This week I attended the Irrigated Crop Production Update in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. It's put on every 2 years by the Alberta Government. Below I'll summarize some the key things I learned from the conference. The presentations will all be uploaded to the [Alberta Irrigation Technology Centre] website in the next few months so I encourage you to go there to get the full details.
Ross McKenzie encouraged us to all check out the [Alberta Soil Information Viewer] to get to know how your soil was formed. I've been to it before and it was a bit clunky. It appears its been updated so I'll give it another go. I've seen this many times in my career where the surface does not tell you what is below. Understanding the geology of the area can really help in water management and nutrient application.
When it comes to fertilizer application there are many strategies that can get you to the finish line. Doon Pauly presented on wheat & canola fertilization and Michele Konschuh presented on potato fertilization. If you are following the 4R's - right rate, source, timing, and placement - its not going to matter (too much) on what way you do it. It basically comes down to what you can do on your farm and deciding the best way.
Doon also presented on a long term fusarium head blight project. The assumption has always been that since wheat is highly susceptible to infection at flowering you should try to avoid watering at this time. Using susceptible varieties with inoculum present, and using light, frequent irrigations, he was able to increase fusarium, but not at economic levels. His advice was if you can avoid irrigating at flowering, do it; but don't sacrifice yield to do this. When the presentation is up I'd advise you to check it out because there's a lot more to it than this.
Other information presented by Mike Harding in the disease update seems to back up this conclusion. Grain surveys from this past year show zero fusarium, even in the irrigated areas. With no rain past mid June, and temperatures >30C, most pivots were running nearly constantly all through flowering.
On the irrigation side of farming it was fascinating seeing the new ways of irrigating coming to southern Alberta. There were presentations on sub-surface drip irrigation and tying drip tubes to pivots and dragging them around the field. Sub surface will really help in those fields [or gardens!] that are odd shaped or where pivots or wheel moves just don't work well. Dragging drip line around a field uses existing equipment and still gets some of the benefit of drip lines. These are some new ideas to keep an eye on over the years and to learn from the ones pioneering this technology.
There's a lot more I learned but those are the highlights. If you want to know more please be sure to check out the [Alberta Irrigation Technology Centre] website for the presentations (likely in February 2018). Let me know in the comments what you think or send me a message through my [contact] page.