Canada’s Lethbridge College receives $1 million for irrigation research

January 15, 2024

Alberta, Canada’s Lethbridge College will receive CDN$1 million in infrastructure funding from the provincial government to expand the capacity of its applied research in irrigation science.

The provincial grant is in addition to $1 million in federal funding the college received last year from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The combined $2 million from the provincial and federal governments will support smart irrigation infrastructure needs for the Mueller Irrigation Research Group at the Lethbridge College (LC) research farm.

“Our Smart Irrigation Farm will undertake research to minimize water usage in our agricultural system in the face of future droughts and maximize crop productivity,” said Kenny Corscadden, vice president research and partnerships and interim vice president academic.

Irrigation canal at the Lethbridge College research farm.

The smart irrigation infrastructure at Lethbridge College’s research farm is the first of its kind among post-secondary institutions across Canada. These grants will enable the Mueller Irrigation Research Group to continue to expand its capabilities, providing opportunities for students, researchers and industry partners.

“These grants will help us to increase the capacity of our group to do plot and field scale experiments on the LC research farm,” said Dr. Willemijn Appels, senior applied research chair. “We’ll be able to purchase the latest irrigation technology and plant/soil sensing equipment to investigate the effects of management decisions regarding irrigation management, nutrient and land management on soils and crops in great detail. Our goal is to distill practical management strategies for precision agriculture in irrigation from this detailed work.”

The funding will be used to upgrade irrigation equipment on the research farm. The centre pivots and linear move systems will be outfitted with variable rate irrigation (VRI) technology, better mapping systems and other equipment required to enhance site-specific irrigation management. The funding will also help provide agricultural equipment for plot and field experiments, lab equipment for sample analysis, and sensors to capture instant observations of plant, soil and weather conditions anywhere on the farm.

Dr. Willemijn Appels, Senior Applied Research Chair, Mueller Irrigation Research Group at Lethbridge College, checking irrigation research equipment at the Lethbridge College research farm.

“The equipment will boost our capacity for laboratory work as well, which means that we will need to have less analysis done by third parties and can do more in house,” Appels said. “That’s great for our own research and student projects, and it will also increase our flexibility to work with industry.”

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