A new study will dig deep into the soil to determine how watering and irrigation methods affect southern Alberta’s potato crops. The four-year research project is a partnership between Lethbridge College’s Centre for Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Potato Growers of Alberta. It is made possible through a grant from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.
The $397,595 grant allows for the study of five different potato fields throughout southern Alberta. The watering practices of two producers near Vauxhall, as well as farms near Bow Island, Chin and Taber, are being monitored. The diversity of fields allows researchers to study a variety of different soil types and topographies, which will give a holistic look at how moisture reacts with and affects potato crops. The research team will record how producers use their existing irrigation and available water sources and the outcome it has on crops in different parts of their fields.
“It's a really good inventory; we're not just saying ‘this is what happens in this one particular field,’’’ says Dr. Willemijn Appels, Lethbridge College’s Mueller Applied Research Chair in Irrigation Science. “We can actually say, ‘looking at this range of soil types and topographies, these are the main drivers or variations.’ We can then try to figure out what a producer can do with management and technology – where the sweet spot is they could use to increase their yield, increase their water use efficiency and eventually start looking at impacts on a regional scale if everyone would adopt optimal irrigation strategies.”