Thursday, 14 December 2017 06:56

Putting a value on topsoil, nutrient loss near Hilda

Written by  Jamie Rieger
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The losses of topsoil and soil nutrients caused by the Hilda wildfires and accompanying high winds are significant , according to preliminary figures coming from an analysis conducted by a soil scientist.

To try to put a value on the loss of topsoil and soil nutrients associated with the October wildfires and high winds, Cypress County hired the expertise of retired Ag. soil scientist, Rob Dunn.
"We're trying to put a value on the soil losses. In the old days, they would burn the stubble to put carbon back in the ground, but in this case, the fires burned the stubble, took nutrients out of the soil, and the winds blew it away," said Cypress County Ag. fieldman Jason Storch, adding that the winds blew 1/4-inch of topsoil off of just under 12,000 acres of cultivated land.
"Productivity comes from the topsoil, so we wanted to do an analysis of these losses,"  he added.
While the final report is not yet complete, Storch was able to provide a preliminary dollar value of the loss as it relates to the loss of topsoil and nutrients.
"The loss of productivity just from the stubble burn and the 1/4-inch loss of topsoil is just shy of $500 an acre according to the nutrient replacement cost method of value analysis," he said.
"You can't just pump $500 back into the ground. This is part of the rebuilding process. It was an immediate loss with long-term impacts," he said.
The data collected from the study is being sent to the provincial government's Disaster Recovery Program for funding.
"We have submitted the application to the Disaster Recovery Program and it would be nice to hear something before Christmas," said Storch. "We've been in a holding pattern waiting for the province."
A few months down the road, once spring arrives, there could be more issues with that topsoil that is now sitting in ditches.
"It could impact drainage, so we will be working on this, too," said Storch.

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