Biogas Production Opens New Energy Frontiers (2008)

Return to Environment

Converting manure and other farm organic waste into renewable energy

When assessing the prospects for large-scale biogas production in Alberta, there’s one powerful fact Mahendran Navaratnasamy keeps coming back to. “It’s greener than any other gas technology,” says Navaratnasamy, a Research Engineer with Alberta Agriculture and Food and the province’s ‘go-to’ technical advisor on biogas.

Whether this ‘green advantage’ can propel biogas production into a feasible option is far from certain, he acknowledges. There are many challenges, ranging from high investment costs paired with long-term paybacks, to a handful of important technological and logistical difficulties to overcome. But against the current backdrop of rising energy costs and growing environmental concerns, biogas production is an emerging option that is rapidly generating interest – particularly for its potential benefits to the agricultural industry.

Biogas production using anaerobic digesters can take large volumes of agricultural byproducts, such as manure, feed spills, meat and food processing wastes, and crop residues, and convert these into a form of energy similar to natural gas. “If we can make large-scale biogas production a viable option, it could go a long way to helping the agricultural industry address the issue of managing manure and other farm organic waste,” says Navaratnasamy. “It could also help reduce onfarm energy costs and potentially provide a new source of farm income. These and other related environmental benefits make biogas production a strong candidate to play an important role in the future of Alberta’s agricultural industry.”

Biogas basics

Biogas is produced through the process of ‘anaerobic digestion,’ or digestion in the absence of air. Organic material is placed inside a large tank, called an anaerobic digester or biodigester, where it is broken down by microorganisms.

The process releases both methane and carbon dioxide, which form the mixture known as biogas. The remaining solid organic material, known as digestate, retains the nutrients of the original material but is easier to handle, contains little or no odour, and is potentially a lower risk nutrient source. These benefits make it ideal for cropland application, which can help replace commercial fertilizer needs.

The biogas produced can be converted into electrical energy by internal combustion engines or power turbines. A co-generator can also be used to capture heat energy during this conversion, resulting in up to 90 percent efficiency compared to the 20 to 30 percent efficiency in conventional electricity generators.

“Biogas is similar to natural gas in that it can be used as a fuel in power generators, engines, boilers and burners,” says Navaratnasamy. “Agricultural producers can use biogas directly on their farms, to help meet their farm’s energy demand. Potentially, they could also sell any excess electricity to neighbouring communities or to the power pool.”

Biogas can be added to natural gas lines if carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide are removed, and vehicles can be modified to run on either purified or blended forms of biogas.

Key challenges

The main current hurdle for biogas production is economic feasibility. The capital costs of large-scale anaerobic digester plants are very high and may range from a few hundred thousand to a few million dollars, depending on the size of the plant. Several North American studies concluded the payback period can range from five to 16 years, depending on best and worse case scenarios.

Other key challenges are a lack of infrastructure and technological limitations related to efficient large-scale production and use of biogas.

“One of the most attractive opportunities is to purify biogas to natural gas quality and supply it into the natural gas distribution system – but to do that at a major scale would require meeting existing standards to ensure the efficiency and consistency of the process, as well as large investments in new infrastructure.”

Developing a large centralized digester would also require major infrastructure and logistical frameworks to bring manure to one place, handle digestate and manage numerous other requirements.

Growing support

Despite these hurdles, the prospects for biogas production are steadily improving as the technology advances and as government and industry get on side with supporting biogas as an alternative energy option.

While there are few large-scale biodigesters in North American, they are becoming more common in Europe and other parts of the world. A number of small biodigesters are being used by agricultural operations in Alberta, including several hog operations and a beef feedlot, and interest is picking up, says Navaratnasamy

“At least five anaerobic digesters are in use for processing agricultural wastes in Alberta,” he says. “A few more digesters are in use for processing municipal and industrial wastes.”

Most of the anaerobic digesters currently used in the agricultural industry process a single type of waste, known as a substrate, which in most cases is manure.

One of the best opportunities to increase the efficiency of biogas production is to include additional organic materials, known as co-substrates, to be digested along with the manure. However, this requires more sophisticated co-digestion systems – an area of technology in relatively early development.

“Technology advances in this area can make a big improvement to the prospects for biogas,” says Navaratnasamy. “Co-digestion systems would provide flexibility and increase the potential for farmers to grow and use energy crops to make additional revenue. This process may also enrich or balance the nutrients in the digestate.”

While viable co-digestion has faced several technical hurdles related to the gas mixtures derived from variable material, the good news is there’s substantial opportunity for progress, he says. “Co-digestion processes have to advance and I believe this will happen down the road. There are clear improvements that can be made with simply more time and activity.”

Recently, the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) announced the approval of plans for the development of a 3.2- megawatt biogas-fuelled power plant on the eastern edge of Lethbridge. “This may be one of the first co-digestion plants in the province – a sign that the technology is improving and viable.”

Integrated ethanol opportunity

Researchers are also exploring the opportunities for integrating biogas production with the production of other alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. At least two integrated production plants are under development in North America – one in Nebraska and one in Ontario.

“It’s no secret that because of the climate change issue and concerns around energy supply, governments are in support of biofuels,” says Navaratnasamy.

Ethanol production in particular has received huge attention and backing, he notes. But one of the issues with ethanol is that its production requires substantial fossil fuel consumption. Some estimates have indicated 1 unit of fossil fuel is required to produce just 1.3 units of ethanol.

“One of the opportunities being investigated is to use biogas to meet the energy needs of ethanol production,” says Navaratnasamy. “This would make ethanol production more meaningful from an environmental perspective.”

While there is potential for this type of integrated facility in Alberta, the scale currently required for economic feasibility remains largely prohibitive. “Looking at the new plants being developed, it appears that a production capacity of at least 25 million litres of fuel will be required, so currently there is not a lot of opportunity for that type of facility.”

Large integrated plants also require substantial and consistent huge volumes of manure within a reasonable distance of a centralized facility, he notes.

Steady progress

For Alberta, Navaratnasamy sees the most immediate opportunities as the continued gradual adoption of small-scale anaerobic digesters on livestock operations.

“Over the long run, I think we’ll see these digesters become a lot more common,” he says. “Managing environmental issues will continue to be a major challenge and that’s an important area where these digesters can play a role.

“I see biodigesters as one of the ways we can tackle those issues, while creating opportunities for producers to generate additional income by producing renewable energy.”

The pork industry in particular has shown great recent interest in biodigesters, as a possible means of creating a more stable future beyond its current period of financial pressures. A few individual livestock operations have also implemented digesters as manure management solutions.

The Alberta government is also showing increasing signs of support – most recently announcing funding to support feasibility studies, infrastructure and development of bioenergy alternatives and a bioenergy producer credit program.

“Right now biogas production is a technology that has not matured yet, but there’s no doubt it’s an important technology,” says Navaratnasamy. “As momentum builds with both the technology and the support for the technology, I believe we’ll see more money, more motivation and ultimately more opportunities for agricultural operations.”

More information on biogas production, including commercial technologysuppliers, is available on the Alberta Agriculture and Food website, www.agric.gov.ab.ca.

Article from: Farming for Tomorrow. Website: www.farmingfortomorrow.ca

Return to Environment

Biogas Technology Not the Right Fit for B.C. - for now (2008)

Return to Environment

European “Tour de manure” examines feasibility of anaerobic digestion system.

By David Schmidt, Country Life in BC – June 2008

Around the world, anaerobic digestion is being touted as a way to turn animal and green waste into biogas, a combination of natural gas (methane) and carbon dioxide, which can then be used for heating and/or power generation. The technology is already popular in Europe and was identified as an action item in the new B.C. Agriculture Plan.

A farm biogas system would put manure and other wastes through an anaerobic digester (AD). About 15 percent of the mass would be turned into gas which would feed a cogeneration unit and the remaining “digestate” directed into a manure pit and eventually spread as fertilizer, composted or used as bedding.

Last fall, 22 B.C. government and industry representatives took a European “tour de manure,” visiting about 20 AD’s in Switzerland, Austria and Germany, to determine whether the technology is applicable in B.C.

“The European biogas industry has boomed in the past five years,” B.C. Milk Producers Association director of producer relations Paris Thomas reported at the Pacific Agriculture Show in Abbotsford earlier this year.

Switzerland hopes to get five percent of its power, four percent of its heat and eight percent of its fuel from AD’s by 2020. To do that, they have removed tariffs on biogas fuels and upped electricity feed-in tariffs “to enable people in the industry to be profitable,” Thomas said. Since Switzerland has no landfills, AD’s also receive tipping fees for delivered waste.

While they are generating electricity, the Swiss are not using the heat effectively, thereby losing valuable energy.

Swiss AD’s are located both on and off-farm. He showed one farm which had built a bay to receive off-farm waste for the digester, reporting that the farmer considered the AD the best thing he’d ever done on his farm. He showed another AD which resembled a large industrial building, noting the facility had seven loading bays including three dedicated to deadstock. Heat from the AD was being used to pasteurize the deadstock.

Austria has passed a “green electricity act” which gives the industry 71 million euro per year in assistance, provides feed-in tariffs, guaranteed electricity grid access, 10 to 60 Euro per tonne tipping fees and tax exemptions through 2020. By the end of this year, Austria will get four percent of its power from “green electricity.” It is converting its government fleet to biogas power and expects to have 200 biomethane service stations by 2010. Like Switzerland, heat utilization remains an issue.

As a result of the incentives, Austrian AD’s have gone from producing just 2 MW of electricity in 2001 to 86 MW in 2007. The installations include a community sewage facility which processes 22,000 tonnes of waste per year.

Germany charges its consumers about 10 Euro per year to subsidize green energy. AD’s receive 20 year power contracts with guaranteed grid access and price premiums depending on the size of the facility. AD’s also receive a bonus for using agricultural crops and for using the heat. As a result, there are now about 4,000 AD’s in Germany. “This is a model we want to stay away from,” Thomas stated, pointing out the incentives mean German farmers are growing “perfectly healthy silage just to feed the digesters.”

The B.C. group hired Eric Camirand of Electrigaz Technologies to study the feasibility of AD’s in the Fraser Valley. Dairy producers like the idea of being able to do something with their manure while greenhouse growers hope to offset the increasing cost of natural gas.

However, Camirand’s report was not very positive. He noted manure is probably the least efficient source of methane, generating only 30 to 50 cubic meters of methane per tonne. In contrast, corn silage generates about 200 cubic metres and bread almost 600 cubic metres of methane per tonne. Even if they use all potential feed sources in the Lower Mainland, AD’s would still generate only about 50 MW of electricity per year.

Camirand said B.C.’s low electricity rates don’t generate enough return to justify the high capital investment. Even with their high incentives, European AD’s generate returns of only about $50,000 per year.

“The capital investment is about $1 million per megawatt,” he said. With B.C. Hydro paying only five cents per kwh for power, an AD project “doesn’t make sense.”

While B.C. Hydro is now offering eight cents per kwh for new clean energy projects, that’s still at least two cents per kwh less than what Camirand thinks is necessary. Other experts suggest AD’s need at least 15 cents per kwh to generate any return on investment.

Camirand doesn’t expect B.C. rates to get that high any time soon.

“We have the cheapest energy in North America and it’s already green.”

If there is an opportunity for AD’s, it will be in gas and biofuels.

Since methane is “renewable natural gas,” Camirand says Terasen is interested in offering operators long-term contracts at a premium price. Biogas is almost three times as efficient as ethanol giving it tremendous potential if it is recognized as a biofuel. AD’s can also reduce odour and greenhouse gas and improve air quality.

While Camirand believes the technology has potential, “current energy market conditions do not favour its development.

“AD’s future is in the hands of policy makers.”

