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Bold Varieties ‘Cropping Up’ at Irrigation Centre

Field day highlights work being done in local irrigation sector

This year’s theme at the annual CSIDC (Canada-Saskatchewan Irrigation Diversification Centre) Irrigation Field Day and Trade Show in Outlook was “Celebrating 70 Years of Irrigation Research: A Tradition of Looking Forward”, but interestingly enough, it may have been the newer varieties of crop species being grown that have taken that tradition and launched the Centre into a possible new direction.

The event was held on Thursday, July 11 and featured a trade show of assorted vendors, as well as a morning field tour that highlighted such topics as Cereal Agronomy, Sclerotinia Management in Canola, and Production Management Strategies to Improve Field Pea Root Health in Contaminated Soil.

The guest speaker of the day’s events was local producer and a key proponent of irrigation in the district, Grant Pederson.  Grant was raised on the family farm south of Broderick during a time of changes in the agricultural community.  The area was developing to include more irrigation, particularly with Lake Diefenbaker being built, and when the Gardiner Dam was completed, Grant’s parents and family took the risk and started transitioning from dryland farming to intensive irrigation.  That transition began with 670 acres of gravity flood, and a pivot sprinkler system was added in 1979.  By the mid 1990’s, the Pederson family had moved the majority of their flood land over to low pressure pivot sprinkler systems.

“This Centre is about making us think, and making us think different,” said Grant, touching on the goals and ideologies behind CSIDC.

The afternoon field tours gave people a chance to take in one of two choices; one was about the work being done with field crops, including Variable Rate Irrigation, Remote Soil Moisture Sensing Technology, and Malt vs Feed Barley.  The other tour focused on Horticulture, spotlighting the work being done with new crop varieties and exploring their potential in the province.

On the Horticulture tour, Forrest Scharf of the Ministry of Agriculture highlighted the work CSIDC is doing with strawberries and sour cherries as it relates to applying Apogee, a plant growth regulator.  As well, he touched on top-growth removal and burning of raspberries, Saskatoon berries, and dwarf sour cherries, as well as haskap berry photo-selective netting.

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This chicory-infused coffee drink wowed those on the horticulture tour, offering something different than the traditional morning joe. - Derek Ruttle

But it was Cara Drury’s presentation on ‘Crops with Opportunities’ that really hit a note with the tour audience.  CSIDC is running first-year trials on crops such as Jerusalem artichokes, sugar beets, mung bean, karela, and soft neck garlic, the latter of which unfortunately only sprouted one plant.

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Pepita pumpkin seeds were another consumable snack on the tour, further highlighting what CSIDC is doing with new exploratory crops. - Derek Ruttle

Drury also offered people the chance to taste products that are derived from these exploratory crops, including pepita pumpkin seeds that taste very similar to sunflower seeds, as well as an iced coffee drink infused with chicory, a plant that is seen as something of a coffee substitute.

Elsewhere on the tour, Doug Waterer spoke about the trials and tribulations of growing garlic.  He cited the number one concern of growing the crop as being the costs related to it, and also noted that it’s very difficult to grow garlic the high heat of Saskatchewan summers.  The crops being grown at CSIDC are basically being readied for next year.

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Doug Waterer spoke about the difficulties in growing garlic, as well as the challenges that come with cucumber crops. - Derek Ruttle

“The concept here is to revolutionize the garlic industry,” said Doug.

Waterer also touched on the pickling cucumber industry in the province, sharing that both consumers and grocers want a made-in-Saskatchewan product.  He noted that it had not been a good spring for cucumbers and that growing conditions are key for the crop.  He hopes to see the crop turn around, and CSIDC’s trial is assessing how the cucumbers will fare with only one trial crop.

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Dale Tomasiewicz (left) touches on CSIDC's horseradish crop, one of the most versatile and durable plants being grown at the facility. - Derek Ruttle

The tour wrapped up with a look at horseradish production by Dale Tomasiewicz.  The polarizing crop, noted for its powerful characteristics, undergoes sensory analysis for both its taste and pungency at the Food Lab in Saskatoon.  It’s also a notably strong crop, and CSIDC has never lost plants due to winter kill.  A few people on the tour actually ended up taking some horseradish home for personal use.

This year’s CSIDC Field Day event once again highlighted the diverse work being done to further the field of irrigation and crop varieties in the province.