Bringing Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Research Results to the Farm
Farmers have some new ‘tools’ in their toolbox to help them increase yields and reduce costs thanks to research from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). Keith Reid, a soil scientist and agronomist working out of AAFC’s regional office in Guelph, has been working on two projects which are bringing important research results to application for producers.
“We’re transferring AAFC research results to the sector,” says Reid. “In essence, we’re looking for ‘the sweet spot’ where farmers can optimize agricultural production while minimizing environmental impacts and costs. So it’s not just how much nutrient to use, but where, when and how.”
One of Reid’s projects focuses on phosphorus. In particular, the development of a phosphorus loss assessment tool for Ontario which can identify what parts of fields are at greatest risk for phosphorus loss. For example, areas where a large source of phosphorus intersects with a high runoff potential (like a gully leading to a stream) may have been at risk. Previous predictive tools were incomplete because they did not address issues such as tile drains which connect larger areas directly to surface water, or the effect of season on the risk of phosphorus losses. The transformations and loss of nitrogen and phosphorus in winter have been extensively studied by two other AAFC scientists, Drs. Isabelle Royer and Martin Chantigny (of the Soil and Crop Research and Development Centre in Quebec).
In collaboration with AAFC researchers in Harrow, Guelph and Kentville, as well as experts from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Quebec Ministry of the Environment, they can more accurately reflect the processes driving phosphorus losses in eastern Canada. This team will continue to collect data and validate tool outputs so that they may further benefit agricultural production for farmers.
Another of Reid’s projects deals with nitrogen. Applying the right rate of nitrogen fertilizer is critical to productive crop growth while minimizing environmental impacts.
Reid has co-led this project with Dr. Nicolas Tremblay (of AAFC’s Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu Research and Development Centre, Quebec). Together, they have developed a software tool called SCAN (Soil Crop Atmosphere Nitrogen) which incorporates different sources of data (weather, soil type, etc.) to help farmers and crop consultants decide on the right rate of nitrogen application for corn crops. Eventually wheat, potatoes and canola may also be included. SCAN has been used widely in Quebec and is currently being piloted across Ontario with testing by crop consultants and agronomists.
“Our continued health and prosperity depends on proper management of our soils, but with the diversity of soils in Canada there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution,” says Reid. “Our challenge is to find ways to help farmers put the right management in place for their individual situations.”
For more information, contact:
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
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