A Natural Turbo Boost for Newly Cleared Land

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A technique to turn newly cleared land into lush forage and grain fields more quickly could help make Newfoundland and Labrador self-sufficient in livestock feed and save millions a year.

On average, it takes four to six years for newly cleared land to reach its maximum production. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientist Dr. Allan Kwabiah is working with the Dairy Farmers of Newfoundland and Labrador to show livestock producers how to speed up productivity and improve soil health in as little as half the time.

The research team has found that planting the right combination of forages (grasses and legumes) in combination with soil amendments, such as limestone and liquid dairy manure, can reduce the time it takes to build the quality of the soil and prepare the land for maximum production.

In addition to producing quality feed for livestock, the technique is a valuable tool for reducing the risk of soil erosion.

"This project has been a great success and our recommendations are being implemented on farms across the province. We’ve already been approached by farmers who have expressed an interest to participate in the next set of trials. It’s a win-win situation…the use of forages provide immediate ground cover, increase soil quality and provide the much needed feed for dairy cows."

- Dr. Allan Kwabiah, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

A variety of forage mixtures were evaluated in three on-farm sites across the province for feed quality, soil quality improvement and dry matter yield.

Results identified several forage mixtures that could be used with this technique in Newfoundland. The mixtures were various combinations of grasses including timothy, meadow fescue, bromegrass, reed canary grass and orchard grass, and the legumes double cut red clover, alfalfa, alsike clover and birdsfoot trefoil. The best yielding combination after three years was timothy, meadow fescue, alsike clover and double cut red clover. Research on the effect of forage mixture on soil quality is ongoing, with some mixtures appearing to have a positive impact.

AAFC is joining other organizations worldwide to celebrate the International Year of Soils 2015 and raise public awareness about the fundamental roles of soils in our daily lives. We are doing our part by leading research and development activities in agri-innovations to enhance both the economic and environmental sustainability of Canadian agriculture.

Key Discoveries

  • AAFC research has identified forage crops suitable for speeding up the productive capacity of newly cleared lands in two to three years, while providing interim feed for dairy cattle.
  • This research project has given farmers new techniques that can help them become self-sufficient in feed production.
  • Forage crops provide ground cover which helps control soil erosion and build soil organic matter. These techniques are currently being implemented on farms across Newfoundland.

Photo Gallery

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Newly cleared land on the West Coast of Newfoundland
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Forage crops planted on newly cleared land on the West Coast of Newfoundland
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One of the forage mixtures: barley, peas, bromegrass, meadow fescue and double cut red clover

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