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Bibeau Hosts Panel Discussion On Regenerative Agriculture

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau was joined by the Liberals Special Representative for the Prairies, Jim Carr along with a group of young farmers from Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
 
Tannis Axten farms in the Minton (Saskatchewan) area, they have a no-till operation and see regenerative agriculture as a continuous improvement of the soil.
 
"Some of the practices that we use include intercropping, companion cropping and cover crops. It gives us great diversity and helps us keep our soil covered and protected. With winter, we can't always keep a live plant growing, so we use stripper headers to harvest that way we can keep standing stubble. We also try to grow a large amount of high carbon crops."
 
She notes they do large scale composting which allows them to restore the biology in the soil and controlled traffic farming. Which is driving on the same tracks for every operation they do in the field, to reduce compaction and fuel efficiency.
 
Allison Squires from Upland Organics at Wood Mountain (Saskatchewan) talked about how they have added companion cropping during their rescue or green manure year.
 
"In organic agriculture we do take a year off from annual cropping, and we seed the land instead to green manure, so that we can build back our soil in that rescue. So, we used to do one species of plants, and now we do five or more species every year. Something we've also done is we've also dramatically reduced the amount of disturbance."
 
They've integrated livestock into their operation and rotational graze across their annual acres which reduces the soil disturbance, while the nutrients of the cover crops are cycled through the cattle.
 
The animals also trample the plant material leaving it on the surface of the soil insulating it from heat swings and moisture loss.
 
Karen Klassen from Faspa Farm at Manitou (Manitoba) says they have been trying to introduce some climate friendly practices over the last few years, and have converted some of their land over to organic management.
 
"We're very lucky in that we have neighbors who have cattle. So we integrated livestock onto our organic land last year to graze down the cover crops. Which has been a really interesting and challenging experience as a new farmer myself and absolutely new to having animals on the land. It was an interesting year and we'll be doing it again this year as well."
 
She notes they also have been increasing the number of crops and diversity, so that way they can reduce the amount of nitrogen that they use.
 
Alexander Boersch farms at Elie and talked about how they've been integrating large scale composting and intercropping into their operation, as well as focusing on the carbon to nitrogen ratios.
 
"I think something that is underestimated in conventional agriculture is the effect of too much nitrogen in the soil and not just disturbance. So we've also implemented a lot of practices trying to minimize those by looking at different nutrients. Trying to focus on nutrient density in our crops and using more micronutrients, splitting up fertilizer applications, doing more foliar applications with a sprayer instead of spraying chemicals."
 
He notes that's been a big part in trying to reduce the farms overall carbon footprint.
 
Following the discussion, Minister Bibeau said she'd taken good notes and acknowledged we have to be careful about the way we (government) formulate the programs, the deadlines, and the administrative burden that sometimes comes with the program.
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