ABSTRACTS

Posters will be up in the Manitoba Room throughout the event, but authors will only be available from 4:15 - 5:30 PM on March 5th. Grab a drink at our cash bar and get the details of the research below

Applying Precision Seeding Rates in Organic Dryland Grain Production

Sasha Loewen and Bruce Maxwell, Montana State University

Applying precision agriculture tools on field scale experiments has allowed for the development of on field precision experimentation (OFPE), which offers farmers and researchers new insights into the temporal and spatial variability of their land using modern precision agriculture technologies. OFPE is a methodology of farmer driven field scale experiments analyzed by scientist partners now, but with the vision to automate the analysis and recommendations for management. OFPE can be applied in any farm setting to learn about the variation within a specific field, relative to a specific input. The aspirations of OFPE are to increase farmer efficiencies, reduce inputs, and maximize producer profits through open source software applications. We demonstrated OFPE to organic producers by testing seeding rates of green manure cover crops and following year wheat (cash) crops using variable rate seeding equipment. In 2019 we planted (60kg/ha, 90kg/ha and 120kg/ha) peas on a field in Montana, USA that will get planted to three seeding rates of wheat in 2020. In the same growing season we applied three seeding rates (150 kg/ha, 180 kg/ha, and 225 kg/ha) of spring wheat and looked for yield differences across a 175 acre organically managed field in south east Manitoba. The high seeding rate produced the greatest yields, except on hilltops where the lowest seeding rate produced highest yields. Based on these results a model was constructed to optimize seeding rates across this field in the future. The net return on the wheat (based on 2013-2019 average organic wheat price) was $140.86/ha (USD). If the farmer had applied the mid-level seeding rate across the entire field they would have received $143.45/ha, and if they had applied the optimized variable rate described by the model, their net return would have been $149.58/ha. Early OFPE results indicate that optimized variable seeding rates outcompete farmer-chosen single field rates. Annual use of OFPE on a field will allow for continual optimization of that field over both time and space recognizing that performance will change over time and allow for quantification of uncertainty associated with recommendations. OFPE projects are underway on five organic grain farms in Montana and Manitoba. Continued experiments will test the efficacy on cash crops and nitrogen fixing cover crops, to optimize nitrogen levels in the soil, reduce weed pressure, and maximize producer net returns.

Struvite: A potential phosphorus source for organic crops

 

Joanne R. Thiessen Martens, Francis Zvomuya and Martin H. Entz, University of Manitoba

Kimberley D. Schneider, University of Guelph

 

Struvite is a sparingly soluble phosphorus (P) fertilizer extracted from various waste streams and is of particular interest for organic crop production, where P deficiencies may limit crop growth. Field trials were conducted in 2017–2019 at Libau, MB, on a high-pH soil with low soil test P (2-6 mg Olsen P kg-1), to evaluate the response of organically managed spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), flax (Linum usitatissimum L.), and a multi-year stand of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.)-grass forage, to differing rates of a commercial struvite fertilizer. Wheat exhibited a grain yield response in two of three years, while flax showed no grain yield response to added struvite. Only the highest rate of struvite addition (90 kg P ha-1) increased alfalfa-grass biomass yield in the year of application, but lower rates also produced yield increases in the second and third years. Alfalfa-grass tissue P concentration and total P uptake were also greater following struvite addition than in the control. Based on these results, struvite is a promising P source for organic crop production, but the direct agronomic benefit to particular crops may differ. Additional research on the role of particular plant P acquisition mechanisms and interactions with soil properties is required to optimize struvite use in organic cropping systems.

Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement (CANOVI): Growing collaborations for on-farm, decentralized vegetable crop research in Canada

 

Alexandra Lyon, C. Thoreau, and Helen R. Jensen, University of British Columbia

Aabir Dey, The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, a program of SeedChange 

Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement (CANOVI) is a 5-year collaborative project launched in 2018 by the UBC Centre for Sustainable Food Systems and the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, with the goal of contributing to the resilience and growth of Canada’s organic vegetable sector through the characterization and development of varieties that excel in regional organic farming systems. Working with regional farming organizations, CANOVI coordinates a network of on-farm variety trials in which farmer generate and share data about regional variety performance, currently for peppers and carrots. In additions, CANOVI supports three participatory plant breeding projects. These include 1) selection of a long-storing orange Nantes-type carrot with excellent flavour and early vigor; 2) continuation and expansion of farmer-initiated breeding of an early-maturing, blocky, red bell pepper; and 3) decentralized selection of various squash (Cucurbita pepo) varieties based on a range of farmer goals. In this poster, we will elaborate our project goals and methods and explain how farmer groups, NGOs and public universities are working together. We will provide preliminary results from carrot trials as an example of the type of information farmers are gathering and sharing through the trial network, and reflect on our experience piloting the use of SeedLinked, a new app and web platform for participatory variety trials and plant breeding.

Applying Precision Seeding Rates in Organic Dryland Grain Production

Sasha Loewen and Bruce Maxwell, Montana State University

Applying precision agriculture tools on field scale experiments has allowed for the development of on field precision experimentation (OFPE), which offers farmers and researchers new insights into the temporal and spatial variability of their land using modern precision agriculture technologies. OFPE is a methodology of farmer driven field scale experiments analyzed by scientist partners now, but with the vision to automate the analysis and recommendations for management. OFPE can be applied in any farm setting to learn about the variation within a specific field, relative to a specific input. The aspirations of OFPE are to increase farmer efficiencies, reduce inputs, and maximize producer profits through open source software applications. We demonstrated OFPE to organic producers by testing seeding rates of green manure cover crops and following year wheat (cash) crops using variable rate seeding equipment. In 2019 we planted (60kg/ha, 90kg/ha and 120kg/ha) peas on a field in Montana, USA that will get planted to three seeding rates of wheat in 2020. In the same growing season we applied three seeding rates (150 kg/ha, 180 kg/ha, and 225 kg/ha) of spring wheat and looked for yield differences across a 175 acre organically managed field in south east Manitoba. The high seeding rate produced the greatest yields, except on hilltops where the lowest seeding rate produced highest yields. Based on these results a model was constructed to optimize seeding rates across this field in the future. The net return on the wheat (based on 2013-2019 average organic wheat price) was $140.86/ha (USD). If the farmer had applied the mid-level seeding rate across the entire field they would have received $143.45/ha, and if they had applied the optimized variable rate described by the model, their net return would have been $149.58/ha. Early OFPE results indicate that optimized variable seeding rates outcompete farmer-chosen single field rates. Annual use of OFPE on a field will allow for continual optimization of that field over both time and space recognizing that performance will change over time and allow for quantification of uncertainty associated with recommendations. OFPE projects are underway on five organic grain farms in Montana and Manitoba. Continued experiments will test the efficacy on cash crops and nitrogen fixing cover crops, to optimize nitrogen levels in the soil, reduce weed pressure, and maximize producer net returns.

Soil aggregate stability increased with a self-regenerating legume cover crop in low-nitrogen, no-till agroecosystems of Saskatchewan, Canada

 

April Stainsby  and Martin H. Entz, University of Manitoba

William E. May and Guy P. Lafond, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Black medic (Medicago lupulina L.) is a self-regenerating cover crop which was tested for its ability to improve soil physical properties. Soil aggregate stability was assessed in plots that included a black medic cover crop in a no-till grain rotation, which was fertilized with two levels of N, for 15 years. In the wheat phase of the rotation, the medic cover crop increased mean weight diameter by 21% in the reduced N fertilizer treatment but not in the recommended N treatment.  Generally, the addition of medic reduced the proportion of small aggregates and increased the proportion of large aggregates. This pattern was stronger in reduced N compared with recommended N fertilizer levels. This study provided evidence for medic to increase aggregate stability under low external N input grain production.

