Ken Coles was born in Taber, Alberta and moved his wife and 3 sons to Lethbridge in 2000. Ken studied at the University of Lethbridge and has worked as a researcher first for Monsanto, then for Agriculture Canada, and currently is President of Farming Smarter. In addition to these roles, Ken began farming 15 years ago, growing a wide variety of crops over the years.
Prior to 2016, Ken had been irrigating his crops with wheel moves. He considered pivot irrigation several times, but because of the shape of his land he could only irrigate 80 acres out of the 110 acres under a pivot.
After hearing about SDI, Ken realized that drip irrigation would be a perfect fit for his land. Ken made an agreement with Southern Irrigation to use his field as a research/test field to generate information and data on drip technology as well as using it for field days for anyone interested in drip irrigation.
The first growing season went very well for Ken. Even though he got a late start in the spring and the soil got very dry, he caught up through timely and efficient drip irrigation that would not have been possible with wheel lines or a pivot. Furthermore, July brought two hail storms and despite that, Ken harvested his best
canola crop ever. In addition to the higher yield, Ken experienced 30% water savings and some energy savings due to a lower pump requirement. Ken also credits fertigation as being a reason for his good canola crop last year. He likes that he is in control of when and how much fertilizer gets applied as well as the
greater efficiency in fertilizing.
Ken is very excited about all the benefits that SDI can give him. In addition to being able to farm all his acres, he can also grow specialty crops that were not possible under wheel lines. Another major benefit for Ken is the feasibility of the SDI to coordinate with his no-till farming practices. With the possibility of optimizing yields as well as quality, in combination with a reduction in irrigating man-hours, Ken knows he has made a very good investment.
In addition to the 110-acre test field, Ken installed another 25 acres in the spring of 2017. This parcel of land has never produced a good crop due to the low-lying terrain, runoff, and salt build-up. Ken is excited to see how well drip irrigation can transform this piece of land into a productive and profitable 25 acres. Both fields have been seeded with durum and seed alfalfa to be harvested the following year.
Ken recommends drip to other producers in the area and boasts about the increased efficiencies, higher yields, and additional opportunities.