Country Life in BC
Associate Editor
David Schmidt

tel 604/858-9193
fax 604/858-7043

Return to Environment

The Economics of Biogas Systems in Ontario (2007)

Return to Environment

Presentation at the Ontario Dairy Symposium; March 7, 2007 at London Ontario.

Donald Hilborn, P.Eng.
Engineer- Byproducts and Manure
Environmental Policy and Programs Branch
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
401 Lakeview Drive
Woodstock, Ontario N4T 1W2
tel:519 537 7928 cell: 519 535 0511 fax: 519 539 5351

There is interest in Ontario to install farm based biogas systems. Dairy and beef farms have an advantage because their manure produced is an ideal input. This paper uses information from an existing Ontario based farm using a biogas system to develop economic information.

Description of Existing Operation

This farm has 140 milking cows plus replacements. The farmstead consists of livestock barns, feed storages, equipment storages and two households. This operation has an electrical usage of an average of 700 kWh per day.

To replace external energy usage (except tractor diesel fuel), the farm installed an anaerobic digester in 2002. The digester produces biogas from the manure from the 140 cows (plus some of the replacements). The biogas is utilized in an internal combustion diesel engine that powers a 50 kW generator. Approximately 750 kWh per day is generated. Ten per cent of the power from the diesel engine is sourced from diesel fuel. Ninety per cent of the output is 675 kWh which is almost equal to the farmstead usage.

In addition to the electrical energy produced, an equal amount of heat (750 kWh per day) is obtained from heat exchangers on the generator motor. Approximately 30% of the heat is used to maintain the digester at 40 degrees C. The remaining heat is conducted via a hot water based system to heat the two homes. An insulated 5000 gallon tank is used to store energy via hot water to address the uneven heat requirements. The farmstead’s homes have been fully heated from this source during the past two winter seasons.

This facility is estimated to cost approximately $250,000.

Value of the Power Produced

In Ontario there are three distinct ways to manage on farm generated power.

1. Independent System

Possible to have a system run completely independent to the grid. There will be challenges such as the need to generate continuously (or store power) and the inability for certain generator systems to respond quickly to different load requirements. The full cost of this system has not been explored.

2. Net Metering Program

Net metering gives a renewable energy producer the ability to put electrical power onto the grid and remove it for power supply on the farm when required. Current rules in Ontario allow up to 500 kW of generation via this process (if grid capacity allows). The farm settles on a one year basis. If more power is put on the grid over this one year basis then is removed, the value of this extra power is lost.

Example Farm using the Net Metering Program

Avoided electrical costs @ $0.12 per kWh =$30500 per yr (12% of investment)

The example farm currently is using this program. In addition to the above benefit, the electrical demand charge has been eliminated on the farm because power is generated at the same time peak power requirements occur. Since more energy is produced then is used (appr. 50 kWh per day) the farm can’t receive value for this surplus under the net metering program.

For net metering to be economically effective, the farmstead should use all the generated power. Operations that are heavy power users fit this best. Net metering gives protection from inflation since you are replacing power that is subject to inflation.

3. Standard Offer Program (SOP)

The standard offer program gives a renewable energy producer the ability to put renewable power on to the grid and be paid a fixed price for a long term period. This program is available in Ontario as of Dec 2006. It pays 11 cents per kwh for the power plus a 3.52 cent bonus for power generated during peak requirement times (bioenergy systems only). The 11 cent value inflates at 20% of the consumer price index.

Example Farm using the Standard Offer Program

Electricity sold @ 0.125 per kWh =$34000 per yr (14% of investment)

No avoided electrical costs

An advantage of this program is that all the power produced is paid for. Operations that are not heavy power users fit this. One main disadvantage is that the sold power value inflates very slowly whereas the farmstead has to buy power of the grid for its own use that is subject to full inflation. This will have a very large impact over a 20 year period.

Standard Offer Program using clause 6.4

There is a section in this program that deals with an embedded renewable generation system (ie. introduces power into the farmstead system prior to the main electrical meter). For this case, the current understanding is that the farm will get paid the SOP price for any power produced less the Hourly Ontario Energy Price (HOEP) for any power used in the farmstead within the same hour.

Example Farm under the Standard Offer Program with clause 6.4 Avoided electrical costs = $30500 per year. Estimated Payment for renewable electricity = $18000 per year (selling at SOP prices, buying at est. HOEP, no transportation costs). Net Value to farm =$48500 per year (=0.18 per kWh) (19%)

Note. At the time of writing I am uncertain about settlement procedure, uncertain about demand charges, I assumed average wholesale prices in previous calculation and I did not take into account losses (1%)

This program (if available according to the current understanding) allows a farmer to sell all power produced and it gives inflation protection for power used. It is most effective when the farmstead uses significant quantities of power.

Value needed to be an Economically Viable Option for Ontario Farms

OMAFRA has completed calculations indicating that between 13.3 to 22 cents per kwh is required for a biogas system to be economically viable. This is assuming a mature industry, reasonable costs of line connections and no access to any other capital funding programs. The lower value (13.3 cents) requires a very efficient system likely with commingling of off farm source energy materials. The higher value would allow energy crops such as corn silage to be utilized.

The current Standard Offer Program seems to only be viable if the ability to trade power as outlined in clause 6.4 is available. This value is best if the farmstead uses almost as much power as is produced.

Other benefits such as …

  • high grade bedding production,
  • possible separation of sand bedding
  • effective use of surplus he
  • manure pathogen, odour reduction
  • greenhouse gas benefits and
  • effective treatment of off farm source organics

are not considered in this assessment. Any one of these benefits alone may improve the economics sufficiently to make the system viable. The challenge is to give an economic value to these benefits.

Return to Environment

Climate Change

Booklet Explains Basic Greenhouse Gas, Agriculture Link (Feb 2006)

Return to Environment

A new booklet that explains the basic relationship between Canadian cattle production and greenhouse gas emissions is now available to beef producers and the general public.

The "Greenhouse Gas Sinks and Sources Tour Guide for Canadian Beef Producers" is a very user-friendly, 50-page booklet that lays down the fundamentals of the greenhouse gas issue, says Lee Pengilly, a Saskatchewan rancher, consultant and writer who produced the guide on behalf of the beef sector of the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP).

"For a lot of people, the confusing part is knowing what it is about livestock production that affects greenhouse gas emissions," says Pengilly, who, along with her husband Ben, ranches near Melville, Sask. "What practices contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and what can I do to change it?"

Production of the Sinks and Sources Tour Guide is one of the projects partially funded by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada's GHGMP. The beef sector of the GHGMP is administered through the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA). Part of the mandate of the program is to provide education and awareness of greenhouse gas issues. Other participants in the program include the Soil Conservation Council of Canada, the Canadian Pork Council, and the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

A feature report on the Sinks and Sources Tour Guide is available on the CCA website at www.cattle.ca. Go to the Stewardship section and follow the links.

In the Sinks and Sources Tour Guide, Pengilly uses what she describes as "cowboy common sense" to explain in basic language and with humour what is often viewed as the complicated interaction between modern-day agriculture and greenhouse gas emissions.

The guide explains the various cycles - the mineral cycle, energy flow, the forage and grass succession cycle and the water cycle - that are naturally occurring. It describes the greenhouse gas issues and also explains increasingly common terms such as the carbon cycle, methane cycle and nitrous oxide cycle. Carbon, methane and nitrous oxide are three of the most common greenhouse gases related to agricultural activity.

One of the goals of the greenhouse gas mitigation program is to promote practices that reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by growing plants, which must have carbon dioxide and solar energy in order to grow. One of the easiest techniques to do this is to produce more forages and maintain healthy and vigorously growing pastures and hay stands. A portion of the carbon dioxide taken in from the atmosphere by the plants is eventually stored in plant tissue and in the soil.

Another important message throughout the Sinks and Source guide is that practices that improve production efficiency, such as rotational grazing systems, improve feed management and feed quality, and proper nutrient and manure management not only improve ranching profitability but also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"It's a classic win/win situation," says Pengilly. "If you can increase beef gains on less feed, capture more of the nutrient value of manure and improve pasture productivity and quality, it all contributes to improved production and, at the same time, reduces greenhouse gas emissions."

The Guide not only explains the basics but also provides several worksheets so producers can evaluate their current production practices and, in another section of the guide, producers consider changes that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Along with being useful to producers, the guide is also an excellent education tool.

Free copies of the Sinks and Sources Tour Guide are available through provincial beef producer associations and also from the Canadian Cattlemen's Association by calling (403) 275-8558 or online by visiting www.cattle.ca and making a request under the "contact us" link.

For more information, contact:
Pat Walker, Beef Project Co-ordinator
Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture
Calgary, Alta.
Phone: (403) 601-8991

Return to Environment

Climate Forecasts

The International Research Institute for Climate and Society has recently issued its climate forecasts for the coming four seasons. It is available at: http://iri.columbia.edu/our-expertise/climate/forecasts/seasonal-climate...

In addition, please take a look at our relatively new product: "Flexible Forecasts" [ http://iridl.ldeo.columbia.edu/maproom/Global/Forecasts/ ] as another way to view our seasonal forecasts. There is an article regarding this tool here: http://iri.columbia.edu/news/flexible-forecasts- for-decision-makers/ .

The IRI's climate forecasts are issued monthly, usually on the third Thursday of the month. For most of the globe, they show estimated probabilities that precipitation and temperature over the next four upcoming 3-month periods will be below normal, near normal or above normal. The forecasts range out to 6 months into the future, and can be viewed for the globe as a whole or for an individual continent in somewhat greater detail. Information about the forecast maps, and how they are developed, is given in the discussion link above the forecast map when a region is selected.

IRI Forecasting Team

Farm Income and Environment are Focus of Eastern Canada Conference (2006)

Return to Environment

Producers in Eastern Canada are urged to set aside two days in mid-March for a valuable conference in Moncton, New Brunswick designed to help producers learn more about improving farm profitability while benefiting the environment.

The Farmers Taking Charge conference, being held March 16 and 17 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Moncton, will provide a comprehensive overview of a wide range of beneficial crop and livestock production practices, greenhouse gas mitigation projects, and other environment-related issues, all of value to producers, extension specialists and students.

"The conference will bring into focus the essence of what we've learned over the past three years through projects supported by the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP)," says Jerome Damboise, Soil Conservation Council of Canada co-ordinator for GHGMP in Eastern Canada, based in Saint-André, N.B. "It is an educational and awareness conference being organized by farmers for farmers. The objective is to provide producers with practical, useful information on how to implement crop and livestock production practices that not only improve overall efficiency but benefit the environment as well."

The federally sponsored GHGMP, launched in 2003, wraps up at the end of March 2006. The key sectors of the program were administered respectively by the Soil Conservation Council of Canada, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, the Dairy Farmers of Canada and the Canadian Pork Council.

More than 30 speakers are scheduled to address the conference, not only to provide an overview of some of the major greenhouse gas issues but also to present specific management strategies that can be implemented on the farm. Along with federal, provincial and university researchers and specialists, several producers will also describe improved production practices that worked for them.

Following the opening welcome from Eugene Legge, SCCC president, Don McCabe, SCCC vice-president will describe the impact of the Kyoto Protocol on farming and Edgar Hammermeister of the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association will provide an update on a pilot Canadian carbon credit trading project.

GHGMP sector administrators will also describe a range of beneficial management practices that have been developed for crop production, beef, dairy and hog operations.

"The emphasis has been placed on providing specific take-home messages on manure management strategies, how to improve nutrient management efficiency, improved livestock feeding strategies, and how to maintain optimum yields while reducing tillage operations," says Damboise. "These aren't just theoretical discussions. Several producers will be relating their experience with these improved production practices."

The keynote speaker for the conference is David Phillips, chief meteorologist with Environment Canada, known to many as Canada's weatherman.

As a senior climatologist, Phillips' work involves activities relating to the study, promotion and understanding of the Canadian climate. As a spokesperson for the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC), he is well suited to discuss weather and climate issues on a national scale.

