Demonstrating innovative forage production practices to increase climate change adaptation - Project Summary 2014

FORAGE PROJECT 2014-2017

INTRODUCTION

While several forage yield evaluations have been conducted in the Central Interior of BC, there has been little information gathered on forage quality and quality/weather related factors. In light of anticipated changes in growing conditions and emerging market opportunities, research is required to assess innovative farm practices for adapting to climate change impacts and weather related production risks, and to identify new and adaptive management practices.

A recent 2013 study by the BC Forage Council (BCFC), “Forage Production and Export Potential in BC’s Central Interior”, confirmed opportunities to expand the export forage market and identified existing limitations. One such limitation is that in the Central Interior, the ability to produce a suitable volume of export grade forage is limited by variable weather conditions during the harvest windows.

Although standardized variety tests are extremely useful and provide valid data, conditions on each farm can be different than the test area, fields within each farm can also be variable, as can areas within a field. On-farm research is necessary to test and validate production methods and species in terms of: suitability, profitability or ability to meet desired markets in a variable climate. As well, on-farm research allows farmers to vastly enhance their knowledge of their own forage production systems, improve information resources and increase capacity within the agricultural community to support adaptation of innovative practices and technologies.

The BCFC is starting a forage project that will assist in the development of on-farm adaptations focused on producing high quality forage under a variety of weather conditions. Through the development of a weather station network within the production area, the evaluation of production techniques using on-farm trials, and the creation of a manual for conducting on-farm trials, this project seeks to increase the information and management options available to producers as well as provide for the long-term ability to respond to changes in growing conditions.

With the establishment of several weather stations, this project will also result in weather information from currently under-represented geographies being made available to those involved in climate change adaptation.

PROJECT OBJECTIVES

1. FARM-SCALE FORAGE TRIAL MANUAL

  • Improve individual producers’ long-term ability to conduct their own on-farm trials to test adaptive production methods through the development, testing, and refinement of a “How To” Manual and an accompanying workbook, that once complete will be available to producers throughout the province.
  • The forage research manual will instruct farmers on topics such as: choosing sites, site preparation, setting up protocols, sampling procedures, data collecting, etc. This project will empower farmers to improve their operations individually and collectively, and will encourage farmers to co-operate and share information, especially as government steps away from these activities.

WEATHER TRACKING

  • Increase access to regional weather and climate information to track weather variability, assess production and harvest windows, and increase potential for long term climate adaptation through the establishment and maintenance of permanent weather stations in the region that will persist beyond the timeframe of the project.
  • Increase producer knowledge and capacity to make use of local weather data and related decision tools (e.g. Growing Degree Day (GDD)) in production related decisions.

DEMONSTRATION PLOTS

  • On-farm forage demonstration plots will be established based on industry-driven questions. These will be operational farm-scale plots, where size will be a function of factors such as available area, equipment and number of questions. These plots will differ from typical research plots in that they will be operational in size and will not necessarily involve multiple replicated sites.
  • Explore potential to cost effectively meet export market specifications for forages through the evaluation, demonstration, economic analysis, and promotion of production practices which incorporate and/or respond to variable weather conditions.
  • Improve the capacity for future market development and production practice evaluation through the provision of forage quality assessment tools.

PROJECT PARTNERS

  • Funding has been provided through the BC Farm Adaptation Innovator Program, a Growing Forward 2 initiative; the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition; and the Nechako Kitimaat Development Fund Society.
  • In-kind support, production data and knowledge, and communication links to local producers will be provided from members of the agriculture industry in the project area including: Glen Dale Agra Service and Tophay Agri-Industries.
  • In-kind support including substantial time investments from forage producers who will not only be participating in the advisory committee and maintaining the various demonstration sites but who will also play a critical role in the collection of samples and data and in providing feedback on the efficacy, practicality and clarity of the Manual and Workbook. This type of participation has the added value of not only contributing to the project’s success but also building local capacity for future on-farm trials.
  • Scientific support and technical information will be provided by: Dr. S. Bittman and D. Hunt (AAFC), Dr. T. Jensen (International Plant Nutrition Institute), and Dr. B. McGill (University of Northern BC).
  • In-kind support from the BC Ministry of Agriculture, primarily in staff time and travel, will support multiple aspects of the project including technical information, participation in advisory committee, access to various contacts, facilitation and coordination support as required.
  • The BCFC will be providing project management, project administration, input during development of project deliverables, initiating the producer advisory committee, and general project oversight. 

 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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