Improving the efficiency of irrigation

Technology has brought irrigation from flood irrigation, to border irrigation, to hand moves, wheel moves, linear systems, and now to pivots.

Ron McMullin, Executive Director of the Alberta Irrigation Projects Association (AIPA) says the efficiency the new technologically advanced pivots bring to the table, compared to what we had in the past, is incredible.

“As you increase that efficiency.. that means you are using less water. And what the farmers are also finding is you get more yields, so you are using less water to grow more crops,” says McMullin.

He also added our efficiencies between 2005 and 2015 have increased in the neighbourhood of 26 per cent.

Jennifer Neitschelm, director of the Irrigation and Farm Water Branch at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry says three-quarters of the irrigated fields you see today in Alberta are now high-efficiency low pressure pivots, and this is thanks to technology.

“As the manufacturers figure out how to make larger and larger pipes, now we can convert those open channel canals – which are less efficient, there is evaporation loss, seepage losses into a buried pipeline… where you have no losses,” says Neitschelm.

She adds on farm technology is constantly changing, moving farmers towards efficient pivots, including precision irrigation, variable rate irrigation and surface drip irrigation.

Overall irrigation has changed immensely in the past century and has affected the face of agriculture as we know it.

Irrigation has gone from a point where farmers had to level their land to flood it to centre pivots.

Efficiencies have steadily increased, and will only continue to do so in the future.

DID YOU KNOW?:

The irrigation industry generates about $3.6-billion of economic activity per year in Alberta.

The first recorded irrigation in Alberta was along Fish Creek near Calgary.

The first centre pivot was put up in Burdett in the 1970’s.