Theo Slingerland farms near Lethbridge, Alberta. He immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands in 1989 and purchased his first quarter section in 1992. Over the years Theo produced hay and cereals in addition to working on neighbours’ dairy and pig farms. It was in 2000 that Theo began to grow berries and corn, which led to his development of the first corn maze in Alberta.
Overhead sprinkler irrigation replaced flood irrigation for the corn maze in 2005 and in 2015, Theo came across sub surface drip irrigation (SDI) in hopes of lowering the number of hours he was spending irrigating. Initially he had concerns about uneven crops leading to visible crop striping (not ideal for a corn maze). The first growing season brought much learning in terms of managing this new technology on his 10 acre corn field (equipped with drip lines placed 11” under the soil surface and 36” lateral spacing), specifically regarding how much, how long and when to irrigate. But with the help of Southern Irrigation and personal experimentation, Theo got things under control remarkably quickly.
Even with the delayed start in irrigating last year, Theo’s first experience was incredibly positive. In fact, corn reps in the area claimed that those 10 acres produced the tallest corn crop in all of Alberta. In addition to height, this was the most even and uniform crop that Theo has ever produced. This is all the more impressive based on the fact that the 10 acre corn maze is located on a corner of Theo’s field that has never been suitable for growing a vibrant crop due to drainage issues. Theo credits efficient irrigating through SDI, no runoff, and the loosening up of the soil as reasons for his huge success.
When asked if Theo would recommend drip technology to other farmers, the answer was “absolutely!” Along with his tangible results of crop uniformity and yield increase opportunities, Theo recognizes the importance of preserving water and using it most efficiently to help the environment and safeguard against possible years of water shortages or drought in the future.
Currently Theo is content with his 10-acre SDI irrigated corn maze, but with government funding through the Growing Forward framework, he would definitely consider converting the entire quarter section to drip irrigation.