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Regional organization showcases agricultural research to producers in St. Paul

A day of agricultural knowledge was offered up on Aug. 4, as LARA held its St. Paul Summer Field Day.
LARA annual field day
About 25 local producers participated in the Lakeland Agricultural Research Association's annual field day on Aug. 4, 2022.

ST. PAUL – The Lakeland Agricultural Research Association (LARA) invited local producers on August 4 to discuss its latest agricultural research for the St. Paul Summer Field Day.  

Amanda Mathiot, LARA Cropping Program Manager, said that over 25 producers showed up, which is a positive result, considering that LARA could not hold the annual event in the past few years due to the pandemic.  

“We’re happy to have producers come out, especially for their mental health,” said Mathiot. “It gives them an opportunity to get out, talk to producers, and just learn what’s new.”  

Agriculture research and trials 

Mathiot explained that LARA, in collaboration with other organizations, is conducting regional variety trials on crops across the province. The trials research how various crops grow in different kind of soils.  

She said this allows producers to understand what crop is best to plant in different areas because crops can grow differently depending on the soil type. The trials' results will be published in the Alberta Seed Guide that farmers can utilize for their operations.  

“We're trying to improve producers' operations and find ways to benefit them,” said Mathiot, explaining the trials being conducted includes analyzing the effect of Environmentally Smart Nitrogen (ESN).

Among the presenters of the featured research and trials at the St. Paul Summer Field Day was Dr. Obioha Durunna, a Livestock Research Scientist at Lakeland College. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saskatchewan, in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science.

Durunna introduced a growing swath-grazing system that uses forage blends while comparing it to a “conventional system” using cereal monocultures. 

He added that one of the objectives is to evaluate how much body gains young calves could benefit from either oats monoculture or the forage blend, and which system would benefit producers more in terms of forage yield and production risk during the winter. 

“We are particular about winter because it's the longest season, which doesn’t support forage production which adds cost to producers,” Durunna said to Lakeland This Week on August 4. He said the research on forage blend aims to identify and communicate alternative systems that will improve the “bottomline” for producers in the winter, in addition to providing information on the new production system that will help them make informed decisions 

Moreover, the research also aims to provide and compare numbers to help understand the costs of each system. He said, “The cost of each system depends on the dominant items and their costs influence the expenses in each system, but those expenses alone do not tell the entire story.”

“So, does (the emerging system) reduce production risks for producers? Does the forage blend offer (producers) a better alternative to reduce their production risk if there is drought or too much rain?” he said of his research. 

Durunna also hopes to conduct a survey to understand the proportion of producers adapting to the swath grazing practice. Swath grazing is a management practice used to extend the grazing season, and reduce feed, labour and manure handling costs for cattle producers. Durunna said it is a cost-effective system if done well.  

“We want to know how many producers are using it and those that are not using it. What are their motivations and deterrents? Why are they not using it?” he said, explaining that answering these questions will assist on lowering production costs.  

On-Farm Climate Action Fund  

The Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) announced on July 29 that it would start receiving applications for the On-Farm Climate Action Fund (OFCAF) beginning Aug. 4.  

Kellie Nichiporik, Environmental Program Manager of LARA, told Lakeland This Week the On-Farm Climate Action Fund will help create a lot of change, which includes allowing producers to add more species to their crops that they can under-seed, and get more diversity and increase carbon sequestration on the land. 

“They can also improve their grazing management,” she said, adding OFCAF can could potentially help producers install more cross-fencing, so they can do more rotational grazing to help improve pasture condition.

Nichiporik also said that producers could create off-site watering systems with the funding to improve pasture utilization and rotations. She added the funding will also support producers in decreasing the amount of nitrous oxide, which means doing more using “less fertilizer.”  

“With the drought last year, a lot of people had to sell off their cows, pastures got really worn out, everybody was stretched thin with their hay fields and feed supplies,” said Nichiporik, explaining the poor yields in the region last year. “So, (OFCAF) will help recover some of those lands through improved soil health and helps to “bring diversity back in.” 

In addition, Nichiporik said the funding would help mitigate the risk of experimenting with new practices for farmers to be more sustainable and improve production. She said, “Nobody wants to just go out and try something and then have it fail, so this will help mitigate some of the costs where they can go out and try it and see if it's going to work for them or not.”  

LARA encourages producers to get in touch to learn more about the funding.