Cover crop management for use with low residue legume crops in Manitoba

 

Virginia Janzen and Yvonne Lawley, University of Manitoba

After fall harvest, acres of low residue legume crops such as soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] and edible bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) are susceptible to the loss of topsoil by wind and water erosion. Fall seeded cover crops can provide needed soil cover. Producers working in short growing seasons such as in Manitoba need to make unique agronomic management decisions to obtain sufficient cover crop plant establishment. This study evaluates management decisions of cover crops at two different timings: establishment and termination. In experiment one appropriate a) fall cover crop seeding dates and b) species selection, after fall harvest are assessed. In experiment two the effect of a) spring cover crop termination timing and b) strip tillage used for cover crop residue management prior to spring seeding is determined.

A survey of green manure productivity on dryland organic grain farms in the eastern prairie region of Canada

 

Joanne R. Thiessen Martens, and Martin H. Entz, University of Manitoba

Derek H. Lynch, Dalhousie University

Legume-based green manure crops are central to successful organic grain production as they provide biologically fixed atmospheric nitrogen (N) to the system. Farm surveys have provided information on green manure use in organic rotations on Prairie farms, but details of the green manure crop themselves have not been previously documented for this region. Therefore, the objective of this study was to document properties of legume-based green manure crops in organic production systems in order to characterize green manure production and nutrient concentration parameters, increase understanding of farmers’ green manure choices and management practices, and guide future research on green manure use and nutrient management in these systems. Soil and plant tissue were sampled in annual, biennial and perennial green manures on forty-one fields in the eastern prairies. Green manure biomass averaged 4572 kg ha-1; 53% was legume plant material and 18% was weeds. N and P concentrations in plant tissue averaged 23 and 2.1 mg g-1, respectively, and were generally lower in forage legumes and higher in hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth). Mean N fixation was estimated at 71 kg ha-1. This observational study provides a baseline for future research to optimize green manure and nutrient management in organic grain production systems.

Prairie Cover Crop Survey

 

Callum Morrison and Yvonne Lawley, University of Manitoba

 

Early adopters have been growing cover crops in the Canadian Prairies for several years. Little information is available on the current extent of cover cropping across the three prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. The Prairie Cover Crop Survey is a three year survey being conducted from 2019-2021 that will provide baseline statistics of cover cropping adoption in Western Canada. Questions  for this on-line survey include the total area under cover cropping, the number of farms employing cover cropping, regions where cover cropping is used, common species, agronomic practices, and motivations for planting cover crops. Preliminary results from the 2019 survey will be presented and farmers that grew cover crops in 2019 can learn how to add their voice to the survey.

The ecology of P capture in organic wheat: Is selection under low P, organic conditions going to get us there sooner?

 

Michelle K. Carkner, Jessica Nicksy and Martin H. Entz, University of Manitoba

 

Canada’s first organic participatory wheat breeding (PPB) program has produced 50 lines bred by organic farmers on their own farms for three years (F3-F6). Many of the lines were selected under environments that have been organic for 20+ years, therefore under low phosphorus (P) or sourced from biological P (manure) for many years. Greater understanding of the impact selection environment may have on AMF colonization and phosphorus uptake in breeding programs is essential as P is a finite, non-renewable, and geographically restricted resource. This work is part of a larger body of work examining phosphorus uptake strategies for farmer selected breeding lines under low P and alternative P sources.

Organic crop production systems create a soil environment very different from conventional systems, and in many cases, lower in P. Many studies have reported that organic farms exhibit greater biological activity and greater AMF colonization in host plants than conventionally managed land. In some cases, like on dryland organic farms in the Canadian Prairie Provinces, this was due to low inorganic P availability, most P was in the organic form unavailable to crops.

