B.C. study finds ineffective farm drainage in Lower Mainland

A study of drainage issues was recently completed in Delta, B.C. Researchers from the University of B.C. took part in the study.

“The project really came about through the work that the climate action initiative spearheaded,” said Sean Smukler, an assistant professor at UBC.

According to Smukler, regional assessments of potential climate change impact were done across the province.

“When they did their regional assessments, Delta’s drainage issues were flagged. Then they actually hired us to do an initial assessment of what the producers in Delta currently understand of their own drainage management issues.”

The main objective of the research project was to look at different methods of dealing with drainage.

Many producers in the region have their spacing at 30 feet or greater and the researchers put the spacing at 15 feet.

“We found an improved performance at that smaller spacing,” said Smukler.

“Also, we saw an improved performance of a grassland set aside with that drainage system. The idea being, in the process of installing trial drainage, producers would actually pull their land out of production for a year or more until that drainage system really gets established. We did see some benefits from that.”

The study illustrated some of the knowledge gaps.

“This is one of those rare instances where research follows nicely from what stakeholders are interested in knowing more about, so we developed this project and proposed it for the farm adaptation initiative program, which basically is being facilitated by the climate action initiative,” he said.

Twenty-six fields across Delta were surveyed for the project.

“We looked at fields that had drainage systems with pumps and fields that had no systems at all,” Smukler said.

According to the research, during the key periods they were looking at, the drainage systems were not that effective.

“So, if farmers are to anticipate a future where precipitation patterns are going to be more intense and more erratic, they’re definitely going to need to invest in improving their drainage infrastructure or else their ability to work in those critical shoulder seasons is going to be reduced dramatically.”

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