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Growing Food in Dry Times: Drought in the West

It’s no surprise growing food uses lots of water. One cow needs anywhere from 3 to 30 L of water a day. It takes 3200 L of water to grow one pound of lentils. In this episode we ask, what do we do when there’s not enough water to feed our food? Here in Canada, prairie farmers say 2021 made history for one of the worst droughts Western North America has experienced in the last 1200 years. Dry spells like these impact everything from the crops we’re able to grow, right down to the food on our plates. 

Jay talks with Global Institute for Food Security Associate Director, Leon Kochian, about the challenges and potential solutions that can help farmers adapt to water scarcity in agriculture. We also hear from two farmers on the ground – Merle Massie and Reg Lowe – who are experiencing the impacts of this year’s drought first-hand. 

Guest Bios

Leon Kochian

Dr. Leon Kochian joined the University of Saskatchewan in August 2016 as the Associate Director of the Global Institute for Food Security and Canada Excellence Research Chair in Global Food Security. He also is a Professor in the Departments of Plant Science and Soil Science.

Kochian’s research deals with the molecular biology, physiology, and genetics of mineral ion transport and root biology processes as they relate to mineral nutrient acquisition, plant response to abiotic environmental stresses, and the role of root architecture in nutrient acquisition efficiency. He has published 290 papers in peer-reviewed journals that have been cited 41,862 times and has an H index of 113. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), as well as an American Society of Plant Biologists Fellow, a member of the ARS Hall of Fame, and a recipient of the Arrell Global Food Innovation Award, which recognizes global excellence in food innovation and community impact. Read his full biography here

Merle Massie

Merlie Massie is an author, historian, farmer, and researcher. She is an adjunct Professor with the School of Environment and Sustainability and coordinator of undergraduate research initiatives at USask. Read more about Merle here


Reg Lowe

Reg Lowe is an organic farmer located about 20 miles southeast of Moosejaw, Saskatchewan. Reg has been organic farming for about 25 years now and comes from a long line of farmers. He is semi-retired, and currently farms about 200 acres of the 9-quarter sections on his property.


Global Institute for Food Security on Twitter

Merle Massie on Twitter