Resilient Farms for Coastal BC: A Resource Guide – Part 2 of 2
Tayler August 29, 2018
Table of Contents
To learn more about what this resource guide is all about, be sure to read Part One.
Find your questions and click on them for helpful resources!
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i. What factors influence the regional climate?
ii. What are the projected climate change impacts for our region?
iii. How can I better understand weather systems/patterns?
b. Risks & Opportunities
i. What are the main challenges to our agricultural sector?
ii. Where can I find more resources to help deal with these challenges?
iii. What are possible opportunities?
i. Where can I find information about the geological factors that produced my farm landscape and soils?
ii. Where can I find my farm’s soil texture & drainage, and agricultural classification?
iii. Where can I find free GIS tools (topography and aerial imagery) for my area?
iv. If my regional government does not have readily available and accurate topographic information, what other options do I have?
b. Keyline Geometry
i. What is keyline geometry and how might I apply it on my farm?
ii. How is this technique being utilized elsewhere by farmers, ranchers & agro-foresters?
iii. Under what circumstances might a keyline layout not be the best option for my farm?
a. Sources, Catchment & Storages
i. What are the potential advantages & disadvantages of different farm water sources?
ii. How do I complete a catchment analysis to assess the volume of surface water I have access to on my farm?
iii. Where can I find information on my well?
iv. How can I access surface water and develop springs for farm use?
b. Choosing Irrigation Types
i. What resources exist to help choose my irrigation type?
ii. Is ‘dry farming’ (no irrigation) an option?
c. Water Usage
i. How much water do my crops need?
ii. What steps can I take to ensure I am being efficient with my irrigation water?
d. Pond Design & Construction
i. What regulatory measures need to be addressed to construct a farm pond?
ii. How big should my pond/reservoir be?
iii. What construction details must be considered to build a safe, sealed pond?
e. Pumping Systems
i. How do I choose which pump is right for my pond irrigation system?
ii. Is solar-powered pumping an option?
f. Gravity Flow Pipe / Pond Siphons
g. Keyline Subsoil Cultivation for Increased Infiltration
i. What is keyline subsoil cultivation and how might it help improve water management?
ii. Is there any research on this application?
h. Drainage Strategies & Other High Water Table Options
i. What options do I have to deal with standing water in my fields that limit production capacity?
ii. Where can I find specifications for agricultural drainage design?
a. Multi-Functional Roads & Access Ways
b. Alley Cropping, Silvo-Pasture, Shelterbelts, Windbreaks, Nitrogen-Fixing Species & Shade Trees
a. Sustaining Soil Fertility
i. What resources are available to help farmers better understand building and maintaining soil fertility?
b. DIY Soil Testing & Monitoring
c. Lab Soil Testing
d. Dealing with Compaction
i. What information is available on keyline plowing or subsoiling to reduce surface compaction or a plow pan?
ii. What other methods are available to help alleviate compaction?
e. No Till & Conservation Tillage
f. Cover Cropping
g. Grazing Management
a. Enterprise Budgeting
i. Where can I find sample enterprise budgets for different crops in our region?
ii. Where can I find other business resources to help make my farm a success?
iii. What innovative networks exist for direct local marketing?
i. How can our farm decrease our energy use and cost?
ii. How can renewable energy play a role on our farm?
What factors influence our regional climate in Coastal BC?
The climate of Southern Vancouver Island (the Georgia Depression Eco-Province, pg. 47) brings a unique set of constraints and opportunities for agriculture. Winter rains compact bare soils and leach nutrients, fungal and bacterial pressure is high and many arthropod pests (mites & insects) are capable of overwintering more so than in colder climates. Summer rainfall is low and decreasing, making irrigation economically and agronomically essential for most crops. In lowland areas, fine-textured soils are susceptible to waterlogging. On the other hand, it is one of the country’s warmest and most frost-free regions, so the diversity of crops we can grow is great and many can be grown all year long. (See link above for more about the factors that delineate our eco-province.)
What are the projected climate change impacts for our region?
