A dozen years ago, Devon Walker officially began farming alongside his dad Donald on the family farm in northwest Saskatchewan near the Alberta border. Like many young farmers, Walker was eager to put his stamp on the farm by adopting new management practices he believed would “shed risk.” After evaluating the farm’s fertility plan, he suggested they put partial fertility down at planting and then top up with a foliar application later in the season when the crop needed it most. “Applying foliar is like rubbing a sandwich on your arm when you’re hungry,” advised Donald.
Kris Nichols, principal scientist and research director of MyLand, calls microalgae “eco-engineers” that improve soil health and benefit crops. “Our perspective on algae, oftentimes, is that they’re aquatic organisms and they’re going to be where you have a lot of water,” said Nichols. “But they are very key in very dry systems to help manage water and nutrient relationships.”
First-time visitors to the Brooks Aqueduct National and Provincial Historic Site in Newell County are often surprised at the size of this retired piece of irrigation infrastructure. The largest structure of its kind when it was built, it looks like a slender-legged version of the massive aqueducts built in Roman times. Also similar to its ancient cousins, though no longer in use, it remains an impressive monument to the ingenuity of its builders.
With the initial projects recently announced, the first agriculture industry-related elements of the Alberta Recovery Plan are now up and running. From investment in irrigation infrastructure, to the opening of new international export offices, to new post-secondary research funding, the initiatives are intended to position agriculture and forestry as a part of the solution to Alberta’s economic woes.
Alberta’s irrigation districts will continue to receive rehabilitation funding through 2022, albeit less than the historical average. In 2020, the 13 districts will share $14 million of Irrigation Rehabilitation Program (IRP) cash, a drop of about $6 million from the previous year. Next year, the districts will be allotted $10 million followed by $12 million in both 2021 and 2022.
In this 1958 photo, Robert Black is obviously pleased with the water flow on the Golden Valley Irrigation Farm, which he co-owned near Medicine Hat. And with good reason.