Potatoes in Canada

News Agronomy Soil
New research looks at more sustainable practices for bedding, irrigation

May 25, 2022  By Potatoes in Canada

A new three-year research project from Lethbridge College will investigate how potato producers can use the late fall season to effectively prep their potato beds while moving toward environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. It will be the first known project in Alberta to study the effect of potato bedding on soil erosion and emissions.

Traditionally, although practices such as irrigation, fertilizer application, plowing and the formation of beds are beneficial for potatoes, some can cause reduced soil fertility and crop nutrient availability while increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

The project is being led by Rezvan Karimi, research scientist in the Mueller Irrigation Group. Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) funded the project, valued at $446,500. Karimi’s team will test three different bedding formations – a traditional fall bedding, a spring bedding after having winter cover crop and a spring bedding with no winter cover crop – to see how each affects the yield, soil nutrient levels and nitrous oxide emissions. The study will also look at irrigation levels, with an aim to maximize available nutrients for crops while reducing emissions. Karimi noted that some farmers over-apply irrigation.

“When producers prepare to bed in the fall and apply fertilizer, there is a big lag time between nutrient application and crop uptake,” said Karimi in a statement. “And during the winter, we have soil erosion, especially in the Lethbridge area where we have strong chinook winds, which blow off the topsoil and the fertilizer, so that will decrease the nutrient use efficiency. We also see nutrient loss through nitrous oxide emissions from the soil, which not only decrease the available nutrients for crops but are also an environmental concern.”

The field testing will take place on Lethbridge College’s irrigation research and demonstration farm. Collaborators on the project include Roland Kroebel, an ecosystem modeller with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) – Lethbridge; Jonathan Neilson, a potato health scientist with AAFC – Lethbridge; Guillermo Hernandez Ramirez, a soil scientist at the University of Alberta; Sheng Li, a soil scientist with AAFC – Fredericton; and a yet-to-be-hired PhD student.

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