The effects of bedding preparation time, winter cover cropping and irrigation management on yield, soil erosion and GHG emissions in irrigated potato production in southern Alberta

Project Details

Status: Active
Investment: $65,000
Commodity: Potato
Organization: Lethbridge College
Investigator: Rezvan Karimi

Fall bedding is a practical approach, allowing growers to prepare the soil in a period where other crops require less time and labor.

Why is this research important for Alberta ag?

Fall bedding is a common practice in potato production in southern Alberta. The practice, which involves irrigation, broadcasting of fertilizer, plowing, and the formation of beds, aims to provide favourable soil structure conditions in the spring. It is also a practical approach, allowing growers to prepare the soil in a period where other crops require less time and labor.

However, these fall activities may have effects on soil fertility and crop nutrient availability as there is a large time lag between nutrient application and crop uptake. This time lag may decrease nutrient use efficiency and increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in particular CO2 and N2O. Due to the large swaths of uncovered ground, potato fields are also at a high risk of wind erosion during the off-season period, which can severely impact soil health and fertility in the long term.

This research will combine field experiments and computer simulations to quantify the impact of bedding choices and timing and their interaction with irrigation practices on potato production and soil health.

What benefits can producers expect from this research?

Findings will allow producers to quantitatively assess the tradeoffs of the bedding and irrigation management strategies with respect to soil structure improvement, nutrient availability, and soil loss and yield quantity and quality. The best-fitting strategy could be adopted on-farm without major new investments.

How will these research findings reach producers on-farm?

Research will be shared through field workshops, news releases, conference presentations, the annual conference of the Potato Growers of Alberta, and peer-reviewed scientific papers.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.