“Farm Water Fix” is a 12-part video series designed to make irrigation concepts as clear as possible to help you tune up your systems and schedules to get the right amount of water to your crops at the right time.

Filmed in 2020 and 2021 when irrigation designers Andrew Bennett and Bruce Naka toured farms across the Kootenay and Boundary region, this video series and the related 4-part webinar series, “Irrigate Better,” look for ways to save farms time, money, and grow better crops that are more resilient to extreme weather conditions.

Intro to the Farm Water Fix Series

These videos introduce some of the resources and irrigation expertise available to producers in our region that can help farms adapt to climate change and tune up their irrigation.

1. A Leg Up on Climate Change (4:34)

Across British Columbia in the summer of 2021, heat waves severely punished many farms, but farms with well-tuned irrigation were more resilient. Here we visit some farms whose experiences show how it’s more important now than ever before to go into the season with roots fully watered, and to pay close attention to the soil and the weather as we irrigate.

2. BC Agriculture Water Calculator & the Climate Crunch (8:17)

The BC Agriculture Water Calculator is used to allocate water licenses in BC, but you shouldn’t use it to decide how much to water. As climate change ramps up, crops get thirstier, and water sources dry up, irrigation needs to be based on current weather. Here we’ll walk through how to use the calculator to check your license. Then we’ll look at some current weather data to motivate you to tune up your irrigation efficiencies.

3. Professional Irrigation Advice (3:35)

Professional irrigation advice can save you time and money. Here we’ll look at a few ways farms in BC can get input from a certified irrigation designer, sometimes for free.

4. BC’s Best Irrigation & Drought Resources (6:47)

We’re fortunate in British Columbia to have easy access to great irrigation advice and information, almost all of it for free. As the climate heats up and more droughts loom, it’s more important than ever to take a look and apply what we learn to our farms. Here, we’ll review the major design guides, factsheets, and online maps and calculators that can help everyone irrigate better in BC.

The Why and How of Irrigation Scheduling

These videos drill down on the problems caused by both too little and too much water. To get the best yields and build the best soils, both overwatering and underwatering are easily solved first with attention to how evenly your irrigation system puts out water, and with a close eye on your soil and the weather to adjust your irrigation schedule through the season.

5. Hazards of Too Much Water (5:19)

Watering too much will leach your fertility, erode your profits, and might just run you off the farm. Here we’ll explain why, and how a good irrigation schedule can help you avoid these pitfalls.

6. The $300,000 Tear Drop (Produced in 2020 — 5:35)

The $300,000 mystery of Danny Turner’s dead and dying cherry trees is solved by a green tear drop shed in a hot, dry orchard, but the underground leak was discovered too late. Moral of the story: Know your flow, and design irrigation systems and schedules to give just the right amount of water at just the right time.

7. Irrigation Scheduling A to Z  (7:57)

Here we review all the steps behind a good irrigation schedule that will get your crops the right amount of water at the right time.

Know Your Soil

These two videos dig into the soil to first identify your soil texture in all the layers your crops root through, and then to use that information to figure out how much water your soil can store without leaching.

8. Identify Soil Textures  (7:51)

The soil layers and textures on your farm have a big impact on irrigation decisions. Here we’ll review three ways you can learn about your soils: 1) Use a “hand-feel” test, 2) send samples to a lab, and 3) look up BC’s soil surveys.

9. Soil Water Storage  (Farm Water Fix 9)

You can make a good guess at how much water your soil can store just knowing the soil texture and how much is gravel and rock. Here we walk through the basic rules of thumb.

The Weather and Wasted Water

These final three videos in the series pull it all together to get a good estimate on how much to irrigate. First we use the weather to guess how much water our crop needs, then we adjust for any “effective” rain that made it into the soil, and finally we adjust how much we irrigate to compensate for inefficiencies in our system.

10. Crop Water Use & The Weather  (8:10)

Evapotranspiration — the speed the soil dries out — is a crucial number to track through the season if you want to irrigate for the best yields. Here we’ll find a weather station near your farm and use it to estimate how much water your crop needs, depending on its type and stage.

11. Rain & Irrigation (5:00)

When it rains, sometimes we have to adjust how much we irrigate so we don’t flood the soil, which leaches nutrients and reduces yields, but other times we want to irrigate right through the storm. Here we’ll describe “effective rain” (a.k.a. effective precipitation) and show you how to go about making rainy day decision.

12. Irrigation Efficiency versus Waste (7:29)

Even well-tuned irrigation systems don’t get all the water to the roots of the crop, and we have to account for these inefficiencies when we decide how much to irrigate. But these expected losses are very different from “wasted water” due to leaks, run-off, leaching, and excessive unevenness. Here we’ll describe how to check if your system is well-tuned, and how to calculate irrigation amounts based on your expected “application efficiency.”

 

Funding for this project has been provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. Additional funding as been provided by the Columbia Basin Trust. The program is delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.

 

Are you interested in learning more about irrigation? Join us out in the field April 25 -29 in Windermere, Skookumchuck, Creston, and Grand Forks!

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