Nutrient Budgeting in Organic Grain Production

Green manures (GMs) play an essential role in organic grain-based systems on the Canadian prairies by contributing to soil health, cash crop yield, and grain quality. While this is well documented on research farms, a recent scan conducted by the Prairie Organic Grain Initiative (POGI), indicated poor adoption of GMs and lack of proper GM management. The goal of this research project is to increase the use and proper management of GMs. The method to achieve this goal will be to increase information flow between researchers and farmers in order to assess current on-farm GM use and how this affects on-farm nutrient budgets. Dr. Martin Entz at the University of Manitoba has developed a co-design model that assists researchers and farmers to work together on nutrient budgeting. We will go to certified organic farms to collect green manure biomass samples and analyze for nutrients and micronutrients. The following year, cash crop grain samples will be analyzed for nutrients and micronutrients. Together with the farmer and with this information, we will be able to work with farmers on nutrient budgeting and planning for GM and best GM management. The data collected on the farms will go to a database to examine nutrient budgeting on farm. Funding is available within POGI for this project, but extra funding will allow for more farm visits, therefore more farmers can benefit from the extension, and we can create a more robust data set. Expected outcomes are that farmers will better understand their whole-farm nutrient budget, use the data set to inform extension for farmers, and provide baseline information on where we are now. Ultimately, the outcome will be higher adoption of GMs, resulting in overall increase in soil health and farm resiliency.

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