Premier Scott Moe announced a $4-billion irrigation project that will irrigate 500,000 acres of land from Lake Diefenbaker and double the irrigable land in Saskatchewan. Stephanie Gordon of Potatoes in Canada reports.
The project is beginning with an immediate $22.5 million investment in preliminary engineering and initial construction.
Project construction is expected to occur approximately over the next 10 years in three main phases at a cost estimated at $4 billion.
“The announcement of this generational project will see the vision of Lake Diefenbaker completed over the course of the next decade,” Moe said.
Expanding irrigation in the province could allow more high-value crops, like vegetables, to be grown. Vegetables could range from potatoes, corn, carrots, beets, lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers, among others.
For example, in 2019 according to Statistics Canada, Saskatchewan seeded 6,300 acres of potatoes. Alberta, where irrigated potato fields are common in the southern part of the province, seeded 61,235 acres of potatoes in 2019—almost 10 times the amount of acres seeded in Saskatchewan. Water is critical to potato production, and expanding irrigation capacity in Saskatchewan will broaden the crop options for producers.
Water is critical to potato production, and expanding irrigation capacity in Saskatchewan will broaden the crop options for producers.
“I look forward to working with producers, industry and government partners to expand irrigation capacity in Saskatchewan,” Agriculture Minister David Marit said.
“From diversifying crop production and attracting more value-added processing, to benefitting local economies and adding to our long-term food security, increased irrigation opportunities support a profitable and sustainable economy.”
According to 2019 production numbers, the top potato producing provinces are Prince Edward Island, Alberta and Manitoba respectively. Manitoba normally sits in second place, but potato producers dealt with two bad harvest years in a row causing the province to fall back to Canada’s third top potato producing province. If Saskatchewan were to compete, it would have to produce approximately 15 times more than it currently produces to match P.E.I. production levels.
However, it will be up to Saskatchewan producers to judge if stepping up their potato production would be worth it.