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In agriculture, retaining water is a good thing

retaining water is a good thing


March 27, 2008
By Fruit & Vegetable

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Does the idea of a 50 to 90 per
cent increase in crop yields and the capacity to store spring rains
appeal to you? Federal scientists have created a system that achieves
this while also preventing agricultural run-off.

Does the idea of a 50 to 90 per cent increase in crop yields and the capacity to store spring rains appeal to you? Federal scientists have created a system that achieves this while also preventing agricultural run-off.

Dr. Chin Tan, a researcher at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Greenhouse and Processing Crops Research Centre in Harrow, Ontario, has created an integrated reservoir and irrigation system that captures excess water from fields through surface and tile drainage and stores it in a reservoir for future use. This system prevents off-farm movement of sediments and provides a way to intercept and recycle leached agricultural nutrients and chemicals. During dry periods, the water (and the nutrients within it) can be delivered to the crops through the tile system or through existing centre pivot or trickle irrigation systems.

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“This has amazing environmental benefits,” says Dr. Tan. “We have increased soybean yields by 50 per cent, corn yields by 90 per cent and tomato yields by 50 per cent. With properly drained soils, this system ensures nutrients are not washed away but recycled and re-applied to the crops during dry periods to enhance plant growth. Delivering water through the tile system or trickle/drip irrigation systems brings it directly to the plant root zone where it is needed.”

With the help of growers and the local conservation authority, Dr. Tan has tested this system on a large scale and word of its
success is quickly spreading across Ontario and into other provinces. Many growers and specialists in Ontario and Manitoba are implementing it on their farms.

Adding to the appeal of the system is the fact producers may be eligible for National Water Supply Expansion Program (NWSEP) assistance integrating Dr. Tan’s system, or other water-related projects, into their operations. Through the program, applicants can apply for technical and financial assistance to help develop projects that promote the protection or creation of agricultural water supplies.

For more information on AAFC’s environmental programs and services, please visit www.agr.gc.ca, www.agr.gc.ca-/env/h2o or call 1-800-667-8567.


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