Southern Alberta researcher explores new method of irrigation

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WATCH ABOVE: Subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) delivers water directly to the root zone of plants and as Chase Maley explains, the new method is garnering attention in southern Alberta – May 22, 2019

There are many different forms of irrigation, and one of the newer forms of the practice in southern Alberta is what’s known as subsurface drip irrigation (SDI).

Willemijn Appels is the applied research chair of irrigation science at Lethbridge College and has been studying the efficiency of SDI when used for smaller crops.

READ MORE: Study shows impact of irrigation on drought, climate change in Alberta

“This is one of the ways that you could do that,” Appels said. “Instead of installing overhead irrigation and watering from the top of the plants, you are burying lines into the soil and irrigating directly into the root zone.”

SDI allows the crops to utilize all of the water supply as opposed to traditional irrigation, where the water can evaporate or dry on the top of the canopy of the plants.

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“We can come up with better ways of applying water or saving water, or using it better to create more yield,” Appels said.

Although SDI is an expensive irrigation method, the process has the potential to boost the value of the land,” according to Appels. She said this method would be most beneficial for farmers who have only a small piece of land that wouldn’t require a pivot.

READ MORE: Peter Watts: Is it time to expand Alberta’s agriculture irrigation system?

For farmers who haven’t used an irrigation method like SDI before, Appels said they may have a bit of a learning curve because it is an underground irrigation system.


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