In 2017, the Capital Regional District commissioned and published a Climate Projections Report in 2017. It can be found here. Below is a summary of their findings, (pg. II):
The number of summer days above 25°C is expected to triple, from an average of 12 to 36 days per year.
1-in-20 year hottest day’s temperature is projected to increase from 32°C to 36°C by the 2050s.
22% increase in the growing season length and a 49% increase in growing degree days by the 2050s.
69% decrease in the number of frost days
Annual precipitation projections are a modest 5% increase by the 2050s and 12% by the 2080s. Projections indicate the fall season will see the greatest increase in precipitation. This precipitation is expected during increasingly extreme events, with about 31% more precipitation on very wet days (95th percentile wettest days precipitation indicator) and 68% more on extremely wet days (99th percentile wettest days precipitation indicator).
"Despite the projected increased intensity of wet events, the amount of rain in summer is expected to decrease by about 20%, while the duration of dry spells will lengthen by about 20%.”
What are the main challenges to our agricultural sector?
While the specific impacts of climate change to agriculture are highly dependent on regional climate, microclimate and the commodities produced, the following list identifies how climate change is expected to impact agriculture in general across the province:
More frequent occurrence and severity of summer drought; water shortages in more regions
Decreased snowfall in alpine areas leading to reduced snowpack and to water shortages
Increased precipitation (frequently through more extreme events) and subsequent vulnerability to flooding, erosion, nutrient loss
More frequent and intense “extreme” weather and weather-related events (windstorms, forest fires, hail, droughts, and floods)
Increase in growing degree days (heat unit accumulation) and a longer frost-free season
The potential for a broader range of viable crops in some regions
Increase in pest and disease pressure due to increased overwintering survival rates
Where can I find more resources to help deal with these challenges?
- The BC Climate Action Initiative has created several farm adaptation practice fact sheets which can be found here: http://www.bcagclimateaction.ca/farm-level/farm-practices/
- Andrew Millison, of Oregon State University's Advanced Permaculture Design for Climate Resilience, has created the Permaculture Design Tools for Climate Resilience: http://library.open.oregonstate.edu/permaculturedesign/
- Other specific resources will be listed below in the relevant chapters.
What are some possible opportunities?
Some potential opportunities related to climate change include longer growing season, less frost free days, availability of new crops and cultivars, new markets, growing market for local and organic food production.
Where can I find information about the geological factors that produced my farm landscape and soils?
- CRD - Geological History of Vancouver Island
- Geology of Vancouver Island - Steven Earl, Ph.D
- Soil Formation & Parent Material: Landscape Evolution - UBC
- Virtual Soil Science Learning Resources (VSSLR)
Where can I find my farm’s soil texture & drainage, and agricultural classification?
- BC Soil Information Finder Tool - Free Online GIS Software that lets you find your farm’s soil type, drainage characteristics and provides access to the BC soil survey reports created during the 1970s-1980s.
Where can I find free GIS tools (topography and aerial imagery) for my area?
Some municipalities offer very accurate 0.5m-1m contour lines, having done either LiDar or photogrammetry fly-overs for their region. Other municipalities have aerial images only, or 5-50m contour intervals, both of which are inadequate for the purpose of detailed waterworks planning.
- Capital Region Web Map
- North Saanich GIS Map
- Central Saanich GIS Map
- Nanaimo GIS Map
- Ask your regional government to see if they have open-access data they can share.
If my regional government does not have readily available and accurate topographic information, what other options do I have?
- Surveying technology has come a long way in the last decade and with the introduction of drones, we can now obtain relatively inexpensive, highly accurate contour data & aerial imagery from either LiDar, photogrammetry (using ground control points) or RTK. Contact a surveyor in your area for an estimate.
What is keyline geometry and how might I apply it on my farm?
- CRKeyline.ca - What is Keyline Design FAQ & Resources
- Free E-Book, Understanding the Application of Keyline Geometry, Georgi Pavlov
- Regrarians Handbook, Geography Chapter
- Free Webinar by Darren J. Doherty for Keyline Water Management Project, 2015
- Before Permaculture: Keyline Planning & Cultivation, Mark Feineigle, PRI Australia
How is this technique being utilized elsewhere by farmers, ranchers & agro-foresters?
