Demonstration of improved vegetable production techniques in Saskatchewan
Total unload volume of fresh vegetables (excluding potato) delivered to wholesalers in 1999 in the prairie provinces was more than 244,500,000 kg. Approximately 34,750,000 kg originated from the prairie provinces. Saskatchewan's share of this market was 2.7%. An earlier analysis placed the province's "in-season" self-sufficiency at 7% compared to 57% for Manitoba, and 33% for Alberta. Saskatchewan consumers spend approximately $25,000,000 for fresh vegetables annually. A significant portion can be grown within the province.
To assess this apparent diversification opportunity, a vegetable project was initiated in 1996 to demonstrate newer production technologies, and to derive cost of production estimates. One-half acre sized fields of 11 selected vegetable crops have been grown and marketed to simulate commercial production. Acceptable yields of suitable quality produce can be grown. Superior quality produce can be supplied to local markets where the proximity to market becomes an advantage. Net returns have generally been positive. Labour is a significant proportion of variable costs, therefore productive and efficient use of labour can be critical.
These initiatives have given the vegetable industry in Saskatchewan further impetus and direction. A number of new producers and a new generation co-operative appear poised to further diversify the agricultural landscape with Saskatchewan GROWN fresh vegetables.
Selected varieties of pepper, pumpkin, cucumber, cabbage, carrot, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, brocolli, celery, Brussel's sprouts, and cantaloupe were grown on approximately ½ acre plots each year over a three year period to simulate commercial production as closely as possible. The crops were harvested, washed, graded, packaged, and marketed to wholesale buyers. Data was collected to calculate Saskatchewan-based cost of production estimates for each crop.
Drip and wheel move irrigation was demonstrated in this project. Both surface and subsurface drip irrigation technology was evaluated initially. Surface drip irrigation was used exclusively as the project progressed as it is easier to manage. Irrigation was scheduled using tensiometers and/or Watermark sensors placed below and to the side of the rows.
Wind protection was provided for pumpkin, cucumber, peppers and cantaloupe by seeding rye between the mulch rows either in the fall or early spring. The windbreak was destroyed in mid-summer to prevent seed set.
Field days and tours were held to demonstrate the production techniques. Wholesale buyers were invited to similar events to view the quality of the produce and to begin the process of encouraging the use of locally grown produce.
For more information, please contact:
Canada-Saskatchewan Irrigation Diversification Centre
901 McKenzie St. S