Cost of the full conference for early registration before March 3 is $75 per person, which includes the March 16 evening banquet. Cost for one day of the conference is $30 per person and banquet tickets are also $30.

For more information on the conference and an on-line registration form, visit www.scians.org or contact one of the GHGMP provincial co-ordinators:

Susannah Banks, NB (506) 454-1736
Rob Michitsch, NS (902) 896-7092
Tyler Wright, PEI (902) 887-2535
Ann Marie Whelan, NL (709) 747-1378
Carle Berube, QC (450) 245-1075

For more information, contact:
Jerome Damboise
Eastern Canada Soil and Water Conservation Centre
Saint-André, NB
Phone: (906) 475-4040

Return to Environment

Farmers Help Test new Greenhouse Gas Software (June 2009)

Return to Environment

Ever wonder how changing your farming practices can affect the environment? Now, thanks to research by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientists, a new software program can help farmers do just that!

Holos is a whole-farm modeling software program that estimates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions based on information entered for individual farms. According to AAFC scientist Dr. Henry Janzen who helped develop the software, the main purpose of the program is to help farmers envision and test possible ways of reducing GHG emissions on their farms.

One component of the program allows farmers to select scenarios and farm management practices that best describe their operation. It then allows the user to enter options that might reduce emissions and estimate how those options would affect whole-farm emissions.

“In a way, this program acts like a window, allowing users to look into the future, envision hypothetical scenarios, and look for those practices that best reduce emissions at their site before they are implemented,” says Dr. Janzen. Instead of an accounting or inventory tool which looks at the past and asks “what were my emissions,” the program helps farmers look into the future and ask “what if.”

The software is being evaluated by the Soil Conservation Council of Canada’s (SCCC) Taking Charge Teams across Canada. These teams, located in every province, will test the program by plugging in real data provided by farmers and report their findings to AAFC scientists who will modify the program into a final version for field use.

“Holos covers various conservation practices such as zero tillage, rotations with perennial forages, shelterbelts and riparian buffers”, says SCCC executive director Glen Shaw. "At a time when the agricultural industry is under pressure to reduce its carbon-based emissions, this tool offers producers the opportunity to identify and set specific reduction goals.”

The Holos software is an excellent example of AAFC’s world-class science and research that helps Canadian farmers remain profitable and competitive in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way.

Producers who want to download the Holos software can do so at http://www4.agr.gc.ca/AAFC-AAC/display-afficher.do?id=1226606460726&lang=eng#s1

For more information please visit:

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Science and Innovation: www.agr.gc.ca/scienceandinnovation.caSoil Conservation Council of Canada: www.soilcc.ca

Return to Environment

Forage Project Demonstrates Techniques to Benefit the Environment (Feb 2006)

Return to Environment

A three-year cropping demonstration in B.C.'s Peace River region is designed to show producers across Western Canada improved direct seeding techniques that will not only benefit crop and forage production but also benefit the environment.

The project, supported in part by the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP), is intended to show farmers a process for re-establishing hay and pasture stands without having to till fields, a common practice which not only increases the risk of erosion but also releases stored carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.

In many situations, hay and pasture fields seeded to domestic forages have a limited life span and need to be reseeded or re-established every few years, explains Julie Robinson of the Peace River Forage Association (PRFA).

A conventional approach in many areas has been to plow and disc these fields through several tillage operations and then re-plant a perennial hay or pasture grass-seed mix.

On annual seeded crop land, dedicated to cereals and oilseeds, for example, an increasingly common farming practice, in recent years, has been to direct seed cereal and oilseeds - such as wheat and canola - directly into last year's stubble without tillage.

"Direct seeding forages, however, presents other challenges," says Robinson, who is also field co-ordinator for the soil and beef sectors of the GHGMP in the northeast B.C. region. The soil sector of the GHGMP program is administered by the Soil Conservation Council of Canada. "The difficulty with direct seeding a perennial back into an unproductive hay or pasture stand is getting good stand establishment and good weed control."

The objective of this demonstration is to develop a system that eliminates the need for breaking the sod and working the field. It appears the best strategy is to spray out the old forage stand with a herbicide, direct seed an annual crop such as oats or barley for preferably two years, and then re-established the new perennial crop into the cereal stubble. This can all be done without tillage.

A decent hay or pasture stand will produce about 2.5 tonnes of forage per acre per year for several years, but as the stand ages and production drops to about one tonne of forage per acre or less, the field is usually tilled and reseeded.

"With tillage there's always the concern about wind or water erosion until the new crop is established," says Robinson. "There's also the cost of the four or five tillage passes needed to break and cultivate a field. At today's fuel prices, that isn't cheap. And from an environmental standpoint, cultivation affects soil structure and also releases carbon dioxide, a harmful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere."

A healthy, productive forage stand captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores or sequesters it as carbon in plant leaves and roots and in the soil. Conventional tillage, which breaks the sod and exposes the soil, releases that sequestered carbon.

The GHGMP-funded project, working on two sites, is evaluating different herbicide timings to determine if a fall and spring treatment is needed or just a fall treatment is sufficient to control weeds before the annual crop is directly seeded. Different herbicides and different combinations are being used. A feature report on the project is available on the SCCC website at www.soilcc.ca.

This summer the PRFA will work with Calvin Yoder, an Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development forage specialist from Spirit River, Alberta, to conduct a plant count on the various sites to determine which timing and which combination of herbicide was the most effective.

"Overall, we also need to look at herbicide economics," says Robinson. "There are different products and different combinations of products that may work. For the sake of production economics, we want to see if perhaps a less expensive treatment will do the job."

A report on the results of the various treatments should be ready by the fall of 2006.

For more information, contact:
Julie Robinson
Field Co-ordinator
Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture
Dawson Creek, B.C.
Phone: (250) 782-4501
Doug McKell
Executive Director
Soil Conservation Council of Canada
Indian Head, Sask.
Phone: (306) 695-4212

Dawson Creek, B.C. February 17, 2006

Return to Environment

Greening the Herds: A New Diet to Cap Gas (2009)

Return to Environment

Greening the Herds: A New Diet to Cap Gas

Published: June 4, 2009
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/05/us/05cows.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=us

Chewing her cud on a recent sunny morning, Libby, a 1,400-pound Holstein, paused to do her part in the battle against global warming, emitting a fragrant burp.

Libby, age 6, and the 74 other dairy cows on Guy Choiniere’s farm here are at the heart of an experiment to determine whether a change in diet will help them belch less methane, a potent heat-trapping gas that has been linked to climate change.

Since January, cows at 15 farms across Vermont have had their grain feed adjusted to include more plants like alfalfa and flaxseed — substances that, unlike corn or soy, mimic the spring grasses that the animals evolved long ago to eat.

As of the last reading in mid-May, the methane output of Mr. Choiniere’s herd had dropped 18 percent. Meanwhile, milk production has held its own.

The program was initiated by Stonyfield Farm, the yogurt manufacturer, at the Vermont farms that supply it with organic milk. Mr. Choiniere, a third-generation dairy herder who went organic in 2003, said he had sensed that the outcome would be good even before he got the results.

“They are healthier,” he said of his cows. “Their coats are shinier, and the breath is sweet.”

Sweetening cow breath is a matter of some urgency, climate scientists say. Cows have digestive bacteria in their stomachs that cause them to belch methane, the second-most-significant heat-trapping emission associated with global warming after carbon dioxide. Although it is far less common in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, it has 20 times the heat-trapping ability.

Frank Mitloehner, a University of California, Davis, professor who places cows in air-tight tent enclosures and measures what he calls their “eruptions,” says the average cow expels — through burps mostly, but some flatulence — 200 to 400 pounds of methane a year.

More broadly, with worldwide production of milk and beef expected to double in the next 30 years, the United Nations has called livestock one of the most serious near-term threats to the global climate. In a 2006 report that looked at the environmental impact of cows worldwide, including forest-clearing activity to create pasture land, it estimated that cows might be more dangerous to Earth’s atmosphere than trucks and cars combined.

In the United States, where average milk production per cow has more than quadrupled since the 1950s, fewer cows are needed per gallon of milk, so the total emissions of heat-trapping gas for the American dairy industry are relatively low per gallon compared with those in less industrialized countries.

Dairy Management Inc., the promotion and research arm of the American dairy industry, says it accounts for just 2 percent of the country’s emissions of heat-trapping gases, most of it from the cows’ methane.

Still, Erin Fitzgerald, director of social and environmental consulting for Dairy Management, says the industry wants to avert the possibility that customers will equate dairies with, say, coal plants. It has started a “cow of the future” program, looking for ways to reduce total industry emissions by 25 percent by the end of the next decade.

William R. Wailes, the head of the department of animal science at Colorado State University who is working on the cow of the future, says scientists are looking at everything from genetics — cows that naturally belch less — to adjusting the bacteria in the cow’s stomach.

For the short run, Professor Wailes said, changes in feed have been the most promising.

Stonyfield Farm, which started as a money-raising arm for a nonprofit organic dairy school and still has a progressive bent, has been working on the problem longer than most.

Nancy Hirshberg, Stonyfield’s vice president for natural resources, commissioned a full assessment of her company’s impact on climate change in 1999 that extended to emissions by some of its suppliers.

“I was shocked when I got the report,” Ms. Hirshberg said, “because it said our No. 1 impact is milk production. Not burning fossil fuels for transportation or packaging, but milk production. We were floored.”

From that moment on, Ms. Hirshberg began looking for a way to have the cows emit less methane.

A potential solution was offered by Groupe Danone, the French makers of Dannon yogurt and Evian bottled water, which bought a majority stake in Stonyfield Farm in 2003. Scientists working with Groupe Danone had been studying why their cows were healthier and produced more milk in the spring. The answer, the scientists determined, was that spring grasses are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which may help the cow’s digestive tract operate smoothly.

Corn and soy, the feed that, thanks to postwar government aid, became dominant in the dairy industry, has a completely different type of fatty acid structure.

When the scientists began putting high concentrations of Omega-3 back into the cows’ food year-round, the animals were more robust, their digestive tract functioned better and they produced less methane.

The new feed is used at 600 farms in France, said Julia Laurain, a representative of Valorex SAS, a French company that makes the feed additives and that is working with Stonyfield Farm to bring the program to the United States.

A reason farmers like corn and soy is that those crops are a plentiful, cheap source of energy and protein — which may lead some to resist replacing them. But Ms. Laurain said flax cost less than soy, although grain prices can fluctuate. The flax used in the new feed is grown in Canada, is often heated to release the oil in its seed and yield the maximum benefit for the cow. For now, however, that process is expensive because there is no plant for it in the United States, and the flax is shipped to Europe for heating.

If the pilot program was expanded, she said, a heating facility would be built in the United States, and processing costs could be slashed.

Ms. Laurain maintains that even if the feed costs more, it yields cost savings because the production of milk jumps about 10 percent and animals will be healthier, live longer and produce milk for more years.

The methane-reduction results have been far more significant in France than in the Vermont pilot — about 30 percent — because the feed is distributed there not just to organic farms, where the animals already eat grass for at least half the year, but also to big industrial farms.

Farms in the Vermont program, like Mr. Choiniere’s, are also relying on Valorex’s method for measuring methane reduction, which involves analyzing fatty acids in the cows’ milk. Professor Wailes, of Colorado State, said he found that method for testing for reduced methane emissions promising. “I believe it is very possible,” he said.

Mr. Choiniere said that regardless of how the tests turned out, he planned to stick with the new feeding system.

“They are healthier and happier,” he said of his cows, “and that’s what I really care about.”

Return to Environment


BC Agriculture Composting Handbook (link)

BC Agriculture Composting Handbook (pdf document)

This handbook (binder) consists of seventeen Composting Factsheets, which introduce the reader to the composting process, how composting may fit into a farming operation, and some associated environmental concerns. All seventeen individual Factsheets are on our website in the Publications and Conceptual Plans (composting section). Included for producers looking for more detailed information are references and suggested reading (Factsheet No. 16).