- CRkeyline.ca - What is Keyline Design FAQ & Resources
Under what circumstances might a keyline layout not be the best option for my farm?
- If a keyline layout for trees means a significant compromise on solar orientation for high-density orchards, a more thorough cost-benefit analysis must be applied
- If soil drainage is your primary limiting factor and methods to improve the soil’s internal drainage through organic soil building are insufficient, you will need to consider other drainage options. That being the case, it is possible that a keyline cropping and irrigation layout could be super-imposed on top of other drainage structures like ditches or subsurface drains. Mounds may also be an option.
How do I complete a catchment analysis to assess the volume of surface water I have access to on my farm?
- Ponds: Planning, Design & Construction - USDA (pg. 13-22)
- Farm Water Dugouts - BC Ministry of Agriculture (pg.22)
- Water From Small Dams - Erik Nissen-Petersen
- Catchment Calculations - Treeyo Permaculture
- Runoff Calculator - Compute peak discharge from a drainage basin using the Rational Equation Method
What resources exist to help choose my irrigation type?
- BC Irrigation Management Guide - Editor: Ted W. van der Gulik, P.Eng.; Authors: Stephanie Tam, B.A.Sc., T. Janine Nyvall, P.Eng., Lance Brown, Eng Tech
- Large Scale Irrigation Methods - Ted Van Der Gulik, p.Eng
- Drip Irrigation Calculator for PNW - Washington State University
- Small Acreage Irrigation Guide - Byelich, Cook & Rowley
Is ‘dry farming’ (no irrigation) an option?
Yes, on some water retentive soils, ‘dry farming’ has proven to have some success. Soil type, crop selection, preparation and timing are critical factors. While one can expect lower yields, the drastically lower input costs could make a business case in some instances. Oregon State University has published fact sheets on the practise in a similar bio-region:
How much water do my crops need?
- BC Agriculture Water Calculator - a comprehensive calculator that takes into account evapotranspiration rate, crop, irrigation type, soil type/ texture and depth
What steps can I take to ensure I am being efficient with my irrigation water?
One of the most effective ways to hold water in your soil is by increasing the water storage capacity by adding organic matter. Using moisture sensors, employing drip irrigation and minimizing overhead spray are some ways. The following resources offer more information.
-BC Irrigation Management Guide - Editor: Ted W. van der Gulik, P.Eng.; Authors: Stephanie Tam, B.A.Sc., T. Janine Nyvall, P.Eng., Lance Brown, Eng Tech
- Large Scale Irrigation Methods - Ted Van Der Gulik, p.Eng
What regulatory measures need to be addressed to construct a farm pond?
- BC Water Sustainability Act
- BC Water Sustainability Regulation
- Dam Safety Regulation - BC Government
- Check your local municipal bylaws and with the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) regarding soil movement, as most municipalities will require a permit to remove soil from the farm.
How big should my pond/reservoir be?
- Use the BC Agriculture Water Calculator to determine what your crops will need
- Water Storage video (Climate Action Initiative)
- Add domestic usage if from the same water source
- If relying on a surface pond, it is a good idea to design the volume to be 1.5 - 3 times that amount to accommodate for evaporation, seepage & an environmental reserve, contact a local expert or professional
Is solar-powered pumping an option?
Solar powered pumping is an option for some on-farm applications, especially low-pressure systems like tank/pond top-ups and stock watering. High pressure, high volume irrigation systems will typically require costly PV arrays and battery storage to keep up with demand. If you require irrigation water when the sun is not shining, a battery bank will be required, which is typically higher than the cost of the rest of the PV/pump system.
There are many good DC–power pumps on the market for this application. They can be suitable for drip irrigation and micro-sprinkler systems.
Some excellent suppliers include:
- Sundog Solar - https://www.sundogsolarwind.com/
- Backwoods Solar - http://www.backwoodssolar.com/
- Keln Solar - http://kellnsolar.com/
- CAP Solar: http://www.capsolar.com/
Below is a sample solar pump system that keeps an upper pond topped up from a lower reservoir on a 2.5 acre market garden.
