Ideas flow at irrigation conference
The two-day 2020 Irrigated Crop Production Update conference concludes today at the Sandman Signature hotel in Lethbridge with about 400 attendees hearing the latest research associated with irrigation technology and agronomy from leading scientists in the field.
“The conference was started in the late 1990s by Dr. Ross McKenzie, and the idea was to provide a place where research scientists with Alberta Agriculture could meet face to face with farmers, and provide them with research results and new and innovative information in irrigated agriculture,” explains Shelley Woods, director of the Irrigation Management Section of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry who also sits on the Alberta governmentsponsored conference’s planning committee. “It gives farmers an opportunity to see the scientists who are doing the work, to speak with them, and to learn what is coming out next. Often times people are able to present here at the conference before they officially publish their reports elsewhere.”
Woods says often residents in southern Alberta do not understand the full scope of the impact irrigation has on agriculture in the region.
“In Alberta we have 70 per cent of the irrigation that occurs in Canada, and most of that is in southern Alberta,” she explains. “So we’re a big player in irrigation nationally and globally. Many crops, such as potatoes, we wouldn’t be able to grow under dryland conditions here in southern Alberta. With irrigation, we are able to produce reliable yield and quality year after year.”
“Naturally we are a very dry area,” Woods adds, “but we do have a water source which is annually renewable — the snowmelt from the mountains is where our irrigation water comes from.”
Woods says in recent years the buzzword in irrigation is efficiency. Farmers are always seeking new technologies that can improve how much and when to water their crops, and to do it in a way which also saves time and labour.
“Water being a limited resource, we want to use it as efficiently as we can,” she says. “Also for energy efficiency — the costs in terms of energy to apply that water on a farm. We are wanting to improve those efficiencies as much as we can. By and large, farmers are very innovative people. They tend to be on that leading edge of technology, and very open to new technology that’s going to make their farms more profitable and the work less onerous.”