Preliminary yield trials comparing PPB breeding lines to conventional registered checks have been conducted at 5 organic sites across the Canadian prairies in 2017 and 2019. In 2017, as a group, farmer lines significantly out-yielded conventional checks by 266 kg ha-1 in the low-yield site and 435 kg ha-1 in the high yield site. The mechanisms resulting in greater yield performance by farmer-selected genotypes will be focus of future research.  A preliminary study (Nicksy, unpublished) compared one farmer line “IG” with one conventional cultivar, “Brandon”, under a low P environment with synthetic and biological fertilizers (monoammonium phosphate (MAP), compost, frass, and unfertilized). Biomass at Zadoks stage 31 exhibited a cultivar*fertilizer interaction. The “IG” line was higher than “Brandon” in compost, frass, unfertilized by 251, 187, and 248 kg ha-1 respectively, however, “Brandon” biomass was greater than “IG” in under MAP by 227 kg ha-1. Therefore, it appeared the farmer-selected line was better able to respond to biological P sources, while the conventional check line was better able to respond to synthetic fertilizer P.  Future studies will investigate a wide range of farmer-selected lines and their interaction with different components and processes within the “soil-plant P ecosystem”.  

Struvite: A potential phosphorus source for organic crops

 

Joanne R. Thiessen Martens, Francis Zvomuya and Martin H. Entz, University of Manitoba

Kimberley D. Schneider, University of Guelph

 

Struvite is a sparingly soluble phosphorus (P) fertilizer extracted from various waste streams and is of particular interest for organic crop production, where P deficiencies may limit crop growth. Field trials were conducted in 2017–2019 at Libau, MB, on a high-pH soil with low soil test P (2-6 mg Olsen P kg-1), to evaluate the response of organically managed spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), flax (Linum usitatissimum L.), and a multi-year stand of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.)-grass forage, to differing rates of a commercial struvite fertilizer. Wheat exhibited a grain yield response in two of three years, while flax showed no grain yield response to added struvite. Only the highest rate of struvite addition (90 kg P ha-1) increased alfalfa-grass biomass yield in the year of application, but lower rates also produced yield increases in the second and third years. Alfalfa-grass tissue P concentration and total P uptake were also greater following struvite addition than in the control. Based on these results, struvite is a promising P source for organic crop production, but the direct agronomic benefit to particular crops may differ. Additional research on the role of particular plant P acquisition mechanisms and interactions with soil properties is required to optimize struvite use in organic cropping systems.

Anthronutrients: Soil Amendments for Closing Urban to Rural Nutrient Cycles

 

Jessica Nicksy, Martin Entz and Brian Amiro, University of Manitoba

 

Nutrient export from agricultural land can lead to nutrient deficiency and system collapse over time. This problem is especially prevalent for phosphorus in organically managed systems where options for nutrient import are limited. Simultaneously, nutrients exported from farms contribute to environmental problems like eutrophication if released to the environment. Diverting more food and human “waste” products back to farms, rather than allowing them to enter landfills or waterways, is necessary for long term food system sustainability.

This research project investigates the phosphorus supplying potential of three “anthronutrients”, which are defined in this study as nutrients which pass through urban areas before cycling back onto farms:

  1. Struvite, a hydrated magnesium ammonium phosphate mineral which can be extracted from municipal wastewater

  2. Black soldier fly larvae frass, the waste product of larvae that have been used to process urban food waste

  3. Anaerobic digestate produced from municipal green waste and food processing waste

The anthronutrients are compared with an unfertilized control and common organic and conventional nutrient sources: composted livestock manure and synthetic mono-ammonium phosphate fertilizer. The nutrient sources were applied to wheat and alfalfa crops in the field, and ryegrass in a greenhouse pot study. Preliminary results indicate that the anthronutrient sources vary in their potential to support crop growth. Frass and synthetic fertilizer generally showed the greatest yields, while the struvite and digestate showed variable results depending on experiment and sampling time.

