Thursday, 29 March 2018 04:30

Workshop will highlight organic and low-input agric. research in Swift Current

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A spring workshop on organic and low-input agricultural research takes place at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Swift Current Research and Development Centre, April 4.


The event will be an opportunity for producers to network and to receive an update on various research projects.
Research scientist Dr. Myriam Fernandez noted that scientific staff have been carrying out organic trials at the Swift Current Research and Development Centre for almost 10 years.
“The people that usually come to our events and also that come to our field days are interested in knowing what kind of results we get,” she said. “Workshops are a very good opportunity to present the results and we have a lot of results to present from 2017. So we're going to be talking about different trials and what we got and what our plans are for 2018.”
Various funding agencies provide financial support for different trials and the workshop is a way to achieve an increasingly important funding requirement.
“With funded projects, we commit ourselves to disseminating information to producers,” she explained.
“So that’s also a commitment that we have to producers and also to the people that are funding us. The organizations that are funding us are well-known organizations in the prairie. So technology transfer is becoming more and more important in terms of not only publishing results in scientific publications, but also letting producers know what we found and also trying to help them to implement what we found.”
The inclusion of presentations about organic and low-input agricultural research will be of interest to a variety of producers.
“We get a lot of conventional producers and people that are interested in finding out about methods that organic producers use that will address the high cost of inputs and also the increase in herbicide resistant weeds,” she said.
Formal workshop presentations will take place during the afternoon, starting at 1 p.m., but the event will get underway before then to provide attendees an opportunity to network and to accommodate two related presentations.
The networking discussions will take place between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. From then until 1 p.m. there will be two brief presentations.
SaskOrganics Executive Director Marla Carlson will provide an update on the Saskatchewan organic sector priorities for the next five years. Dr. Andy Hammermeister of the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada at Dalhousie University will speak via an online link. He will provide an update on Canada’s organic sector with an overview of Organic Science Cluster II projects for the past five years.
The formal workshop presentations will start with a report by Fernandez on organic intercropping, tillage and rotation field experiments at the Swift Current Research and Development Centre.
She noted that intercropping has become popular among both organic and conventional producers.
“In traditional organic agriculture they have a year of field peas or lentils or whatever, and they let it grow to flowering or so and then they incorporate it into the soil, and that provides nitrogen to the soil, but they lose a whole year,” she said.
“So by doing other things such as continuous cropping and intercrops the objective is to find a way to provide nitrogen to the soil without losing a year. It’s working really well for some people, and the other benefit is that it controls diseases, because you have two different species of two different groups of crops and they are susceptible to different diseases, … and they’re also very good for controlling insects.”
Fernandez will also make another presentation during the afternoon about organic trials that focused on cover crop mixes and allelopathy, as well as plans for 2018.
“We have different cover crops,” she said. “We have them individually and also in mixes. … Under that same project we also have a continuous cropping. It's called continuous relay cropping, so that you harvest one crop and then you seed another one in the fall or whatever. The objective of that is also to increase organic matter. The decrease of organic matter in agricultural soil is a big concern of people. So that is one of our objectives.”
Dr. Mike Schellenberg will make a presentation about the role of forage in cover crops. He will refer to the research results from work with multi-species mixtures, the benefits of polycultures as a forage crop, and new research directions.
Dr. Mervin St. Luce will speak about soil organic matter, its importance in organic production systems, and the factors and practices that will influence soil organic matter in organic production systems.
The presentation by Dr. Michelle Hubbard will focus on broadleaved weed control by the fungus Phoma macrostoma in organic agriculture.
“The last two years, 2016 and 2017, we have had small demo trials in the field showing the effectiveness of a biocontrol fungus called Phoma macrostoma,” Fernandez said. “That product was developed by scientists at the Saskatoon Research and Development Centre. So we’re just helping them out and growing them here and see what kind of results we got.”
Iris Vaisman of the Prairie Organic Grain Initiative will provide an update about the on-farm research projects in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“That is going to be quite interesting,” Fernandez said. “We’re trying to encourage on-farm research a lot because we think it’s the best.”
The workshop will conclude with a presentation by independent researcher and author Darrin Qualman about climate change and its consequences for agriculture.
He is proposing that low-input agriculture is the best way to deal with the issue of greenhouse gas emission and the impact of rising input costs on the income of farmers.
Refreshments and snacks will be provided, but workshop participants must bring their own lunch. For more information and to register, call 306-770-4495.

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Matthew Liebenberg

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