A new resource to help you grow
By Brandi Cowen and Stefanie Croley
Producers across the country tapped more than 1.7 billion cubic metres of water to irrigate their crops in 2014. According to Statistics Canada’s 2014 Agriculture Water Survey (the most recent available), about 586,000 hectares of farmland were irrigated that year, and almost three-quarters of those (434,470 hectares) were located in Alberta.
The data also revealed field and forage crops were the most popular targets for irrigation (350,340 hectares and 200,670 hectares, respectively); fruit and vegetable crops accounted for much smaller proportions of irrigated land in Canada (18,810 hectares and 16,050 hectares, respectively).
Irrigation is clearly an important piece of the production puzzle for field crop producers across parts of Western Canada. As with any other tool, growers must weigh many factors when deciding whether to irrigate. But the decisions don’t stop there. Those who opt to irrigate must decide how to incorporate this tool into their crop management strategies. After all, irrigation is no different from soil nutrition, disease management or any of the other strategies successful producers must diligently review and refine over time. Results can – and often do – vary from field to field and from crop to crop, so each producer must complete careful calculations to strike a balance, incorporating just the right inputs in their growing strategy to yield the most profitable return on investment.
At Top Crop Manager, we aim to provide readers with the information they need to make those calculations. That’s why we’re proud to bring you the inaugural issue of Irrigation in Canada – a niche supplement spotlighting irrigation in the South Saskatchewan River Basin, spanning southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba.
Within these pages, we bring you valuable information tailored to help farmers in the region realize the full benefits of irrigation technology and how it can help farms grow more profitably and more sustainably.
Our cover story on page 5 offers advice to help producers get the most out of irrigated corn acres. Research shows irrigation can deliver notable benefits for producers growing both grain and silage corn hybrids in Saskatchewan’s dry conditions, but, as is so often the case in agriculture, success depends on a grower implementing the right combination of crop management techniques for their unique situation.
On the precision agriculture front, a variable rate irrigation (VRI) project now underway in Manitoba is using a variety of technologies and techniques to map variability on a 50-acre potato field. Side-by-side comparisons of VRI and even rate irrigation in small-scale plots suggest potential benefits from VRI, however, the findings also point to a number of challenges facing growers who hope to apply the technique in their fields. See page 8 for more details.
This issue also spotlights a double-cropping research project that aims to improve the productivity and sustainability of Prairie fields (see page 11). Results so far suggest moisture is just one of many pieces that will have to fall into place before double-cropping is widely adopted across the region.
To close out the issue, irrigation agrologist Jeff Ewen offers advice to protect your investment through a long, cold Prairie winter, with tips for winterizing irrigation equipment (page 13).
We hope Irrigation in Canada, like its parent publication, Top Crop Manager, proves to be a valuable resource you can turn to for the information you need to keep your business growing.