New tool may help farmers get ahead of droughts, floods
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
Farmers can’t predict the future, but a new tool may help them get ahead of droughts and floods.
The Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association partnered with Aquanty, a Waterloo, Ont.-based water resources firm, to develop a forecasting tool for the Assiniboine River basin and Pembina Valley and Plum River watersheds of the Red River basin.
The online tool forecasts soil moisture, ground water and surface water conditions in the near term (seven days) and long term (32 days).
“It’ll help (producers) address risks associated with water management under increasingly variable climate conditions,” said Lawrence Knockaert, chair of the association.
He referenced 2021: several Manitoba communities faced severe drought, leading to water use restriction and fewer crops.
“I have guys that are kind of building mini dams to hold water back, especially with cattle,” said Knockaert, who’s also a dairy farmer in Bruxelles.
Since the drought, some farmers have dealt with dry wells and dugouts, Knockaert added.
“(This tool is) kind of a way for people to plan,” he said. “If they have to deepen dugouts, it gives them a little heads up.”
Farmers can pinpoint their land on the interactive map and check how much water is coming down the rivers with the spring thaw, Knockaert noted.
“They can monitor all areas of their land in near-real time without requiring on-site visits,” Amanda Taylor, Aquanty’s lead designer of the tool, said in a news release.
The map might inform crop location. Strategically placing crops like alfalfa and grasses can substitute for building a dam, Knockaert said.
“This would be a perfect opportunity to know exactly where to plant them… to help slow down the water flow and help with erosion, and basically keep nutrients out of Lake Winnipeg,” he said.
The Assiniboine River basin covers at least 162,000 square kilometres across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and North Dakota.
The Pembina Valley watershed spans another 5,000 square kilometres in Canada, said Duncan Morrison, the association’s executive director.
The online tool is “wide open to all for now,” Morrison wrote in an email.
It launched April 14, Knockaert said. The association and Aquanty are creating a fee-based subscription model, to be put in place sometime after this spring.
The cost and model are yet to be determined.
“It’s all a matter of how much the cost is to maintain and upkeep the tools,” Knockaert said.
There are groundwater monitors and flow controls to upkeep. The computer system is connected to satellite imagery, Knockaert added.
Ottawa spent $1.25 million on the project. The government announced the bulk of the funding in June of 2021.
Keystone Agricultural Producers is “pleased to see the investment… coming to fruition,” a spokesperson wrote in an email.
“KAP sees great value for farmers with the development of the Aquanty Forecasting Tool,” the spokesperson wrote.
The association has tentatively planned an online session on how to use the tool April 27. The tool can be found at mfga.net/aquanty-project.
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.