Jennifer Jarvis, OMAFRA
In 2016, many areas of the province saw very warm and dry conditions, creating challenges for horticulture and field crop producers. Many wells were still dry leading into the winter. In other years, like the start of the 2017 growing season, the province experienced periods of excessive rain, leading to saturated soils and flooding.
No one can control the weather, but we can plan for it. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) encourages you to plan for future weather – conserving water and using it efficiently can help during low water conditions, and having effective drainage systems in place can help with saturated soils and runoff.
Things to consider for low water conditions:
- Think ahead: Determine how much water you’ll need for your operation, and try to predict how long your water sources will last. Have a contingency plan you can carry out in case your water sources run dry. Use the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association’s Emergency Plan low water worksheet to help you with the contingency plan.
- Include a list of alternative water sources in your contingency plan. This can include water haulers and well drillers. Keep in mind that these sources may be unavailable at the height of low water conditions, so you’ll need to plan ahead.
- Consider installing an irrigation system and constructing an irrigation reservoir for your farm.
- Apply for a Permit to Take Water through the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (special rules and circumstances apply).
- Always conserve water: know how much water your crops need, the best time to water and the properties of your soil. Water accordingly.
- Consider using cover crops and crop residue to help maintain soil moisture.
Things to consider for flood conditions:
- Think ahead: Inspect your drainage systems and make improvements where necessary to reduce flooding.
- Consider installing tile drainage or intensifying your tile drainage network.
- Look for potential ponding areas in your fields and grade the land if possible.
- Consider changing your tillage practices, adding organic matter into your soil, reducing compaction or using cover crops to help improve water infiltration into your soil.
OMAFRA is working with other provincial ministries, conservation authorities and other partners to develop resources to help you manage water. There are existing resources that can help, too:
- Environmental Farm Plan Infosheet #13: Water Efficiency
- OMAFRA’s drainage resources
- Books in OMAFRA’s Best Management Practices Series:
- The Low Water Conditions worksheet in Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association’s Environmental Farm Plan Emergency Plan
- The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s Managing your water well in times of water shortage web page
- Irrigation videos, factsheets and other resources to help you plan and maintain irrigation systems for your operation.
Do you have questions about water contingency planning? Contact OMAFRA’s Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.