Challenges and Opportunities of Cedar Shavings (2010)

Return to Environment

Extractives in cedar

It is true that cedar is higher in extractives like phenolics (e.g. Venner et al. 2009) than some other woods, and these can be toxic to plants, seedlings (and aquatic life if woodwaste leachate enters waters). On the other hand, the phytotoxicity can help to keep down weeds, which is why wood and bark chips can make such good mulch, and these extractives will go away.

C/N ratio

The high carbon-to-nitrogen (C/N) ratio of any carbon-rich woodwaste means that woodwaste is slow to decompose. Cedar has a C/N ratio of about 600:1; C/N ratios of 30:1 can be considered a level above which soil amendments should be managed not as N fertilizers but soil conditioners. The concept is the same behind that of backyard composting. The extractives (tropolone) in cedar may make cedar particularly resistant to decomposition (Debell et al. 1997) but again, they do break down and for practical purposes, cedar decomposes at about the same rate as other softwoods (e.g. spruce, fir) in BC and slower than hardwoods.

Management strategies

Composting with a nitrogen source (before land application). This will address concerns about phytotoxic extractives of plant wastes and the C/N ratio (Kostov et al. 1996). Speaking very generally here, use a nitrogen-rich material like poultry manure. The process is most effective with smaller wood particles and needs to be sufficiently intense. Refer to the Agricultural Composting Handbook for more information on composting http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/resmgmt/publist/300Series/382500-0.pdf

Add nitrogen, mix the cedar-based material deeper into soil, or simply wait or use a combination of these approaches (if too much cedar was already applied). If adding nitrogen to accelerate the decrease in the C/N ratio, consider how much nitrogen will be applied. Although the woody material will initially tie up (immobilize) soil N into organic forms, that N will eventually be released (mineralized) to plant-available forms and the goal is for that release to be timed with when crops will take up nitrogen. Tilling into mineral soil will also help to break apart any clumps of material that might result in poor aeration.


DeBell, JD, Morrell, JJ, and Gartner, BL. 1997. Tropolone content of increment cores as an indicator of decay resistance in western redcedar. Wood and Fiber Science 29: 364-369.

Kostov, O, Tzvetkov, Y, Petkova, G, and Lynch, JM. 1996. Aerobic composting of plant wastes and their effect on the yield of ryegrass and tomatoes. Biol. Fertil. Soils 23: 20-25.

Venner, KH, Prescott, CE and Preston, CM. 2009. Leaching of nitrogen and phenolics from wood waste and co-composts used for road rehabilitation. J. Environ. Qual. 38: 281-290.

Personal communication with Caroline M Preston*, Natural Resources Canada.

*Neither the author nor Dr. Preston claims expertise in this subject area.

David Poon, PAg
Soil and Nutrient Management Specialist
BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands
1767 Angus Campbell Road
Abbotsford, BC V3G 2M3

Return to Environment

Composting Research at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) (2009)

Return to Environment

With berry season starting and tree fruits also on the way soon, it is a good time to highlight some composting research Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientists are doing to support farmers in the Fraser Valley and the Okanagan. Their research is going far beyond the backyard basics, looking at how to use composts as organic soil amendments that improve crop production in farming operations.

Dr. Tom Forge and Dr. Gerry Neilsen of AAFC’s Agassiz and Summerland Research Centres, respectively, are studying how to effectively use composts on high-value crops such as wine grapes, apples, sweet cherries and blueberries. Their research aims to help growers understand the costs and benefits of using compost in orchards and vineyards.

Both are studying municipal composts as well as composted animal manures, measuring the effects of composts on soil quality and crop nutrition and productivity. They are also examining how compost mulches can promote stronger root systems and help plants resist diseases.

Using composts as soil amendments and mulches in horticulture supports the regional recycling of nutrients and reduces the use of synthetic fertilizers. As compost breaks down in the soil, it provides the fertilizer nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in forms that are readily available to plants. Compost also provides a wide range of important micronutrients not found in commercial fertilizers.

For more information on AAFC compost research in BC, please contact:
Dr. Tom Forge, Research Scientist, Agassiz (604) 796-1727 tom.forge@agr.gc.ca
Dr. Gerry Neilsen, Research Scientist, Summerland (250) 494-6377 gerry.neilsen@agr.gc.ca
Sarah Godin, Regional Communications Officer (604) 666-3679 sarah.godin@agr.gc.ca

Return to Environment

Fish/Poultry Compost Benefits Environment, Helps Boost Crop Yields (2006)

Return to Environment

Making use of what has long been regarded as "waste" by-products of fish processing and poultry operations appears to be a benefit for vegetable crop production and the environment, says the regional co-ordinator of a federal/provincial program designed to raise awareness about agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Compost made from the so-called waste of fish processing and poultry operations and added to the soil appears to produce a 50 to 60 percent increase in vegetable crop yields, compared to crops grown with conventional fertilizer, says Ann Marie Whelan, an agrologist and Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) field co-ordinator for the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP).

"Compost appears to produce a range of benefits, not only in the quantity but quality of the crops," she says, referring to results of field demonstrations, comparing yields of cabbage and rutabaga crops grown on David Dwyer's vegetable farm near Shearstown on Newfoundland's Conception Bay.

"In a demonstration completed in 2005, rutabaga and cabbage yields in the Dwyer project were up nearly 60 percent, and the produce had better size and appearance over crops produced with chemical fertilizer," says Whelan. "This project is showing farmers there are opportunities to reduce costs, improve yields and also benefit the environment."

The compost project is one of dozens of demonstrations across the country supported in part by the national GHGMP. Launched in 2003, the program is designed to demonstrate and raise awareness of a wide range of practices that not only benefit production but also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and benefit the environment. The soil sector of the GHGMP program is administered nationally by the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC). For a full feature report on the project visit the SCCC website at www.soilcc.ca

Blending a combination of crab shells and offal and poultry manure - the by-products of local farming and fishing activities - produces a nutrient-rich soil amendment that reduces reliance on chemical fertilizer. Soil testing, plant tissue testing and compost nutrient analysis were used to determine the proper compost application rates.

"Replacing chemical fertilizer with compost reduces the amount of fossil fuels used in the manufacture of fertilizer. Burning fuel contributes to greenhouse gas emissions," says Whelan. "And better matching nutrients to crop requirements reduces the risk of fertilizer over-application. Using poultry manure and crab processing waste in compost reduces the impact of these materials on the environment."

The compost comparison was carried out on a one-acre plot that was just part of Dwyer's 70-acre vegetable farm on Newfoundland's east coast about 80 kilometres from St. John's. Dwyer produces a range of crops including carrots, cabbage, rutabaga and beets, which are sold at the farm gate and through local retailers.

"These are dramatic yield increases in the 55 to 60 percent range," says Whelan. "The vegetables also appeared to have better size, color and less blight and less clubroot, making for a superior product over crops grown with chemical fertilizer."

Whelan also noted in a region where drought, in recent years, has reduced yields and wiped out crops, fields treated with compost had improved moisture retention and were better able to withstand the dry conditions.

While reducing crop input costs and increasing yields are important economic benefits, compost also has a proven track record for increasing soil organic matter, which improves soil quality and carbon sequestration in the long term.

For more information, contact:

Ann Marie Whelan
GHGMP Field Co-ordinator
Phone: (709) 747- 13781

Doug McKell, Executive Director
Soil Conservation Council of Canada
Indian Head, Sask.
Phone: (306) 695-4212

Return to Environment

Horse Manure - Alternative Bedding for Better Manure Composting (2008)

Return to Environment

Using an alternative bedding source instead of conventional materials such as shavings or straw, can be a great way to reduce the total volume of waste material coming out of your barn each day. Studies have shown that by using products such as wood pellet bedding, you can reduce the carbon levels in your compost by almost 40% and the total daily volume by 50%. There are a number of options available for livestock owners to help minimize waste produced and prevent environmental contamination due to woodwaste.

Woodwaste products include shavings, hog fuel, tree bark, wood chips and other forms of broken wood. When saturated with direct rainfall it can produce a toxic leachate that pollutes watercourses at low concentrations and depletes oxygen levels in surface waters. Additionally, woodwaste leachate can tie up nitrogen (N) in the soil and make it unavailable for plant growth. Some of the alternatives to woodwaste materials include rubber mats, shredded newspaper/cardboard or wood pellet bedding.

Rubber Mats

One option that is becoming more and more popular with horse owners is the use of rubber mats. They lie in the bottom of the stall and provide the cushioning that horse owners want for their animals, but minimize or eliminate the amount of shavings needed in the stalls. They can be more expensive than other bedding materials, but the savings that will result in the long run will be worth the initial cost. Rubber mats will also cut your stall cleaning time, reduce airborne dust, reduce the risk of thrush and other hoof problems and are easy to install.

Shredded Newspaper/Cardboard

Shredded newspaper or cardboard is another great option for bedding. It is highly absorbent, composts very well and is ecologically sound. Just ask your local newspaper if they have any shredded roll ends that they would like to donate. Most newspapers utilize vegetable-based inks, but it is worth asking, as chemical-based inks are undesirable for compost systems.

Wood Pellet Bedding

Another option that is gaining popularity is the use of wood pellet bedding. Wood pellets are a byproduct of the lumber industry and consist of wood fibres that have been sorted by size, compressed, heat treated and sterilized to remove tars, oils, hydrocarbons and other allergens. When water is added to the pellets they expand in size and can absorb 9 times more liquid than regular shavings. Using wood pellets can reduce the amount of waste you are removing from your barn and lower the costs of stall bedding.

In addition, wood pellet bedding composts much quicker than shavings or straw which often do not fully compost or take a long time to decompose. As wood pellets expand with use, the product that ends up in the compost system has a much smaller particle size that breaks down quickly and easily.

The Art of Using Wood Pellet Bedding

Using wood pellet bedding is indeed an art form as many of the “converted” will tell you. It definitely takes a bit of practice to use wood pellets well and you really do need to give yourself some time to get used to them. The following tips should help you to transition smoothly and quickly.

Purchasing the Bedding

Many local feed stores and businesses that sell fuel for wood stoves will sell bags of wood pellet bedding. The product is generally sold by the bag and in many places if you buy a pallet (which contains about 50 bags) the price per bag will be cheaper. There are a number of brands available, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, so you will have to experiment to figure out which one will work best for you. Make sure you find a brand that is guaranteed for use in the livestock or horse industry. It is recommended to find brands that use organic softwood lumber, restrict particle size to reduce dust, disallow hardwood materials that can be toxic for use with horses and limit the use of bark or knots.

Getting Started

In general, you will need between 4 and 7 bags to get a 12 x 12 stall started, depending on how deep you like to bed your animals. Keep in mind that the product continues to expand as you use it so if it looks a little sparse in the beginning it will fluff up considerably over the first week of use.

Pour a couple of bags of the pellets into your wheelbarrow and add enough water to dampen all of the pellets. Watering the bedding prior to putting it in your stalls will help the wood pellets to expand more effectively, absorb more and last much longer. Pre-watering also stops the animal from crushing the pellets or slipping. Once the pellets have been sufficiently watered, leave the wheel barrow for at least one hour to allow the pellets to expand. If only a small amount of expansion has occurred add more water and wait for a bit longer.

Once the pellets look like they are expanding and are ‘sawdust-like’ put them in the stall and repeat the process until you are happy with the thickness of the bedding. Multiple wheelbarrows makes this process much quicker and easier and if you have a larger wheelbarrow you may be able to do more than 2 bags at once.

