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Precision irrigation increases yields

Precision irrigation increases yields

Some farmers have seen yields rise by about 20 per cent, U of L study finds

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Alberta farmers who use precision agriculture on irrigated land have found crop benefits and cost savings, a University of Lethbridge (U of L) study shows.

Drs. Lorraine and Chris Nicol, who specialize in economics surveyed 27 per cent (32) of about 120 irrigators from the Taber Irrigation District. The researchers wanted to learn how many farmers in the area use precision ag alongside irrigation systems and the benefits the producers find.

The district includes more than 80,000 irrigated acres. Around 40 per cent of that land is dedicated to specialty crops like sugar beets, sunflower and onions. Producers plant cereals, oilseeds and other crops on the remaining 60 per cent.

In total, 81 per cent of survey respondents have adopted “some form” of precision agriculture, which includes yield mapping, water management zones or drones.

That statistic isn't surprising, Lorraine Nicol said.

"I know farmers in Southern Alberta to be very progressive, very entrepreneurial and to be very agribusiness oriented," she told "As long as precision agriculture is viable and sustainable, they'll continue to use it."

The farmers who use precision ag also benefit from the technology at harvest.

 “Yearly crop yields have increase an average (of) 20 per cent and yearly crop quality has increased an average (of) 16 per cent,” the study said.

Yearly reductions in irrigation water, fertilizer and other input costs have ranged from 14 to 24 per cent, the study found.

One surprising piece of information was that a majority of respondents don't use consultants, Nicol said.

Almost 70 per cent of respondents don't use consultants and those that do mainly contact them for field mapping services, the study said.


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