Impact of tillage timing and intensity on weeds under organic management in the Brown Soil Zone

 

Julia Y. Leeson and Myriam R. Fernandez, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

A study was established in 2015 to determine the ability of different intensities of tillage operations under organic management to control weed populations while providing acceptably low risk of soil erosion in the brown soil zone of western Canada. A tillage system with intensive tillage in the spring only (spring) was compared to intensive tillage in both fall and spring (high) and a system with more moderate tillage in in fall and spring (moderate).  The cropping sequence consisted of three crops (durum-flax-lentil).  Weeds were counted in 20 quarter metre square quadrats in each plot prior to harvest.  After five years, the total weed density, weed biomass and dominant weeds were the same in all tillage systems.  Most of the explained variance in the weed community composition was determined by year (72%); however tillage system explained a small but significant portion of the variance (1.5%).  This is attributable to the more rapid establishment of perennial weeds including Canada thistle, dandelion and perennial sow-thistle in the spring tillage system, a potential threat to the long-term sustainability of the system.

Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement (CANOVI): Growing collaborations for on-farm, decentralized vegetable crop research in Canada

 

Alexandra Lyon, C. Thoreau, and Helen R. Jensen, University of British Columbia

Aabir Dey, The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, a program of SeedChange 

Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement (CANOVI) is a 5-year collaborative project launched in 2018 by the UBC Centre for Sustainable Food Systems and the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, with the goal of contributing to the resilience and growth of Canada’s organic vegetable sector through the characterization and development of varieties that excel in regional organic farming systems. Working with regional farming organizations, CANOVI coordinates a network of on-farm variety trials in which farmer generate and share data about regional variety performance, currently for peppers and carrots. In additions, CANOVI supports three participatory plant breeding projects. These include 1) selection of a long-storing orange Nantes-type carrot with excellent flavour and early vigor; 2) continuation and expansion of farmer-initiated breeding of an early-maturing, blocky, red bell pepper; and 3) decentralized selection of various squash (Cucurbita pepo) varieties based on a range of farmer goals. In this poster, we will elaborate our project goals and methods and explain how farmer groups, NGOs and public universities are working together. We will provide preliminary results from carrot trials as an example of the type of information farmers are gathering and sharing through the trial network, and reflect on our experience piloting the use of SeedLinked, a new app and web platform for participatory variety trials and plant breeding.

Using enhanced floral strips to promote pollinator and beneficial insect abundance adjacent to rotational crop fields

 

Michael Killewald,  Farnaz Kordbacheh, Alejandro Costamagna, Yvonne Lawley, Rob Gulden and Jason Gibbs, University of Manitoba

Beneficial insects such as bees, hover flies, and beetles provide valuable ecosystem services such as pollination and biological control. However, global insect declines driven by habitat loss are threatening these services. Flowering habitat strips can provide resources for beneficial insects in simplified landscapes. In 2019, we established 15 floral strips adjacent to rotational crop fields in Manitoba. Control fields without strips and semi-natural habitats were used for comparison. Pollinators (bees and hover flies) were sampled using nets and pan traps and beetles were sampled using pitfall traps once during the summer of 2019. We found significantly more pollinators and beetles in the floral strips than either unenhanced edges of the same fields or the natural areas. More pollinators were also netted in the strips than the unenhanced edges of control fields. These sites will be monitored in subsequent years as the strips establish.

Usage of flower strip habitat for improving crop yield and on farm biological diversity

 

Farnaz Kordbacheh, Michael Killewald, Jason Gibbs, Alejandro Costamagna, Yvonne Lowley, Rob Gulden, University of Manitoba

