farm

Researching cover crop cocktails

A tw0-year trial is looking at the impact of multispecies annual cocktail blends in the Peace Country

A trend with beef cattle producers in northwestern Alberta is growing annual cocktail blends for forage production, with those blends including cereals, grasses, legumes and brassicas.

‘There’s a lot of interest in the Peace Country about cocktails, and there are a lot of questions,’ explains Buthaina Al-Maqtari, research technician with Peace Country Beef and Forage Association (PCBFA).

She notes that cocktail blends could increase forage production, improve water and soil quality, increase nutrient cycling, moisture conservation and crop productivity.

They may provide a broad range of possible ecosystem benefits, including nitrogen provisioning and weed suppression, as well as improving soil carbon stocks.

‘Talking about the ecosystem benefits of cocktails is really important,’ Al-Maqtari adds. ‘There are a lot of producers who care about their soil, and they’re asking a lot of questions about how to improve it. Cocktails are one way to do that.’

In 2019, PCBFA began its two-year project, Multispecies Cover Crop Cocktails in Northwestern Alberta: Agronomic Performance, Ecosystem Services and Economic Advantages, at its Fairview Research Farm.

Seven cocktail blends consisting of two to eight crop species were tested against two cereal monocrops. All of the treatments including monocrop cereals were tested at three seeding rates – 100, 125 and 150% of recommended monoculture seeding rates.

For the cocktail blends seeding rates, an equal amount method was used to ensure that seeding rates for each species in the blend was proportional to their monocrop rate. The treatments were replicated 4 times, and all legumes in the blends were inoculated with granular nitrogen-fixing inoculant at seeding. A seeding depth of three-quarters of an inch was used.

Now that the second growing season of the trial is complete, the research team is collecting and analysing the data.

‘We hope with this project that we will be able to provide information and details for producers to determine the best seeding rate to optimize their forage production, along with maintaining the economic and ecosystem benefits that come along with seeding a cocktail,’ Al-Maqtari explains.

‘We want to see how cocktails are effective in improving soil fertility and soil quality along with enhanced forage yields and their quality.’

The research team will also conduct a cost analysis to compare input costs and output revenue and look at how cocktail mixtures can be tailored to meet a producer’s goal and their production system. They will also look at what’s needed to produce an economic mix that retains maximum crop diversity.

Al-Maqtari notes that besides all of the benefits for a producer’s soil, growing cover crops could be beneficial to the producer’s bottom line.

‘If a producer wants to seed a cash crop after seeding an annual cocktail, in general, it’s going to improve the soil. There is a benefit besides growing a good quality forage.’

‘Our hope is that following the data analysis of the results later in the fall, we will be able to determine some significant trends, profitable blends and an optimum seeding rate for livestock production.’

Funding for this project was provided by the Governments of Canada and Alberta through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership under the Environmental Stewardship and Climate Change Program.

In Alberta, the Canadian Agricultural Partnership represents a federal-provincial investment of $406 million in strategic programs and initiatives for the agricultural sector.

-Submitted

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
The County of Stettler has now been classified as an ‘enhanced’ region for COVID-19

According to the Province, there are now 10 active cases in the County, which has a population of 12,449 people

Annette Hunter
Clearview Public Schools and Alberta Teachers Association honours retiree Annette Hunter

Hunter taught Kindergarten, Grade 2, and Grade 3 over her 35-year career

A scene from last year’s Light the Night fundraising event at the Stettler Town and Country Museum. This year’s rendition is on a drive-through basis only, but it still promises to be a not-to-be-missed seasonal event.
Independent file photo
Stettler Town and Country Museum hosts ‘Light the Night’

This year’s rendition is drive-through only, but will still prove to be a dazzling display

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed eight additional virus-deaths Monday afternoon including one in central zone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
New record: Red Deer at 236 active COVID cases

One more death in central zone reported

Janelle Robinson owns and operates Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. The Ranch, just north of Stettler, is an animal therapy ranch that helps those with special needs and conditions ranging from PTSD to anxiety. Mark Weber/Stettler Independent
Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler provides support through animal interaction

‘I also come from a family of doers - if something that is needed isn’t there, you just figure it out’

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Executive Director and Co-Founder of Rock Soup Craig Haavalsen is sleeping in a tent outside Rock Soup’s location until the Go Fund Me for Rock Soup raises $10,000. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
Putting normalcy into asking for help: New non-profit sets up in Wetaskiwin

Rock Soup non-profit is a new non-secular Food Bank putting down roots in Wetaskiwin.

Wetaskiwin Composite High School. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools prepare for transition back to online learning

Grades 7-12 will are mandated to transfer to online learning starting Nov. 30, 2020.

Lawyer Devon Page, Ecojustice Canada’s executive director, pauses during a news conference in Vancouver on Wed., Sept. 26, 2012. The environmental law group has lost its bid to pause Alberta’s inquiry into where critics of its oil and gas industry get their funding. Ecojustice sought an injunction this summer to suspend the inquiry, headed by forensic accountant Steve Allan, until there is a decision on whether it’s legal. nbsp;THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Judge tosses application to pause Alberta inquiry into funding of oil and gas foes

Ecojustice sought an injunction in the summer to suspend the inquiry

Janelle Robinson owns and operates Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. The Ranch, just north of Stettler, is an animal therapy ranch that helps those with special needs and conditions ranging from PTSD to anxiety. Mark Weber/Stettler Independent
Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler provides support through animal interaction

‘I also come from a family of doers - if something that is needed isn’t there, you just figure it out’

A pedestrian makes their way through the snow in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Wild winter, drastic swings in store for Canada this year: Weather Network

In British Columbia and the Prairies, forecasters are calling for above-average snowfall levels

NDP Leader John Horgan, left, speaks as local candidate Ravi Kahlon listens during a campaign stop at Kahlon’s home in North Delta, B.C., on April 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Most Read