Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr.—Image credit: Capital News file

UBCO gets federal funds for irrigation research

Ottawa kicking in $1.4 million to help pay for study that could help reduce greenhouse gases.

Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr has announced a $1.4 million federal investment with UBC Okanagan to identify irrigation practices that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while increasing nitrogen and carbon storage in soil.

The project is one of 20 new research projects supported by Ottawa’s $27 million Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program, a partnership with universities and conservation groups across Canada.

“Science and innovation will be the greatest allies in helping the agriculture industry to meet the challenges of climate change,” said Fuhr, who made the funding announcement Tuesday.

“Climate change and sustainability are key priorities for the government and this project with the University of British Columbia will help farmers adopt sustainable practices that will strengthen farm businesses and protect the planet.”

Deborah Buszard, deputy vice-chancellor and principal of the UBC Okanagan campus, said she was delighted Ottawa was helping to support what she called ground-breaking agricultural climate change mitigation research at UBCO.

The project includes regional partners such as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Summerland Research and Development Centre, the Okanagan Basin Water Board and Interior Health.

The program supports research into greenhouse gas mitigation practices and technologies that can be adopted on the farm.

Fuhr said farmers know the importance of keeping the land, water and air healthy to sustain their farms from one generation to the next and they also know a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand.

UBCO professor Dr. Melanie Jones said the project is looking at whether irrigation causes an increase or decrease in the storage of carbon and nitrogen in soil.

“Irrigation is essential to produce enough food to feed the growing global population, but we do not yet know enough about its effect on soil carbon storage,” said Jones.

“This study will start to give us a better idea, and hopefully lead to irrigation strategies to help retain more carbon and nitrogen in the soil.”