13 M of lift ( 42 ft. )
350 M of transfer ( 1137 ft. )
3 million liter storage
consumption is estimated at 15000 liters / day ( 3300 imperial gallons )
Season of use = may 1st to October 15 th
Here is the average amount of good solar sun per day per month at Comox, British Columbia
May – 5.54 hrs. / day x 60 minutes/ hr. = 332 minutes x 10.9 gpm = 3623 gallons per day in May (
June – 5.75 hrs. /day x 60 minutes /hr. = 345 minutes x 10.9 gpm = 3760 gallons per day in June
July – 6.31 hrs. / day x 60min = 378 x 10.9 = 4127 gallons per day in July
August – 5.36 hrs./day x 60 min = 321 x 10.9 =3505 gallons per day in August
September – 3.79 hrs./day x 60 min = 227 x 10.9 = 2474 / day in September
October – 1.90 hrs. / day x 60 min = 114 x 10.9 =1242 gallons per day in October
Using a 1.5 inch transfer pipe we can assume we will produce 10.9 gpm, which includes all friction loss calculations.
2- 250 watt Solar Panel Modules
2- Heavy Duty High Wind load Solar Panel Module Mounts
50 ft. Submersible Solar Pump Cable
1-Sub 750 KU4-0214-48 volt stainless steel Submersible Solar Pump
1- Submersible Pump float if required ( floats the pump approx. seven inches below surface )
Total Cost = $ 4910 CAN (2016 pricing)
Is a gravity flow pipeline system an option for my farm pond/tank?
Gravity flow water pipelines are capable of offering 0.43 psi per foot of head pressure. The larger the pipe size, the higher the flow rate. This makes it ideal for low-pressure systems like stock-tank top-ups and drip irrigation. Large elevation drops can make low-pressure sprinklers an option as well.
The minimum PSI required to run thin-walled driplines optimally is 8-10psi, meaning one would require approximately 19 feet of head pressure.
- Gravity Flow Pipelines - BC Ministry of Agriculture
What is keyline subsoil cultivation and how might it help improve water management?
- CRKeyline - What is Keyline?
- Before Permaculture: Keyline Planning & Cultivation
Is there any research on this application?
- CRKeyline – Final Report
- Keyline Cultivation Field Monitoring Results (Vermont)
What options do I have to deal with standing water in my fields that limit production capacity?
Before excessive drainage is installed, it is important to optimize the soil’s internal drainage by incorporating cover crops, organic matter, biological inoculants and other soil best management strategies.
Mounding is also an option. Similar to the ‘chinampas’ of Meso-American societies in Mexico, some sites could benefit from permanent earthworks to establish seasonally flooded pathways and raised mounds for growing. This ensures permanently aerobic soils in areas with a high water table. The main disadvantages are the energy output to initially create the earthworks. More temperate climate zone research is needed on this technique.
Here is a sample concept:
Source: Hatchet & Seed – Tayler Krawczyk
This basic idea could be adapted to many different production systems. Choosing crops that are more suited to seasonally flooded conditions will also ensure more reliable production.
Lastly, farm drainage is an option. See below.
Where can I find specifications for agricultural drainage design?
Due to the predicted increased severity and intensity of storms, field drainage specifications are being updated by engineers and agrologists. In some areas, stormwater impact is exacerbated by rural development and the associated stormwater runoff increases.
Resources for drainage design include:
- Climate Change Adaptation and On Farm Drainage Management in Delta, British Columbia: Current Knowledge and Practices (updated research that takes future climate projections into account)
- Drainage: BC Farm Practices & Climate Change Adaptation
- BC Agriculture Drainage Manual
- Questions and answers about drainage water management for the Midwest - University of Minnesota Extension
- Water Table Management - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - Natural Resources and Environment
What resources are available to help design integrated farm roads to help manage water?