The main objective of this project was to assess the benefits of flowering habitat incorporated to the margin of crop fields on increasing the beneficial insects, including pollinators for enhancement of the crop yield. From multiple locations in Manitoba, we present the influence of flower strip on the yield of the soybean and canola flowering crops. We compared crop yield in fields planted with flowering strip habitat (strip site) and fields without such flowering habitat (control site). Within the flowering crop fields, we assessed the yield of individual plants by obtaining plant samples open to pollinators and individual plants from which pollinators were excluded (open and closed treatments, respectively). The proportion of seeds produced per unit biomass of individual plants were measured. In addition to this, we evaluated the performance of the plant communities for pollinators by measurement of plant cover of native versus weedy species within flowering strips. The cover of native to weed species was compared between conventional and organic cropping systems in which we installed the strip habitat. In the first year of the study, our results indicated that canola responded differently and more positively to flowering strip habitat than soybean in terms of increasing the crop yield. In canola, the proportion of seeds produced per unit biomass increased in the open plants (open treatment) in the strip than the control field. In soybean however, there was no difference between the proportion of seeds produced per unit biomass of the open plants in the strip and the control fields. Our measurements of the plant community indicated that flowering strips were well-dominated with native flowering plants in comparison with weedy species, especially in the fields with conventional cropping system. The domination of native flowering to weedy species declined in the fields with organic cropping systems, due to the higher weed infestation originating from the seed bank. This research indicated that installation of flowering strip habitat at the margin of crop fields may increase the crop yield of canola and the biodiversity of the plant community within cropping system.

The Road to Fossil Fuel Free Farming…One Farm’s Journey

 

David Rourke, Rourke Farms

The purpose of this poster is to share our journey from high input zero till annual crop production towards a future which embodies the aspirations and objectives of the UNIPCC SR 1.5. The report states we need to stop using fossil fuels by 2050 and at the same time sequester much of the excess CO2 back into the soil as possible. The first step in this journey was to acknowledge there is problem with an opportunity. An opportunity to image the next evolution in farm practice which would allow us to be profitable, to rebuild our ecosystems and still feed the world. I will explain our motivation to change, our new crop rotations using organic regenerative principles. How we look for continuous improvement towards our goals of 4x profit, 2x carbon sequestration, feeding the same number of people and reducing fossil fuel use by 90%. I will share some of our on-farm results of intercropping, catch crops, smother crops, under seeding and our 2020 green seeding trial plan.  There will be a short discussion of near- and longer-term motive energy alternatives. A reference list of successful organic regenerative farms for further inspiration. Finally, a discussion of some of the questions still to be answered.

As we progress on this journey, we have begun to collect data, first benchmarking our starting point in terms of soil measurements, financial performance, caloric output, and fossil fuel usage.

The poster is meant to further discussion as how imagination and innovation in agriculture farming systems can help transform agriculture to becoming a major part of the solution to climate change. 

Soil Salinity Hypotheses –How might farming have caused it?

 

Grant Rigby, Rigby Orchards

Hypotheses are presented, into the possible causes of increased salts in fields that impede crop growth.  Science principles and observations are discussed for the hypotheses of:  original sod breaking, soil erosion, roads ditches and headlands, sulfate fertilizer, cationic ammonium fertilizer, glyphosate and other pesticides, distillers dry grains, snow water capillarity, over-grazing, and continuous subsoil fallowing, as possible practices creating increased soil salinity.

Concentrated white salts on the soil surface in low patches of typically less than 10 square meters size, at a level preventing plant growth, appeared for the first time around 1995-2000, on a continuous one family operated 1882 homesteaded grain farm on undulated glacial till loam soil on the Canadian Prairies, the same as observed on most grain farms in the region.  Changing cropping agronomy in 2002 to counter all of the above hypotheses eliminated all bare salt patches such that before 2012 vegetation was observed to again grow everywhere on the farm.  Salinity indicator wild species such as foxtail barley and kochia were reduced to negligible without herbicide usage, being replaced by forage grasses adjacent to marshes plus annual grain crops continuing through 2019.  Which specific practices had been the primary causes of salinity was not determined.  Agronomy discussion:  www.grantrigby.ca 

© Prairie Organics 2020: Think Whole Farm | Brandon, Manitoba, March 5-6, 2020