Agriculture Inspections To Help Protect Drinking Water (2001)

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As part of a provincial strategy to protect drinking water, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks staff will inspect farms throughout the Fraser Valley to ensure industry compliance with regulations around waste management.

Inspections will begin in October to determine compliance with requirements for covering manure piles and manure application. Under the Agricultural Waste Control Regulation and the Code of Agricultural Practice for Waste Management, producers must note the following:

  • Manure piles must be covered from Oct. 1 to April 1 inclusive to prevent the escape of agricultural waste. Manure piles where tarps have blown off will be considered uncovered manure piles.
  • Spreading manure on bare land during the fall and winter is not acceptable. Bare land includes harvested crops such as corn and vegetables, poorly established cover crops, etc.
  • Spreading manure on grassland during the months of November, December and January is not recommended. The risk of contaminated runoff or leaching of nutrients to surface or groundwater is greatest during this period.

The pollution regulations are designed to ensure that agricultural producers protect surface water and groundwater quality, especially in areas vulnerable to contamination such as the Abbotsford?Sumas aquifer. Protecting B.C.'s fresh water resource is vital to human health, community sustainability and the environment.

Non-compliance with provincial agricultural waste regulations may result in a request for a best agricultural waste management plan for the operation, an order, ticket or other legal action under the Waste Management Act.

Producers looking for help developing strategies to deal with manure can contact the regional office of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries or the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks.

For more information on B.C.'s freshwater strategy visit the environment ministry Web site at www.elp.gov.bc.ca/wat/wrs/freshwater/FSforBC.htm on the Internet.

Editors Note: Copies of the Agricultural Waste Control Regulation and the Code of Agricultural Practice for Waste Management are available on request or visit the Web at http://www.qp.gov.bc.ca/stat_reg/regs/elp


Bev Anderson, (604) 582-5340
Agricultural Impact Officer
Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks

Betsy Terpsma, (604) 582-5306
Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks

Rick Van Kleeck, (604) 556-3100
Resource Management
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries

For more information on the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks. visit our Web site at http://www.gov.bc.ca/elp on the Internet.

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Drones Help Island Winery Slash Water Use (2016)

It’s not very often that I come across a new technology that is literally the best solution I have seen to many current agricultural issues. Green Tourism member 40 Knots Vineyard and Estate Winery, located on Vancouver Island in the Comox Valley, has just proven how invaluable this new technology is by saving $11,000 over the past four months.

This groundbreaking technology recently developed by ASAP Geomatix, was installed on a drone to take super-high definition images of the 20-acre vineyard. Based in Campbell River, ASAP Geomatix is the four-year-old sister company to the well established ASAP Avionics Services. Many of ASAP’s current clients request wildlife and ecosystem information for remote regions, where HD imagery is captured by helicopter. But in the rural residential area in the Comox Valley, a drone makes much more sense. Drones are more cost effective, make no noise, are environmentally friendly (electric) and stay lower to the ground, avoiding air traffic airspace.

Layne Craig, owner of 40 Knots Vineyard and Estate Winery saw the bigger picture. He calls himself a semi-automatic farmer, using field studies and handwriting to track what works best for his vineyard. But the data he received from ASAP Geomatix complimented his own methods, giving him measurable statistics for:

How healthy and vigorous the vines are (measuring chlorophyll in an ENDIV chart)

  • Plant height comparisons
  • Soil moisture content
  • Land slope and elevation
  • High definition images of their property

The maps are so high def, you can zoom in to each individual plant. This spring Craig agreed to a pilot project to test this new technology on a drone (rather than helicopter), and gain insight into how a vineyard would use the data. The value and savings Craig realized from these results blew the team at ASAP Geomatix away. Owner Mark Sylvester, Technical Development Manager, John Carley and Business Development Manager Alex Sylvester have opened up a new market to help agricultural businesses better manage their resources with accurate and relevant data.

