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Assessing the effects of wetland management practices on crop yields in central Alberta

Working collaboratively with farmers in the Camrose Creek watershed in central Alberta, the main objective of this study was to quantify how wetland management practices influence agricultural crop productivity.

An unmanned aerial system (UAS) was used to collect high-resolution, multi-temporal data that was used to map and delineate wetland boundaries and drainage features. The wetland mapping data was then combined with seeding and harvest data provided by producers. These data sets were used to estimate the productivity of canola crops grown within drained wetland basins to determine the economic benefit associated with wetland drainage practices.

The results suggest that the financial benefits of drainage are highly variable. For many drained basins, producers may experience financial losses that may be overlooked when profits are examined only at the field- or operation-level. While this study included a small number of operations, and was limited to one type of crop over a single growing season, the results still provide important insight into the extent to which producers benefit financially from the practice of wetland drainage.