Tool could help producers make more precise decisions
By Kaitlynn Anderson
On the heels of the long-awaited announcement of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership programs, the federal government made another statement on Tuesday about an investment into Ontario agriculture.
Specifically, AAFC will provide the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) with $340,000 to develop “a tool that farmers can use to make more precise decisions on the economic benefits of their individual farms,” according to Tuesday’s government release.
Peter Fragiskatos, MP for London North Centre, made the announcement on behalf of Lawrence MacAulay, minister of agriculture and agri-food, at the OSCIA annual general meeting.
The prospective tool will use satellite data of field crops under different climatic conditions to show farmers how they could benefit from installing tile drainage.
For example, during a drought year, producers could increase their corn yields by up to 25 per cent in fields with shallow slopes by using valves at the end of tile drains to restrict water outflow, Mark Emiry, president of the OSCIA, said in the release.
“Our analysis has confirmed that the economic payback from adoption of controlled tile drainage benefits can range from $18 to $48 per hectare per year,” he said.
Additionally, farmers could reduce Nitrate-N and phosphorus output by using tiles, which could provide nutrient savings of over $25 per hectare, Emiry added.
Tile drainage can provide farmers with a method to manage water, whether in surpluses or deficiencies, Harold Rudy, executive officer of the OSCIA, told Farms.com yesterday.
“Implementation of these best practices for managing agricultural drainage is one of the most critical considerations in our efforts to be the best land stewards possible,” he said.
Currently, farmers systematically tile approximately 50 per cent of the province’s agricultural land.
But some areas of the province utilize the technology more than others.
Up to 90 per cent of agricultural lands in southwestern Ontario, for example, are systematically tiled, Rudy said.
While the tool is in the prototype stage of development, the association hopes to make it available online within the next few months, he said.
“OSCIA is working with scientists to launch the first generation of the tool, which will be a great awareness tool for illustration purposes,” he said.
After conducting more scientific research, the OSCIA plans to add a second phase of enhancements to the drainage tool.
“A second generation will include algorithms to expand its capability to make additional calculations, such as to compensate for soil type and internal drainage capability,” Rudy said.
Researchers will likely require a few years to create this second phase of the project before the revamped tool can be released to the public.
In the meantime, producers can access a few resources to learn more about the benefits of tile drainage, he said. These sources include this FCC newsletter, OMAFRA’s BMP 25 – Cropland Drainage and Heather Fraser and Ron Fleming’s Environmental Benefits of Tile Drainage.