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Study researches wetlands and marginal areas

Study researches wetlands and marginal areas

University of Saskatchewan researchers are working with farmers to find solutions to better manage unproductive land

Staff Writer

A University of Saskatchewan (USask) researcher is looking for producers to participate in a study that helps the farmer and the environment.

The study is looking at wetland and marginal areas in fields that are unproductive and finding a way to better manage them.

“The project is really designed to address a big problem in agriculture in Saskatchewan and across the Prairies of producers having to farm around wetlands and marginal areas. They've been cropping into many of these areas that are failing or marginal or cropping right up against wetlands and sloughs or draining and degrading them further because they're in the way,” said Christy Morrissey. She is a professor in biology at USask and is running the project.

When producers try to utilize these acres, it can cause environmental problems, said Morrissey.

“We have contamination of wetlands with pesticides and other chemicals and we have loss of biodiversity like birds, insects and pollinators, that are dependent on those areas, as the only kind of refuge in an otherwise inhospitable landscape,” Morrissey told

The goal of the research project is to try and see if there a solution that works for both farmers and the environment. Morrissey started working with producers in 2019 to try one of these solutions on three of their fields.

“Producers convert up to 25 per cent of a quarter section that we co-design using their yield maps from previous years to look at areas that are low producing, marginal or areas that are near wetlands and convert those to perennial forages.

“The producer then keeps those forages in and manages them over a couple of years and we monitor things like their overall field yields, their profits and expenses on those fields, as well as the environmental metrics,” said Morrissey.

The researchers also monitor three additional fields on the producer’s farm, said Morrissey.

Since this project started a couple years ago, early data is showing good results.

“There's no difference in the overall yield at the field level or on the profits on these fields. There's quite a bit of variation between fields, which is not surprising based on their crop and their farming practices, but we don't see that producers are losing significant money on these acres.

“So that's actually encouraging because it suggests that the areas that they were farming were probably not productive in the first place. They were marginal and the costs of their inputs were greater than what they were reaping from the yield,” Morrissey explained.

One of the producers involved in the project has actually started planting forages on other marginal or wetland areas on his farm as he sees the benefits, said Morrissey.

“He sees that this is working, it improves their soil health, improves their water management and that saline issue is already starting to dissipate. So, the feedback we've gotten is that this really is a good solution for them,” she said.

Researchers are looking for an additional 10 producers to be involved in the project. Interested producers can learn more about the project here.

Constantgardener/E+ photo

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