With two-thirds of Canada’s irrigated land located in Alberta, Lethbridge College is boosting its capacity for irrigation research.
Willemijn Appels has joined the school as its first Mueller Applied Research Chair in Irrigation Science — a position made possible with a $3.1 million gift from Lloyd and Dorothy Mueller announced in 2014.
“Producers, businesses, irrigation district people, government researchers – there is a wealth of knowledge and experience in this region and an enthusiasm to explore new technologies as they emerge. Figuring out how we can really optimize water use in agriculture with all available and advanced technology is a complex issue that will keep me busy for the coming years,” said Appels in a news release on Tuesday.
Her initial work includes studying soil dynamics in canola fields with different irrigation methods and examining how sensors and software can help growers.
“I’m looking at ways people use sensors in the soil to measure how much water is available to plants, as well as drones, either on the ground or in the air that can monitor an image, how much water plants are using, how fast they do that, and if they’re stressed or not,” she explains. “We’re also working on seeing if you can instrument the pivot itself, so it becomes a smart technology — moving, measuring and thinking while it’s being operated to irrigate.”
“Willemijn is eager to dig in, get her hands dirty and contribute to the agriculture community through her research,” noted Ken Coles, general manager of Farming Smarter. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with her and wish her much success.”
Hailing from the Netherlands, Appels comes to Lethbridge from the University of Saskatchewan where she worked on water-related processes at reclamation sites in Alberta’s oilsands.