Stall Cleaning

Cleaning your barn is going to be a little different than if you use shavings and if you have used scoopable cat litter before you will notice the similarities. The urine will clump into a puck-like shape, which you can easily scoop out. Keep in mind that sometimes the urine ‘puck’ will break apart so just take out any of the solid parts and leave the rest in the stall. The moisture from the excess urine will help the product to continue expanding. Odour should not be an issue as pine is a natural deodorizer; however, if you are really concerned there are deodorizing products available for purchase from many retail outlets.

Once you have picked out the manure and urine, thoroughly mix the bedding in the stall and pull the fresh bedding in from the side of the stall to the middle. If the bedding seems a bit dusty then sprinkle it with some water. This can be done frequently, as it will help the bedding to continue expanding.

You will need to add approximately 1-2 bags of fresh bedding to your stalls each week using the process outlined above. It is helpful to get the new bedding started in a separate wheelbarrow while you clean the stalls so that it is ready to add when you are finished cleaning. You will probably want to completely strip and restart each stall every 2-3 months, which will give the stalls time to air out and disinfect properly.

For more information on composting, pasture management or alternative bedding please contact the Manure Maiden at the Langley Environmental Partners Society.

Good luck and happy composting!

Andrea Lawseth B.Sc. (Agro), A.Ag.
Agricultural Stewardship Coordinator
Langley Environmental Partners Society
Phone: 604-532-3515
Email: info@manuremaiden.com

Return to Environment

Horse Manure - Managing a Valuable Resource (2008)

Return to Manure

Horse Manure: Myths and Misconceptions

Horse manure has gotten a bad rep lately! There is a misconception that all horse manure is too high in carbon and has no fertilizer value for crops or gardens. This is just not the case.

The average 455kg (1000 lb) horse produces 8165kg (9 tons) of manure per year or 23 kg (50 lb) per day. We can start by changing our perception from manure as a waste that needs to be dealt with to a resource that should be celebrated. This 8165 kg of raw manure translates to 45kg (100 lb) of Nitrogen (N), 8kg (17 lb) of Phosphorus (P), 28kg (62 lb) of Potassium (K), and 8084kg of organic matter.

Average Fertilizer Content in Horse Manure (as-is basis)
N / ton 8.6 kg (19 lb)
P2O5 / ton 6.4 kg (14 lb)
K2O / ton 16.3 kg (36 lb)

Source: Horse Manure Management (2004), Colorado State,
University Cooperative Extension, J.G. Davis and A.M. Swinker

These valuable nutrients can be easily utilized by pasture grasses, gardens (as fertilizer or mulch), as landscaping material or as a liquid fertilizer (compost tea). However, this manure needs to be transformed into a more useable form and one way to accomplish this is through composting. Composting is the best management tool to deal with these mountains of manure and transform them into a valuable fertilizer. A breakdown of the characteristics of many composting materials is listed in the table below.

Table 1. Characteristics of Composting Materials


(dry wt) (%)

Nitrogen ratio
(dry wt)

Moisture Content

Bulk Density
at moisture content

Horse Manure with Bedding

  • with straw bedding
  • with shavings





Beef Cattle

  • feedlot with bedding





Dairy Cattle

  • solid manure handing
  • liquid slurry
  • solids separated from slurry






  • broiler breeder layer
  • broiler litter
  • turkey litter





Sheep Manure





Fish Scraps & Mortality





Oat Straw





Wheat Straw





Legume Grass hay










Grass Clippings





Grass Clippings & other garden waste





Leaves (freshly fallen)















Woodwaste (chips)





Source: Composting Factsheet: Characteristics of On-Farm Composting Materials (1996) BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food

When manure is composted it is important to maintain the correct Carbon:Nitrogen (C:N) ratio to support the microorganisms. These microbes require carbon for energy and nitrogen for growth and the ideal C:N ratio is between 25 to 50:1. Horse manure lies in the range of 20-40:1 so when shavings are added this ratio can be thrown out of balance. We need to correct this by combining the appropriate amount of both carbon- and nitrogen-rich materials. The following table gives the Carbon:Nitrogen ratio for a variety of compostable materials.

Material C:N Ratio
horse manure 20-40:1
grass clippings 25:1
horse manure with bedding 30-60:1
grass hay 30-40:1
straw 40-100:1
paper 150-200:1
wood chips, sawdust 200-500:1

Source: Caring for Alberta’s Rural Landscape: Manure and Pasture Management for Horse Owners (2003), Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development

A soil testing kit from a local garden retailer can help determine the amount of nitrogen in your compost. If the nitrogen content is too low then you will need to decrease the amount of carbon in your compost pile. Reducing the amount of bedding material or changing the type of bedding can greatly reduce the carbon content of your compost. This is important because spreading compost with too high a carbon level can cause the compost microbes to ‘rob’ your pasture grasses of nitrogen in order to complete the composting process. Obviously, this is the opposite effect of what you want to see happen in your pastures.

One way to determine if your compost is ready for use is if a temperature of at least 55 – 65 degrees Celsius has been maintained for at least 21 days or three weeks. At this point you can be quite confident that the composting process is finished and that weed seeds and parasites have been destroyed. The temperature can easily be monitored with a long composting thermometer purchased from a garden centre.

Sometimes the finished compost doesn’t appear to be broken down, but as long as temperatures have reached the critical point and were maintained for three weeks you can be confident that it is finished. If you prefer the compost to have a finer texture then you can turn the pile a few more times before use. You can also run the compost through a mesh screen to remove the larger materials, which can be added back to the actively composting pile. The final moisture content of the compost should be approximately 50% and feel like a damp wrung-out sponge.

One question often asked is “Why do I need to compost my animals’ manure? Can’t I just spread it raw on the land?” Composting may be slightly more time consuming than working with raw manure, but it will be worth it in the long run. When raw manure is spread onto pastures the nitrogen (N) content tends to volatilize and immobilize, rendering it unusable for microorganisms. In order to replace the N content, the microbes in the compost will ‘suck’ it up from the pasture grasses in order to complete the composting process. Through the act of composting, microbes recycle the nutrients they use and retain them in the compost, which creates a nutrient rich fertilizer source for your pastures.

Also, through spreading composted manure instead of raw manure you can protect local water resources. The run-off (leachate) from raw manure can cause algal blooms and growth of other aquatic plants in nearby streams. When these plants decompose they deplete the water of oxygen content and as many aquatic organisms require oxygen to breathe they are not able to survive in this habitat. In addition, the run-off from manure piles can contaminate your drinking water supply and that of your livestock if the piles are located near a well head or septic field.

Some of the other benefits of using composted manure instead of raw manure are:

• Increased water-holding capacity of your soil

• Destruction of parasite eggs/larvae and weed seeds

• Reduced odour

• Reduced total waste volume

• Reduced money spent on chemical fertilizers and soil amendments

• Easier manure handling

• Provides a great source of fertilizer for your pasture or garden.

Finished compost can be used on pasture grasses to achieve some of the benefits listed above. If the compost is still a bit clumpy when spread then you can run a chain harrow over the top of this to break it down further. You can also use finished compost on gardens and in landscaping as a mulch or soil amendment. It provides a great fertilizer source and will help to keep the weeds down. You can also pass it along to your neighbours and find them begging for more the next year!


Davis, J.G. & Swinker, A.M., 2004, Horse Manure Management, Colorado State, University Cooperative Extension, http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/livestk/01219.html

BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food, 1996, Composting Factsheet: Characteristics of On-Farm Composting Materials, http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/resmgmt/publist/300series/382500-3.pdf

Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, 2003, Caring for Alberta’s Rural Landscape: Manure and Pasture Management for Horse Owners, http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex9377

Article by:
Andrea Lawseth B.Sc. (Agro), A.Ag.
Agricultural Stewardship Coordinator
Langley Environmental Partners Society
Phone: 604-532-3515
Email: info@manuremaiden.com

Return to Manure

Horse Manure Compost Application Tips and Suggestions (2008)

Return to Environment

Horse manure can provide a great source of nutrients to your pastures and forage. There are a number of benefits to spreading manure compost when compared to raw manure. Nitrogen and other plant nutrients in composted manure are in their organic form and some are not immediately soluble in water. These nutrients are released gradually into the pasture soil providing a slow release fertilizer source. This decreases the risk of immediate leaching and extends the availability of nitrogen throughout the growing season.

Some of the other benefits of adding compost to pastures include:

  • Increased water infiltration
  • Increased water-holding capacity
  • Increased aeration and permeability
  • Increased soil aggregation and rooting depth
  • Decreased soil crusting
  • Decreased soil bulk density
  • Decreased runoff by erosion

Before spreading composted manure onto your pastures it is a good idea to sample it and have it tested in a nearby soil lab. Testing the manure for total nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), ammonium- (NH4+-N) and moisture content will allow you to accurately match the manure application with the pasture needs. Before sampling your manure compost make sure that you check with your local soil lab to see if they have special sampling guidelines they would like you to follow.

In general, you should obtain a representative sample by collecting from 6 to 8 different locations within your manure pile. Make sure that you take samples from both the exterior and the interior of the pile. Next, thoroughly mix the manure samples to break up any clumps and combine them well. Collect a minimum of 3 sub-samples from your representative sample and label well. Ideally, the samples should be analyzed within 24 hours of collection. It is also possible to test the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium content with a simple soil kit from a local garden centre, however, these are not always accurate and soil labs will be able to give you a better idea of appropriate application rates. An over-application of compost can lead to leaching and surface or groundwater pollution, while too little can reduce pasture growth.

Application rates are based on: (1) nutrients required by the plant for optimum growth, (2) nutrients present in the soil, and (3) nutrients available in the compost. The application rate will also depend on field topography, climatic region and soil type so these should be taken into account when spreading. According to the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, manure or a manure/bedding mixture from 3 to 4 horses can be spread on each acre of productive pasture on your land.

Most soil and manure testing labs will supply crop requirement information and application rates in easy to read formats. Once you determine the needs of your pasture grasses the following example calculation will help you determine the appropriate compost spreading rates for your land.

Example for calculating compost application rates

Determine: Compost application rate to supplying 200 kg of N. Given the following compost analysis, which can be obtained through a soil test:

Total N (TKN) 1.59% (or 15,900 ppm)

Mineral N Ammonia (NH4) 1562 ppm

Nitrate (NO3) 672 ppm

Bulk density of compost is 400 kg/m3

Assume: 50% loss of ammonia (NH4-N) (based on research with manures, composts and biosolids)

20% of organic N is available in year of application (based on a range of 10 to 30% from research on composts and biosolids)

Calculation: Total available N in the first year is: available organic + remaining ammonia + nitrate

Total organic N = (TKN - NH4) = 15,900 ppm - 1562 ppm = 13,666 ppm

Available organic N = 13,666 ppm x 20% = 2733 ppm

Remaining NH4 = 1562 x 50% = 781 ppm

Nitrate (NO3) = 672 ppm

Total available N = 2733 ppm + 781 ppm + 672 ppm = 4186 ppm (or 4.18 kg/tonne)

To obtain 200 kg N per ha apply 47.8 tonnes compost per hectare (200 kg N/ha / 4.18 kg N/t) or 47.8 tonnes/ha x 1000 kg/tonne x 1 m3/400 kg = 120 m3/ha

Answer: Therefore, 120 m3/ha of compost can be applied to supply the 200 kg N/ha.

Source: Using Compost, Composting Factsheet (1996), BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food

When spreading manure compost it is important to remember that it should only be spread during the growing season from April to September. Up to 1/3 of fall and winter applied nitrogen in manure may be lost by denitrification, volatilization, leaching and surface runoff during the spring thaw. Only apply a ¼ inch of compost at a time and no more than 3 to 4 applications per year. Reapplication should only occur when the previous layer has worked its way into the soil. For this reason good record-keeping is important.

Additionally, composted manure is lighter and more uniform than raw manure so it is easier to spread. However, there may be some clumping so it is important to harrow or cultivate your pasture after spreading. Seeding can take place shortly after spreading as compost provides a great medium for seed germination.


BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food, 1996, Using Compost, Composting Factsheet,


Article by:

Andrea Lawseth B.Sc. (Agro), A.Ag.
Agricultural Stewardship Coordinator
Langley Environmental Partners Society
Phone: 604-532-3515
Email: info@manuremaiden.com

Return to Environment

New Liquid Manure Composting Process (2005)

Return to Environment

Making use of what has long been regarded as "waste" by-products of fish processing and poultry operations appears to be a benefit for vegetable crop production and the environment, says the regional co-ordinator of a federal/provincial program designed to raise awareness about agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Compost made from the so-called waste of fish processing and poultry operations and added to the soil appears to produce a 50 to 60 percent increase in vegetable crop yields, compared to crops grown with conventional fertilizer, says Ann Marie Whelan, an agrologist and Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) field co-ordinator for the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP).

"Compost appears to produce a range of benefits, not only in the quantity but quality of the crops," she says, referring to results of field demonstrations, comparing yields of cabbage and rutabaga crops grown on David Dwyer's vegetable farm near Shearstown on Newfoundland's Conception Bay.

"In a demonstration completed in 2005, rutabaga and cabbage yields in the Dwyer project were up nearly 60 percent, and the produce had better size and appearance over crops produced with chemical fertilizer," says Whelan. "This project is showing farmers there are opportunities to reduce costs, improve yields and also benefit the environment."

The compost project is one of dozens of demonstrations across the country supported in part by the national GHGMP. Launched in 2003, the program is designed to demonstrate and raise awareness of a wide range of practices that not only benefit production but also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and benefit the environment. The soil sector of the GHGMP program is administered nationally by the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC). For a full feature report on the project visit the SCCC website at www.soilcc.ca

Blending a combination of crab shells and offal and poultry manure - the by-products of local farming and fishing activities - produces a nutrient-rich soil amendment that reduces reliance on chemical fertilizer. Soil testing, plant tissue testing and compost nutrient analysis were used to determine the proper compost application rates.

"Replacing chemical fertilizer with compost reduces the amount of fossil fuels used in the manufacture of fertilizer. Burning fuel contributes to greenhouse gas emissions," says Whelan. "And better matching nutrients to crop requirements reduces the risk of fertilizer over-application. Using poultry manure and crab processing waste in compost reduces the impact of these materials on the environment."

The compost comparison was carried out on a one-acre plot that was just part of Dwyer's 70-acre vegetable farm on Newfoundland's east coast about 80 kilometres from St. John's. Dwyer produces a range of crops including carrots, cabbage, rutabaga and beets, which are sold at the farm gate and through local retailers.

"These are dramatic yield increases in the 55 to 60 percent range," says Whelan. "The vegetables also appeared to have better size, color and less blight and less clubroot, making for a superior product over crops grown with chemical fertilizer."

Whelan also noted in a region where drought, in recent years, has reduced yields and wiped out crops, fields treated with compost had improved moisture retention and were better able to withstand the dry conditions.

While reducing crop input costs and increasing yields are important economic benefits, compost also has a proven track record for increasing soil organic matter, which improves soil quality and carbon sequestration in the long term.

For more information, contact:

Ann Marie Whelan
GHGMP Field Co-ordinator
Phone: (709) 747- 13781

Doug McKell, Executive Director
Soil Conservation Council of Canada
Indian Head, Sask.
Phone: (306) 695-4212

Return to Environment

The Scoop on Compost (2008)

Return to Environment

Creating compost is not rocket science, but using it requires a scientific approach to maximize its benefits

There was a time when spreading ‘well rotted manure’ on land was seen as an easy way to reduce the pile behind the barn and, certainly, help out the crop. Then science enabled growers to balance crop nutrition with commercial fertilizer and the pile behind the barn was left to rot. Now, given our concern for the environment and a recognition that some of the old ways had their place in crop production, research is demonstrating how compost can be an important component of best management practices.

“At first it didn’t seem the economics were right to create and use compost,” comments Dr. Katherine Buckley of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Brandon, Manitoba. Then the cost of commercial fertilizer began to increase and the environment became an issue, and agriculture came under scrutiny by some groups. As always, growers themselves wanted to be more active in preserving the environment and compost became more interesting.

“Our experiments are in the eighth year and we are starting to see the possibilities for using compost effectively,” Dr. Buckley continues. “Compost works well with all crops except flax, is easier to transport to the field because volume is reduced by about 75 percent, and it does not have the odour and insect problem that comes with manure.” When a starter nitrogen application is used in conjunction with compost, according to Dr. Buckley, it can be an extremely effective crop production tool. There are

“We’ve done work on soil reclamation in the oil and gas industry and, of the combinations we examined, compost worked the best,” says Dr. Frank Larney, a researcher with AAFC in Lethbridge, Alberta. “We looked at using compost as a replacement for top soil that was removed from well sites beginning in 1997.” After four years of growing crop on the reclaimed soil the project was turned back to the land’s owner for production. In 2007, Larney and his colleagues re-examined the soils to see if the reclamation had been sustained. He expects results on these tests to be available in 2008. Using this example, he suggests that compost has some very real benefits when used on ‘at risk’ areas of fields, such as knolls and sections where erosion is a problem.microbial benefits with compost and it can restore degraded soils.Photo By Peter Darbishire.

Larney and Buckley see compost as an important additive to any cropping system, particularly on marginal land, property with erosion problems and for crops that require more organic matter. However, the challenges facing growers who want to begin using compost as part of their regular crop production practices are the creation of the compost and short-term yield reductions that can occur when moving to a strategic combination of compost and commercial fertility products.

Creating compost can be simple or complex depending on the time and effort willingly expended on the operation. In the old days, manure was left to rot with no intervention on the part of the farmer. While this method will result in compost, the end product may not be desirable as weed seeds may still exist in the mix. Larney says that in order to create a uniform product that is free of weed seeds and pathogens, the mix needs to reach a temperature of 55 degrees C or better for up to two weeks. The temperature is achieved by adding oxygen to the manure by aerating it or turning it and mixing it. “Achieving the right temperature is important to create a sanitized product,” he explains.

Again, the process can be simple or demanding. A front-end loader can be used to mix the pile depending on its size; in very small operations this may be the most economical. PTO driven windrow turners that mount on a tractor can effectively turn 400 tonnes of material per hour are also available. For very large operations, such as feedlots, a self-propelled turner may be the most effective equipment to use. In the end, there is an economic balance between the time and energy required to turn the manure to create compost and the savings in reduced reliance on commercial fertilizers and the yield that can result from an improved soil profile.

“The costs of creating and using compost, rather than raw manure, can be offset by reduced transportation costs due to the large reduction in volume of material that occurs during the composting process,” Buckley explains. “The most costly part of getting into compost is developing a proper site to accomplish the task by ensuring an impermeable surface under the pile and a means to manage run-off.” Certainly, there may be some capital costs, she adds, but that will be amortized over time.

In terms of yield reductions that can occur when compost is used as a fertilizer replacement, Buckley suggests this is a short-term issue which can be managed by balancing the nutrition in the compost with commercial products. “I prefer to consider compost as a phosphorus product and not the main nitrogen source,” she says. In fact, she recommends that nitrogen be applied in conjunction with compost. “Combined with commercial fertilizer, compost nutrition can be optimized if the mixture is right.”

In an eight year crop production study conducted at the AAFC Research Station in Brandon, beef manure compost with and without starter nitrogen were compared to commercial fertilizer in the first four years of a durum wheat, flax and barley rotation. In the last four years of the study, annual and perennial forages and winter wheat were grown without any additional nutrients to determine the capacity of a compost addition to sustain crop production and develop a measure of the true value of compost. The results were not earth-shattering, but savings on commercial fertilizers were substantial.

“We did get improved yield without the use of commercial fertilizer,” Buckley explains. “The cost benefit is there, but it takes a number of years before it shows. However, the result of using compost on poor soils is incredible and definitely worth considering.” A complete economic analysis of this particular research is being tabulated, but there is documented research that shows an economic benefit of using compost in potato production and during a one year in three application of compost in wheat or barley. So far, the Manitoba research has focussed on cereals and forage, but the next step will be an analysis of compost use with canola.\

Growers wanting to work compost into their cropping operations should follow some simple guidelines for success. Larney suggests testing for the presence and amount of nutrients in the compost, test the soil for nutrients, compare the results with the requirements of the crop being planned and then try to balance the compost’s available nutrition with the addition of commercial nutrients. “If your soil tests high with nitrogen or phosphorus, it may not be wise to put compost on that field,” he says.

“The best place for compost is land that is eroded or in need of improved organic matter.” He adds that field mapping will indicate areas in a field that would benefit from compost application. Larney views compost as a soil amendment to improve soil quality and not as a complete source of nutrition. “Compost improves the properties of soil to allow the soil to hold water and enable better access to nutrition,” he says.

Grandpa may have had the right idea about transporting the pile from behind the barn to the field, but modern technology and science have made the process much more effective. In a world obsessing about carbon foot printing and the need to produce more food, using compost may help in both those areas while maintaining a grower’s competitive edge. Considering the long-term, proven benefits of compost application on fields and the environmental sustainability that can result, the effort to make compost may be worthwhile.

A compost primer

Compost is the result of manure decomposition. In nature, this will happen naturally, but farmers can speed the process by doing the following:

1. Prepare a site for composting to minimize any environmental problems. A preferred location would have an impermeable base, either hard clay soils or a cement pad. As well, some consideration for minimizing effects of run-off should be made, such as a sloped drainage ditch.

2. Pile the manure in windrows or small piles on the base.

3. Turn or mix the piles periodically to encourage decomposition.

4. Ensure a temperature of the compost of 55 degrees C for at least two weeks.

5. When compost has a dry, crumbly texture, has a low carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (13:1 to 10:1), low oxygen demand, low temperature and earthy odour, it is ready to spread on the soil.

Depending on the size of the pile or windrow, the number of times it is turned and the air temperature and amount of moisture, compost could be ready in about three months. For more comprehensive instructions on how to make compost, the On-Farm Composting Handbook by Robert Rynk, published by Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service, Ithaca, New York, is considered the ‘Bible’ of composting instruction.

Article by: Rosalie I. Tennison, Top Crop Manager – March 2008


Return to Environment

What is Composting? (2009)

Return to Environment

Composting is a natural biological process, carried out under controlled conditions, which converts organic material into a stable humus-like product called compost. During the composting process, various micro-organisms, including bacteria and fungi, break down organic material into simpler substances.

Why does composting matter?

Making compost is inexpensive and reduces the need for buying synthetic fertilizers. Compost is biologically active, supplying a range of micro-organisms that enhance the health of both soil and crops.

Incorporating good compost into a garden makes the soil improves the quality (or health) of soil for producing healthy plants. It helps plants develop stronger root systems so they can take up more nutrients and be more productive. Soil with lots of organic matter also resists erosion.

Adding composts to soils can improve their water holding capacity and reduce the need to fertilize, resulting in a more productive soil. This can significantly lower irrigation requirements.

Composting helps bring much of what we consume back to the earth, while preventing organic material from unnecessarily ending up in landfills. Composting can play an important role in the integrated waste management plans of any community.

Approximately 50% of the waste in landfills is organic matter. BC’s main fruit-growing regions are near large urban areas as well as poultry farms, both excellent sources of organic material for composting.