Sylvester realized not everyone is like Craig, who took this data and ran with it, drastically reducing his water consumption, fertilizer and chemical use and saving thousands of dollars. But there are probably more farmers, viticulturists and orchardists across the country that can benefit from this technology.

Here’s what 40 Knots saved in the past 4 months:

Water use slashed by 7/8’s compared to 2015

By looking at the moisture content map, Craig could see specific areas with less moisture retention than others in the vineyard. Once he studied this chart with plant health and plant growth, he realized that areas with high growth needed their watering cut completely, while other drier areas needed additional moisture. In other words, using drip irrigation, he only watered exactly where he needed to, cutting his consumption from 9000 m3 in 2015 to 800 m3 in 2016.

Fertilizers reduced by 30-35%

Craig works closely with Biofert Manufacturing Inc. to source only non-synthetic fertilizer applications for his vineyard. He adjusted his program to use the data provided by ASAP Geomatix, which allowed him to hone in on dry and less productive areas to apply compost and an organic granular fertilizer just to the areas that needed it. This “spot treatment” rather than blanket application cut his fertilizer use by nearly 35%. Next year, Craig is moving to a liquid fish/kelp fertigation application, hoping to further reduce fertilizer use by an additional 40%.

60% savings in pesticides and fungicides

40 Knots has converted all fungicides and pesticides to 100% organic, using only micronized sulphur, calcium, potassium bicarbonate and dish soap. Craig has radically reduced his costs by ordering these in a raw form directly from Biofert, and by growing well balanced and healthy plants, he is able to stay on top of any issues as they arise, reducing consumption. All these measures have resulted in a cost savings of 60% this year compared to 2015.

Crop increase of 41%

Making these changes has boosted crop production by over 40%. Even with the spring storms that reduced flowering in the white varieties and even with the sheep getting loose and deciding to munch on grapes (I could see the effects of this in the plant growth chart), crop production nearly doubled. Craig has used the ASAP Geomatix data to grow a crop balanced in nutrients and water, producing more grapes with less foliage. Some crops, like Gamay, increased from 2.3 tonnes per acre to 6.3 tonnes per acre.

The HUGE Okanagan potential

The Okanagan Valley and Comox Valley get a similar amount of sunshine each year (just under 2000 hours), but the high temperatures in the Okanagan increase evapotranspiration of irrigated water. There is a HUGE potential to reduce water consumption in Okanagan vineyards (not to mention chemical and fertilizer use) using this type of data. This study at 40 Knots has shown how improving the sustainability performance of an operating vineyard can save a lot of money and a lot of resources.

ASAP Geomatix will take images of 40 Knots Vineyard again next spring (by drone) to compare baselines and continue to reduce inputs while boosting outputs.

Geomatix won the 2015 Innovation and Technology Award Campbell River for the Community Economic Development Commission. To find out more about them, visit their website.

Lindsay Eason is the cofounder of GreenStep Solutions and manager of Green Tourism Canada. She writes blogs and articles about sustainable tourism and green business. Lindsay lives on Vancouver Island where she enjoys exploring nature, tasting local food and wine and living an active lifestyle.

Source: Orchard and Vine Magazine, Fall 2016 www.orchardandvine.net/columns/environment/drones-help-island-winery-sla...

Scheduling Irrigation with Farmwest.com

Farmwest.com can now help farmers decide when to irrigate and how much water to give their crops. How does this work?

The water requirement of any crop is directly related to 'evapo-transpiration'. Evapotranspiration or 'ET' is the total amount of water that evaporates from the soil plus the water released through the plant - called transpiration. ET can be calculated from air temperatures (and other measurements) obtained from weather stations.

Farmwest.com obtains daily weather data and 5-day weather forecasts for 42 weather stations in BC. Farmwest has a calculator that converts temperature data from the weather stations to ET values. Unfortunately, calculations that neglect wind and sunshine may over- or under- estimate ET. However, over a period of a week or more, our ET calculations are very close to the actual values. ET values are updated daily on farmwest.com. Farmwest also calculates a value for water deficit by deducting rainfall from ET.

