GFM Network News


Variable-rate irrigation holds great promise but applying the technology is complicated, says Willemijn Appels, Lethbridge College’s Mueller Applied Research Chair in Irrigation Science. Appels (second from right) is pictured with students and researchers at one of five farms where her study on variable-rate irrigation is taking place.

Precision irrigation has great potential, but it’s tricky

Understanding how moisture moves through parts of the field is one of the goals of the four-year study

Water has always been at a premium in the Irrigation Belt of southern Alberta. “Our water system is closed,” said Willemijn Appels, an irrigation scientist with Lethbridge College. “There is no more extra water that can be withdrawn for agriculture. Our water licences are already allocated. “We need to use water more wisely and make […] Read more

Replacing canals with underground pipes will cut water loss from evaporation and leakage — enough to irrigate an additional 200,000 acres in southern Alberta.

More crop per drop — irrigation gets ‘historic’ cash injection

New $815-million project will irrigate another 200,000 acres without any additional water allocation

There are a lot of big numbers behind a “historic” expansion of southern Alberta’s irrigation system, but also the smallest possible one — zero. That’s the amount of extra water that will, or rather won’t, be needed to add more than 200,000 irrigated acres that will be created by a $815-million project, officials say. “With […] Read more


Federal fund, Alberta government back irrigation upgrades

Infrastructure Bank lends cash for system improvements

Eight irrigation districts in Alberta are set to tap into the Canada Infrastructure Bank’s new $1.5 billion pool of funding earmarked for irrigation, to receive loans worth about $407.5 million. The Alberta and federal governments on Friday announced a total investment of $815 million — including repayable CIB funds, provincial support and irrigation district contributions […] Read more

Federal irrigation pledge seen flowing mainly to Prairies

Infrastructure plan also includes promised broadband support

Prairie provinces will receive the bulk of Ottawa’s $1.5 billion commitment to support irrigation projects, according to federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday launched a three-year, $10 billion infrastructure plan aimed at five different sectors, including agriculture. The $1.5 billion is expected to result in 700,000 acres of irrigated land. […] Read more


The Coen family has strategically placed ditches that were excavated to create swales for capturing snowmelt, that either slowly soaks into the land or is captured in a series of small dams.

Innovative farmers ‘harvest’ water to boost production

Coen Farm created shallow ditches called swales to capture millions of gallons of snowmelt each spring

This winter, you might want to harvest something a little different on your farm — water. “Our farm harvests 40 years of water in two weeks just from snowmelt,” said Takota Coen, who farms near Ferintosh with his parents. “We live in one of the only places in the world where you can actually increase […] Read more

St. Mary River Irrigation District’s chair says investing in irrigation infrastructure produces a good return for the provincial economy.

Irrigation districts say they’re grateful for provincial funding

This year's allocation is smaller, but there's recognition that 'tax dollars are very hard to come by now'

This year’s allocation is smaller but there’s recognition that ‘tax dollars are very hard to come by now’

It was cheque-cashing time for Alberta’s irrigation districts earlier this month as the provincial government announced $10 million in allocations through the Irrigation Rehabilitation Program (IRP) for the 2020-21 budget year. In place for over 50 years, the IRP is a 75-25 cost-share program between the province and Alberta’s irrigation districts. As its name suggests, […] Read more


Solar panels lose a little bit of efficiency each year but the irrigation district’s arrays come with a guarantee of 80 per cent output in 25 years’ time.

Inspired by farmers, irrigation district aims for ‘net zero’

St. Mary River Irrigation District moves a lot of water and has a big electric bill — but that’s about to change

The St. Mary River Irrigation District is putting the sun to work providing water to its users. Solar arrays at two large pump stations have the district in a position to achieve net zero electrical use — and potentially save hundreds of thousands in electricity costs down the road. The inspiration to look at solar came […] Read more

Research lead Willemijn Appels and Nathan Linder gather data from a local farmer’s canola field irrigated by subsurface drip irrigation.

Fighting gravity for better underground irrigation

Subsurface drip irrigation can pay off with the right practices and a little patience, says researcher

At first glance, subsurface drip irrigation seems like an obvious winner as it gets water directly to the roots and there’s less evaporation. But that’s not the whole story. Subsurface drip irrigation is a literal fight against gravity — you’re trying to make water go from side to side when it’s inclined to go down […] Read more


Irrigation, like this system near Taber, is a common sight in parts of southern Alberta. But there are predictions there will be an expansion of irrigated acres in central and northern areas of the province.

Interest in irrigation in Alberta heads north

While the lion’s share of irrigation is in the south, some expect a major expansion as far north as the Peace

From the highway, the sign seems out of place. “Now open, Southern Irrigation,” it declares. Down Lethbridge way, it might not be unusual to see a yard full of irrigation pipes and reels of tubing. But Red Deer isn’t exactly the epicentre of irrigation in the province. But that may slowly be starting to change, […] Read more

Senior research scientist Nick Savidov and aquaponics technician Penny Takahashi work in the college’s existing Aquaculture Centre of Excellence greenhouse.

Grants boost greenhouse research at Lethbridge College

A pair of federal grants will allow Lethbridge College to create a new commercial-scale greenhouse and also to purchase equipment for research work in precision irrigation and in antibiotic identification from native plants. The college is getting $1 million towards its Centre for Sustainable Food Production that will be used for the greenhouse that will […] Read more