Sarah Godin
Regional Communications Officer, AAFC
(604) 666-3679 sarah.godin@agr.gc.ca

Return to Environment

Emergency Preparedness

Agriculture Sector Emergency Preparedness Tips (Apr 2007)

Return to Environment

This year's heavy snowpack presents the potential for flooding, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands is advising B.C.'s agriculture industry to be prepared.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands recommends:

  • Cattle producers in the flood plain should investigate the availability of alternative livestock accommodation on higher ground. Consider moving some cattle in the days leading up to potential flooding.
  • Dairy producers should consider arrangements for temporary milking.
  • Put together a list of people, including livestock haulers, who can assist on short notice in the event of evacuation.
  • All cattle should have positive identification and a record kept of the identification in case animals from different herds have to share a relocation site.
  • Dangerous stock, such as bulls, should be relocated well before evacuation becomes necessary.
  • Keep a supply of materials such as rope, sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber handy for emergency waterproofing.
  • Protect farm equipment, feed and hay supplies; move to high ground, where possible.
  • Remove all chemicals and store away from any flood levels. Pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers may cause pollution and even poisoning.
  • Pork and poultry producers should consider making arrangements with marketing organizations or processors regarding the sale of animals that are approaching market weight.
  • Poultry producers should consider moving birds to the top floor in two-storey barns, if space is available.
  • Milk tanks should be anchored firmly to ensure they will not float away in floodwaters.
  • Notify your dairy representative, milk hauler, processor, feed representative and veterinarian of a planned destination if evacuated.
  • Mark your animals with livestock marking pencil, using initials or herd letters.
  • Secure copies of insurance policies and other essential farm documents.

If your farm is above a flood plain, you should:

  • Have enough feed on hand to last for at least a month as suppliers may not be able to access some roads.
  • Make sure that you have adequate bedding material, dairy supplies, medications, etc. on hand for an extended period.
  • Purchase extra fuel in case of prolonged power disruptions.
  • Be prepared where possible to assist other livestock producers who may have to evacuate from the flood plain.

For more information about emergency preparedness, please visit www.pep.bc.ca

Contact: Chris Zabek
Regional Agrologist
Ministry of Agriculture and Lands
604 556-3001

Return to Environment


Grassland Environmental Contributions (2016)

By Jennifer Paige
Source: http://www.manitobacooperator.ca/livestock/study-shows-the-extent-of-gra...

The University of Alberta in partnership with Alberta Environment and Parks has undertaken 
a number of studies looking at the impacts of land use and grazing on soil carbon levels

Grasslands punch above their weight when it comes to carbon sequestration. That’s the conclusion of a researcher who started his career on an Alberta-wide study of how land use affects that province’s carbon pool.

Daniel Hewins, now an assistant professor at Rhode Island College in Providence, R.I., says grasslands can and do store an enormous amount of soil carbon.

“Temperate grasslands make up about eight per cent of the earth’s surface but they hold a lot of carbon, an estimated 300 gigatons is what we have seen,” Hewins said at the recent annual meeting of the Canadian Forage and Grasslands Association in Winnipeg.

“About nine gigatons or three per cent of that is above ground in plant material and about 295 gigatons is in the soil. So, it is really important to value that soil and value that soil carbon.”

The research study involved 144 grassland enclosures, including both grazed and ungrazed sites.

“Many of the ungrazed sites have not been grazed by livestock for more than 60 years so this really gave us the opportunity to sample native prairie in both grazed and ungrazed communities in a paired setting,” Hewins said.

In fact Hewins stressed that this sort of work is unprecedented in its scale and allows researchers like him a new window into what happens below our feet.

“This is really a one-of-a-kind comprehensive study looking at how grazing affects carbon stores and grassland biodiversity across up to six different agro climatic zones,” he said. “We are really aiming, with our research, to get a provincial-scale assessment of how land use and livestock grazing affect plant communities and how that subsequently affects carbon storage. And then, how can we assign some monetary value to that or some incentive for ranchers and those of you who are out there doing the work to protect these ecological goods and services.”

The study, his post-doctoral fellow research, was conducted at the Rangeland Research Institute in the department of agriculture, food and nutritional science at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. It ran from 2013 to 2016 and measured the effects of livestock grazing on the carbon nutrient cycling in the grasslands of central and southern Alberta.

Grassland Differences

Not all grasslands are the same and the study revealed some profound differences based on management and environment.

In wetter environments there is an increase in introduced species and grazing them promotes the biodiversity of perennial native grasses. “With grazing in some of these wetter environments we saw an increase in diversity, so the number of species in a community,” he said. “When we have moisture available to plants, we were seeing an increase in diversity as a response to grazing, so grazing is actually stimulating biodiversity in these systems.”

The study also identified an increase in productivity and increased biodiversity under grazing. “All of these things are pointing to the fact that grazing in these grassland systems is essentially good for these ecological goods and services,” Hewins said. “Grazing not only seems to promote biodiversity of our perennial native grasses, it also seems to limit shrub encroachment into our grassland environment. This is particularly important in places like the Rocky Mountain foothill region, or the Rocky Mountain forest reserve where grazing land is already quite limited due to the nature of the ecosystem.”

He adds that grazing also stimulated root production, which increases plant biomass and ultimately leads to the formation of soil carbon. So in fact, grazing can provide the opportunity to enhance and maintain soil carbon pools.


Hewins, along with many others within the forage sector, believe that incentives should be put in place to encourage producers to avoid converting grasslands and to manage the land in a way that is sustainable.

“Although there is no willingness to pay for what is stored in the grasslands, there should be a point made that we are protecting what is there by managing the land effectively or sustainably in that way,” Hewins said. “If grasslands are converted it is also difficult to get that carbon back, so when we seed back to native, there have been some studies done and it looks like it takes more than 50 years to get that carbon pool back up to where it really was before conversion. Ultimately, there needs to be a willingness to pay to protect some of this carbon because not only is it stored and protected in grasslands, it is also very, very difficult to get back into the soil.”

In order to achieve any progress towards incentives, Hewins says the industry needs data to support what is truly happening on the landscape. “We are working at generating a lot of this data to say, look, we are standing on a gold mine here and we need to incentivize and value this carbon stock that is in our native grasslands and our prairies,” Hewins said. “Essentially there needs to be voices that are echoing these messages and these messages need to be supported by data. They cannot stand on anecdotes alone. Native grasslands that many of you manage are providing abundant goods and services not only for your communities but also for the broader society. Services like carbon storage, improved soil health, water filtration, greenhouse gas uptake, and these are all really important for policy.”

Hewins adds that research on land use and grazing systems continues at the University of Alberta with the ultimate goal of assigning a provincial-scale assessment of carbon in response to grazing.

Herbicides & Pesticides


Calibrating Sprayer Saves Money and the Environment (2005)

Return to Environment

It's a time-consuming and messy business, but Canadian farmers will find a properly calibrated field sprayer can improve production and the bottom line, says a specialist in a new feature story on the Canada Sprayer Guide (CSG) website. In the article, Veteran Alberta-based field sprayer technologist, Brian Storozynsky offers calibration tips and techniques. There are also links to other Canadian and U.S. based websites in the feature, "The Basics of Calibration," at www.canadasprayerguide.com.

"Nozzles get worn, the accuracy of gauges can change, and even new equipment is sometimes off the manufacturer specifications”, says Storozynsky.

"Calibration takes a bit of time, but at least a producer can head to the field knowing products are being applied at the proper rate," he says. "If nozzles are too badly worn they should be replaced. Otherwise, you can make operational adjustments to ensure you're getting the coverage you expect."

Statistics Canada figures show only about 50% of Canadian producers calibrate sprayers at the beginning of the season, and fewer do it between application of different pesticides. At the same time, calculations also show calibrating a sprayer can save producers hundreds of dollars in crop input costs.

One study estimates that applying even 8% more product than intended can cost an extra $3-$4 per acre, which on 160 acres ranges from $480 to $640. Time spent properly calibrating can certainly pay.

Regardless of sprayer system, the three key operational elements to check include: the flow rate of the nozzles, the accuracy of the pressure

gauge or controller, and the travel speed of the tractor, says Storozynsky.

"If one or more of those three figures is out of line from what is recommended, you won't get the proper application rate and coverage," he says. "You may not get the proper herbicide coverage so herbicide efficacy can be affected. It can really snowball, resulting in less efficient use of the pesticide and perhaps reduced yield."

"The Basics of Calibration" discusses some of the operational issues of field sprayers, whether the units are equipped with simple pressure gauges, or electronic auto rate controllers.

"You can't always believe what the gauge is telling you. While controllers are good technology, the information displayed inside the tractor cab may not fully reflect what's being applied to the crop," says Storozynsky.

The CSG feature provides a chart describing the output of the five most commonly used nozzles. The article provides an explanation on how to approach calibration. It also includes a link to a Ontario Ministry of Agriculture website that includes a calibration calculator. Producers enter numbers specific to their equipment and the program will calculate average flow rates and overall sprayer output.

The Canada Sprayer Guide Web site's focus is on technology to support a sustainable agriculture industry.

For more information contact:
Lee Hart, Editor
Canada Sprayer Guide
Calgary, AB Phone: (403) 543-7424

Return to Environment

Testing for Pesticide Residue in Fraser Valley Silage Corn (2000)

Return to Environment

Shabtai Bittman, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre,
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Agassiz, BC.

Health Canada has recently been going around the Fraser Valley taking samples from a number of silage corn fields. Naturally, the farmers affected have been wondering what this is about. We contacted Ms. Yvonne Herbison, an inspector working for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and now contracted by Health Canada to carry out the field sampling. Ms. Herbison explained that Health Canada (Pest Management Regulatory Agency) inspects some crop fields every year. This happens to be a year for testing silage corn. They are specifically looking for use of unregistered pesticides, or unregistered use of registered pesticides. Both practices are of course illegal. Their goal is to protect food quality and the environment.

How are they selecting their fields? Ms. Herbison says that, mostly, this is done at random, but occasionally they are acting on complaints. So it is very likely that the corn fields tested were chosen by luck. Apparently, the last time field corn was tested a few years ago, nothing alarming was found. We doubt very much that unregistered pesticide is being used in silage corn since there are plenty of good registered choices.

If you have any comments or questions, you can post them on the forum section of farmwest.com. Please notify other farmers who may not have seen this report.

Return to Environment

The B.C. Pesticide Collection Program - Frequently Asked Questions (2007)

Return to Environment

Q: What constitutes an obsolete pesticide?

A: Any pesticide that is no longer listed with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) Public Registry of approved pesticides is considered obsolete.

Q: Why was the B.C. Pesticide Collection Program started?

A: The program was developed and introduced at a time when there were significant changes in pesticides registered for use. The industry and government anticipated that with changes in pesticide registration, there would be an increase in obsolete pesticides and therefore the need to ensure their proper and safe disposal.

Q: What if a farmer missed a collection date?

A: Those who did not have the opportunity to bring their unwanted pesticides to a collection can contact a hazardous waste company to arrange for a private disposal service.

Q: What is the collection program procedure?

A: Anyone who has unwanted pesticides can bring them to a designated collection site. Pesticides are safely sorted and packed by a hazardous waste disposal company; then shipped to a special hazardous waste facility where they undergo high-temperature incineration.

Q: What have been the results of the program over the years?

A: Since the program began in 2000, approximately 174,400 kilograms of pesticides have been collected from more than 1155 participants and eight locations across the province.

The program does not collect from the same location every year, but rather every five to seven years. Research has shown that there is no demand from the industry for annual collections at every location.

The following list outlines the annual results and collection location for the program:

Date Location Results

2000 Fraser Valley 40,040 kg
2000 Vancouver Island 19,000 kg
2001 Okanagan 28,910 kg
2002 Peace River 3,192 kg
2006 Fraser Valley 44,000 kg
2006 Okanagan 29,486 kg
2007 Cariboo Interior 3,755 kg
2007 Vancouver Island 6,034 kg

Contact: Sandra Tretick
Investment Agriculture Foundation

Return to Environment

Invasive Plants

Fraser Valley - An Invasive Plant Strategy (2014)

By Jeanne Hughes, FVIPC Coordinator

The Fraser Valley Invasive Plant Council (FVIPC) is one of 17 regional invasive species committees in existence in the province. Our mandate is to reduce the negative social, economic, and ecological impacts caused by the introduction and spread of invasive plants. This is achieved through coordination of land managers, education and outreach, and an on the ground operational program.  Our membership is made up of approximately 80 people representing different stakeholder interests.