Although ET tells you how much water can be lost, how much water is lost depends on the type and size of crop. When a crop is small, most of the ET occurs as evaporation from the soil surface. As the foliage develops, transpiration from the plant increases while evaporation from the soil surface decreases. The difference between how much water is lost from a crop compared to how much can be lost (ET) is given by a number called 'crop coefficient'. These values and other information on irrigation can be found on farmwest.com.

T. J. Nyvall, BCMAFF, Abbotsford

Top corn growers in Agassiz manage nitrogen effectively (2000)

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S. Bittman, C.G. Kowalenko,
Agriculture Canada, Agassiz BC

and D.L.Bates
BCMAFF, Abbotsford, BC

Can farmers grow top-notch corn crops without contaminating their groundwater with nitrates? Results from samples taken during the recent Corn King Competition for the Agassiz Fall Fair show that several farmers know how.

Nitrate left in the soil in the fall is subject to leaching due to our rainy weather in autumn and winter. Most of the nitrate leaching actually takes place soon after the heavy rains begin in November. The lost nitrate is a financial loss to the producer and a threat to groundwater quality. Water containing more than 10 parts per million of nitrogen in the nitrate form is considered unhealthy to drink, particularly for babies.

The three top corn fields for the Agassiz Corn Competition (based mainly on visual assessment of yield and maturity) had relatively low residual soil nitrate levels (see Table). The corn in the two fields with highest levels of soil nitrate did not rate as high. This shows that applying excess nitrogen as fertilizer or in manure is not necessary for top corn production.

Corn Rating

Nitrogen as nitrate in kg/ha*
(cm) 0-15 15-30 30-60 0-30 0-60
(inch) 0-6" 6-12" 12-24" 0-12" 0-24"
Farm 1 84 22 15 34 37 71
Farm 2 83 37 16 29 54 82
Farm 3 82 21 10 8 31 39
Farm 4 81 78 35 117 113 230
Farm 5 80 5 5 6 10 16
Farm 6 80 97 27 30 124 154
Farm 7 80 32 16 26 48 74
Farm 8 79 5 5 4 10 14
Farm 9 79 5 5 4 10 14
Farm 10 78 23 18 30 41 81

A few notes to help you interpret the results in the table: A corn crop needs about 175-225 kg/ha (160-200 lb/acre) of nitrogen. Two fields have enough nitrogen left in the soil to grow another entire corn crop (but of course the nitrogen will be long gone from the soil before next spring).

A fall-seeded cover crop will take up no more than about 20-30 kg/ha (18-25 lb/acre) of nitrate-nitrogen, most of it from the upper 15 cm (6 inches) of soil. Eight of 10 fields had plenty of nitrate in the top layer to support a cover crop so no additional nitrogen as manure or fertilizer was required for this purpose. The nitrate below 15 cm (6 inches) will be lost regardless of the cover crop.

A relay crop (Italian ryegrass) seeded between the corn rows takes up 40-70 kg/ha (35-55 lb/acre) of nitrogen from the upper 30 cm (12 inches) of soil. Such a crop would have cleaned up the nitrate from the top 30 cm (12 inches) of soil in all but two of the fields in the competition. Nitrate left in the 30-60 cm (12-24 inches) layer would be lost even with a relay crop.

How much nitrate is a threat for contamination of groundwater? When a soil with no cover crop contains less than 100 kg/ha (90 lb/acre) of nitrogen in the nitrate form, water percolating through that soil is unlikely to contain more than the critical 10 parts per million of nitrate-nitrogen. As a rule of thumb, Washington State University suggests that fields have recieved too much nitorgen if they contain more than 90 kg/ha (80 lb/acre) of nitrate-nitrogen in the fall. Eight of the 10 corn fields in the Agassiz Corn Competition this year were well within these standards. Note that relatively more nitrogen can be applied to a field that will have a well-established cover crop or better still, a relay crop, that will be harvested the next spring than to a field that will be left bare over the winter.

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