Irrigated agriculture is the backbone of southern Alberta and contributes significantly to the Alberta agriculture sector and food production. Alberta’s irrigation industry annually contributes about $3.6 billion to the provincial gross domestic product (GDP). Irrigation in Alberta makes it possible for over 60 different crop types to be grown allowing more diversified production. Crops grown under irrigation in Alberta fall into 4 general categories:
- Cereals such as wheat, barley and oats,
- Oilseeds such as canola, flax and mustard,
- Forages such as hay, grass pasture and silage,
- Specialty crops such as seed crops, potatoes, sugar beets, hemp and vegetables.
Many of the crops able to be grown under irrigation offer high value to the producer as growth under high quality irrigation water increases yield and product quality. Forage crops help support the Alberta beef industry, by providing high quality feed to this industry. The irrigation conveyance system provides quality water to meet livestock sustenance requirements. The production of beef as well as specialty crops such as potatoes and sugar beets attract food-processing facilities to locate within southern Alberta and produce food for the world. The irrigation agri-food sector contributes about 20% of the total provincial agri-food sector GDP on only 4.7% of the province’s cultivated land base.