- Farm Roads: Assessment & Design Criteria - Georgi Pavlov
- Farm Roadways: Design & Construction - Tom Ryan
- Water from Farm Roads - Erik Nissen-Petersen
- Water Harvesting from Low-Standard Rural Roads - Bill Zeedyk
- Water/Road Interaction: Introduction to Surface Cross Drains - USDA
- Rural Roads: A Construction and Maintenance Guide for California Landowners - University of California
- Handbook for Forest, Ranch & Rural Roads - Pacific Watershed Associates
Where can I find information on using trees to perform multiple functions on the farm?
- Shelterbelts - BC Farm Practices & Climate Change Adaptation
- Agro-Forestry Systems in BC - BC Ministry of Agriculture
- Okanagan Farm Demonstrating Alley Cropping with Black Walnut and Pawpaw
- Agroforestry Projects in BC - UBC
What are some resources for designing multi-functional, resilient farm buildings & structures?
Many regenerative farm enterprises are moving towards multi-functional and moveable infrastructure, particularly when it comes to livestock. Examples include chicken tractors, moveable greenhouses that double as winter chicken shelter, moveable milking stations, and portable shade structures. There is also a growing interest in mobile abattoirs.
Here are some resources on these topics:
- Chicken Tractor Plans
- BC Abattoir Regulation
- Mobile abattoirs: the BC experience
- Mobile Egg Mobile – Ridgedale Permaculture
- Making a very inexpensive grain silo – Ridgedale Permaculture
- Chickens & moveable greenhouses – Ridgedale Permaculture
What resources are available to help farmers better understand building and maintaining soil fertility?
- Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health - Cornell University
- Guidelines for Soil Quality Assessment in Conservation Planning - NRCS
- Soil Quality Indicator fact Sheets - NRCS
- Building Soils for Better Crops - SARE
What is the difference between various soil testing services available in western Canada?
- Soil Nutrient Testing - BC Ministry of Environment
What information is available on keyline plowing or subsoiling to reduce surface compaction or a plow pan?
What are other methods available to help alleviate compaction?
- There is strong evidence to suggest that plant roots and their subsequent biology may be as, or more effective than steel implements to break up compaction. Alfalfa and radishes are two well-established examples of this.
- Plants Are Better Than Subsoilers For Reducing Soil Compaction - On Pasture
Where can I find information on cover-cropping?
- Beyond Black Plastic, Rodale Institute
- Winter Cover Cropping on Fraser River Delta - Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust
- Cover Cropping & Relay Crops - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
- Plants Are Better Than Subsoilers For Reducing Soil Compaction - On Pasture
Where can I find information on grazing management for soil health?
- Bulls eye: Targeting Your Rangeland Health Objectives - Kirk Gadzia & Todd Graham
- Using Management-Intensive Grazing for Adapting to and Mitigating Climate Change - BC Food & Agriculture Climate Action
- BC Management Intensive Grazing - BC Food & Agriculture Climate Action
- Final Report: Grazing Project Leading to Greener Pastures for Climate Adaptation (Thompson University)
Where can I find sample enterprise budgets for different crops in our region?
- Enterprise Budget Blog & Webinar - Young Agrarians
- Enterprise Budgets for Small Scale Organic Farming - Institute for Sustainable Food Systems, Kwantlan Polytechnic University
- Enterprise Budgets - BC Ministry of Agriculture
- Organic Grains Transition Enterprise Budget - Planning for Profit series
How can renewable energy play a role on our farm?
- Wood gasification systems may be an option for farms with excess woody debris and the means to process it. Here are a couple of commercial models available for producing electricity:
- Report on the chipping & screening requirements for cottage-scale wood gasification energy production, by Hatchet & Seed
Solar and wind energy are becoming increasingly cost-effective, especially when combined with more frugal and efficient energy usage. Bio-gas digestion is another option for farms.
- The Backwoods Solar Catalogue provides an excellent place to start learning more
- An Introduction to Renewable Energy Options for Farmers - Government of New Brunswick
- See www.eco-sense.ca for a great Vancouver Island example of a net-zero, zero-waste property