigation system. Photo by Diane La Mar.

In Ashland, MO, Dan Kuebler is creating an affordable, efficient, and sustainable irrigation system for a two acre organic vegetable operation. Since 1977, Dan Kuebler has been running a certified organic garden operation in Ashland.

Half the property is open fields and the remainder is hardwoods. Kuebler grows a wide variety of vegetables on approximately 1.5 acres of the property, which includes one heated greenhouse for starting plants and two tall tunnels which are unheated.

Kuebler has been intensively growing for over 15 years using organic methods and had been using drip irrigation on his crops for 10 of those years using expensive public county water.

In 2005, Kuebler submitted a proposal for his sustainable solar irrigation project, and was awarded $5,633 from the North Central Region Sustainable Research and Education Program’s (NCR-SARE) Farmer Rancher Grant Program.

“My goal was to irrigate my crops with water from my farm pond and to use renewable energy as the power source for pumping the water up the hill to my fields and to save money in the process,” said Kuebler. “I was familiar with SARE over the years and had tried to keep up with many of the projects. It stimulated me to also think in terms of what I could do on my farm since I had always been very interested in solar power and renewable energy projects.”

Don Day, Natural Resources Engineer, at Missouri University Extension shot the elevation that Kuebler needed from the pond's surface to the top of the hill in order to properly size the solar water pump needed for the project. Day also advised Kuebler on the proper size pipe to use to capture the rainwater from his barn roof and direct it to the pond.

The total cost of the system was $5,930.37. Kuebler estimates that it would cost $2,850 annually using county water for irrigation. He calculated that the solar irrigation system yield annual saving starting in the third year of operation.

Kuebler hosted a Demonstration Field Day in May 2007 and presented his project at the National Small Farm Today Trade Show & Conference.

“I learned that I should have acted on my idea for a solar irrigation system years ago and I would have been more profitable in my operation,” said Kuebler. “My system is very efficient and so does not really need to run for very many hours of each day. It presents a model that can be duplicated by other growers in our region and the country as well as stimulating others to refine it further for their unique situations. This project is getting me excited about the possibilities for more creative ideas for solar and wind energy on the farm.”

Read more about the Kuebler’s project online or contact the NCR-SARE office for more information at


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