The FVIPC formed in 2009, and at that time we didn't really know the extent of the invasive plant problem, or what species were of primary concern in the Fraser Valley (though we had an idea) and focused more on raising awareness and organizing outreach events. In 2010, with crews and funding from the Invasive Species Council of BC (http://bcinvasives.ca/), we were able to conduct extensive inventories in our region. Then we could strategize! FVIPC members came together with their collective knowledge, and we placed each invasive plant species in our region into four categories – Prevent, Eradicate, Contain, and Control.

The definitions are as follows:

  • Prevent: Species not known to occur in region but likely to establish if introduced (i.e., gorse)
  • Eradicate: Species known to occur in limited distribution and low density. (i.e., spurge laurel)
  • Contain: Established infestations found in portions of the region. Contain existing infestations and prevent spread to uninfested areas. (i.e., knotweeds)
  • Control: Established infestations common and widespread throughout FVIPC region. Focus control in high value areas. (i.e., Himalayan blackberry)

If you know anything about the knotweed species, you may be thinking knotweeds? On the contain list? The 'contain' species are the most difficult to classify – these are the species that are nearly beyond reasonable control, but which have a high negative ecological, social, or economic impact. We all felt that the knotweeds should be placed higher on the priority list than something like Himalayan blackberry or English ivy.

The other side of this strategization session was identifying 'High Value' areas in the Fraser Valley – natural areas minimally infested with invasive plants and which provide high biodiversity wildlife habitat, habitat for species at risk, or important salmon spawning habitat.

Some specific areas identified by FVIPC members include:

  • Sumas Mountain; high biodiversity area with numerous Species at Risk including mountain beaver and phantom orchid
  • Chilliwack River Valley; high biodiversity area
  • Confluence of the Chehalis and Harrison Rivers; area is proposed Wildlife Management Area due to critical salmon habitat
  • Sweltzer Creek, Cultus Lake; the only salmon access point out of Cultus Lake - threatened by invasive yellow flag iris

So how this comes together is that any resources and funding we receive go towards controlling high priority species (the eradicate and contain species) in high value areas. Each year our membership comes together in early spring to review our species lists and tweak here and there based on new information from the previous years' field work. In agricultural areas we focus on wild chervil, the knotweeds, giant hogweed, and tansy ragwort (with the Fraser Valley Regional District's field crew).

Membership to the FVIPC is free!

Please contact Jeanne Hughes, FVIPC Coordinator, info@fvipc.ca, or at 604-615-9333 for more information.

Invasive Plant Council of BC (2005)

Return to Environment

What is the Invasive Plant Council of BC?

The Invasive Plant Council of British Columbia is a new registered society with over 100 members. Its inaugural meeting was held in June 2004.

Why was the Council formed?

The Council's formation was a primary recommendation of the Invasive Plant Strategy for British Columbia, produced in 2003 through the leadership of the Fraser Basin Council. The Invasive Plant Council was established to build cooperation and coordination for the management of invasive plants in this province. The Council will try to build cooperation to protect British Columbia's environment and minimize negative social and economic impacts caused by the introduction, establishment and spread of invasive alien plants. The main focus of the Council will be to build a cooperative, province-wide invasive plant management program.

Who are the members of the Council?

Board members embody a wide diversity of sectors affiliated with invasive plant management province-wide. Members represent a wide range of perspectives, including government (federal, provincial, local and First Nations), land- and water-based user groups, resource-based businesses and industries, utilities and non-government organizations.

What has the Council accomplished in its first 6 months?

In the Council's first six months it has established an interim Board of Directors and five committees. The Board has worked on establishing Council governance and producing an action plan, established a website, initiated a newsletter series, and began an assessment of the existing informational materials and resources on invasive plant management. In addition, the Invasive Plant Council hosted its first general forum and annual general meeting on January 25, 2005.

The Board has been working to launch the Council by developing and registering its constitution and bylaws, setting up committees, establishing internal governance measures, and planning the first forum and annual general meeting.

What is the primary concern of the Invasive Plant Council?

One of the primary concerns of Council members is the need to know what information is currently available about invasive plants and their management. Consequently, the Council has begun the process of summarizing existing information, both for reference and to identify gaps where more information is needed.

Also, the public awareness of invasive plants needs to be raised. The public generally doesn't understand the impact of "weeds". Effectively addressing the issue of invasive plants requires clear direction and increased public awareness.

What are the main goals of the Invasive Plant Council over the next five years?

The Invasive Plant Council of BC held their first annual forum on January 25, 2005. The various groups and committees met and listed their priorities:

  • Increase signatories to the Memorandum of Support by industry partners (railways, chemical companies, forestry companies, mining) and others
  • Expand membership
  • Work with inter-ministry agencies to ensure there is adequate, stable funding for invasive plant management
  • Include a new Board member for nursery trades/ horticulture, and consider adding youth.
  • Expand the Councils communications program to include both an outreach program that addresses media, and an education program that fits into the school curricula
  • Ensure that 100% of BC's area is covered by regional weed committees.
  • Focus on prevention, early detection and rapid response
  • Organize local events and link with related conferences
  • Increase First Nations awareness of the Council
  • Increase public awareness of invasive plants by installing signs at popular trailheads about seeds sticking to socks, tires and dogs; monitoring boat ramps and communicating with boaters about aquatic weed spread; and working with wildlife and conservation groups to prevent further loss of biodiversity from invasive plants due to recreation experiences.

For more information on the Invasive Plant Council:
Phone: 250-392-1400
Fax: 250-392-1004

Return to Environment

Invasive Plant Council of BC - Spotter's Network (2011)

Return to Environment

The Invasive Plant Council of BC is excited about upcoming improvements to our Spotter’s Network program. We are reviewing our Spotter’s Network database and would like to hear from you if you would like to become a Spotter, or if you would like to continue to remain a Spotter.

What is “Spotter’s Network”?

The Spotter’s Network is made up of individuals with a variety of backgrounds and expertise that share a common interest in the protection of our natural ecosystems from invasive plants. The Spotter’s Network program aims to increase the number of eyes on the ground. Spotters are on the alert for new and existing infestations, identifying and reporting invasive plants and enabling action.

Generally, members of the Spotter’s Network have some training or background in invasive plant identification either gained through the IPCBC’s Spotter’s Workshops or through other, independent means.

Through the Spotter’s Network, individuals receive free, up-to-date regional and provincial invasive plant information and news through the IPCBC e-bulletin (http://www.invasiveplantcouncilbc.ca/resources/ebulletin/) as well as the option to join the Spotter’s Network blog. Information and updates are designed to assist Spotters in the identification and reporting of new and existing invasive plant infestations.

What Does a “Spotter” Do?

Spotter’s may participate in or host Spotter’s Network Workshops. There are five different and FREE one-hour orientation workshops to choose from and all are designed to enable local community groups or organizations to learn about invasive plants in their area including identification, management, and reporting.

How do I Become a Spotter?

If you are interested in joining our Spotter’s Network or are already a Spotter and would like to receive the e-bulletin, please respond to this email and we would be happy to provide you with more information.

Please watch for these updates on our Spotter’s webpage at: http://www.invasiveplantcouncilbc.ca/special-events/sign-up-for-spotters-network-workshops

Join our growing membership for free by signing our Memorandum of Support! We encourage you to do so at: http://www.invasiveplantcouncilbc.ca/about-us/memorandum-of-support. By showing your support you will be working collaboratively to respond to the growing threat of invasive plants in British Columbia.

On behalf of Invasive Plant Council of BC, thank you for your interest the Spotter's Network. Please email or call us at the number below if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you again,

Invasive Plant Council of BC
(250) 392-1400

Return to Environment

Invasive Plants of BC (2005)

Return to Environment

Information for this article was supplied by the Invasive Plant Council's publication entitled: Invasive Plant Strategy for British Columbia - A project initiated by the Fraser Basin Council

What is the definition of an invasive plant?

The term "invasive plant" refers to any invasive alien plant species that has the potential to pose undesirable or detrimental impacts on humans, animals or ecosystems. Invasive plants have the capacity to establish quickly and easily on new sites, and they have widespread negative economic, social and environmental impacts. Many invasive plants in British Columbia are "alien" to North America, and may also be referred to as "non-native", "exotic" or "introduced" plant species.

Invasive species produce widespread negative effects that influence many aspects of our lives. They cost ranchers, farmers, utilities, forest companies, government agencies, conservation organizations and the general public untold millions of dollars each year in lost productivity and increased management costs. Invasive plants transform the landscape, weakening the economic and environmental health of the areas they infest.

Where do invasive plants originate?

Human impact on the environment is widespread and global. Over time, people have transported plants with unique properties and uses to new environments to provide food crops, fibre and ornamental species. Modern global transportation of people and goods, along with increase international trade, has also facilitated the unintended transport of plants. Although many of these plants have improved the well being of people around the world, other species have found their new environments extremely conducive to rapid establishment and growth, often to the detriment of natural ecosystems, wildlife, agricultural crops and livestock.

Does British Columbia currently have invasive plant species?

The British Columbia Weed Control Act designates 48 plant species as noxious; 21 are listed for all regions and the remaining 27 are regionally listed. Other invasive species - such as Scotch broom, purple loosestrife, Japanese knotweed, Himalayan blackberry and many others - lack this designation but nevertheless pose serious threats to native plant communities and ecosystems health, as well as to the economy and social interests.

How do invasive plants spread?

Invasive plants spread in many ways. People enjoying various land-and water-based recreational activities can unknowingly spread invasive plant seeds, roots and pieces of reproductive foliage. Cyclists and ATV users on grasslands, campers moving among parks, guide outfitters packing in hay for their horses, and boaters launching their boats into a lake are examples of how recreational users can unknowingly introduce invasive plants.

Land clearing, logging cutblocks, gravel pits, utility lines, pipeline rights-of-way, transportation corridors and urban development create soil disturbances favourable to plant establishments. Excessive grazing by livestock and wildlife can also create an optimal environment for invasive plants to establish and expand their range. All of these activities create an ideal seedbed for invasive plants.

Invasive plants can also spread through seed mixes for forage, crops, land rehabilitation, erosion control, wildflowers and birds, which sometimes unintentionally include invasive plant seeds. Nurseries and mail order catalogues supply plants and seedlings to gardeners, and increasingly rely on trans-provincial and international sales through mail and Internet orders. Imported horticultural species are seldom assessed for their invasive potential and many have escaped their intended space in the garden to seriously impact natural habitat. Urbanization of lands is another potential source of invasive plants through landscaping.

The actions of livestock and wildlife, especially birds and ungulates, can also spread invasive plants. Seeds are eaten and then excreted into a new area, or carried in feathers, fur or hair. Many invasive plant species are well adapted for successful transport, either through their palatability to birds and animals, or their plant structure. Once deposited, the seeds can germinate and grow. The species has then successfully expanded its geographic range.

What are the impacts of invasive plants?

  • Human Health and Safety - Invasive plants directly affect human health and safety in many ways. Giant hogweed produces painful skin burns; the large, sharp spines of gorse are unsafe to humans; and the toxic berries of bittersweet nightshade can cause poisoning. Some allergies, including hay fever, are caused by invasive species.
  • Environment and Biodiversity - After habitat loss, invasive species are the second biggest threat to species at risk in British Columbia, including plants and other wildlife. Ecosystems across the province are vulnerable, particularly Interior grasslands and dry forests, and drier coastal ecosystems. Associated riparian and wetland communities in these areas are also susceptible to the threat of invasive plants.

    Examples of negative environmental impacts caused by invasive plants are numerous and include the invasion of spotted knapweed in Glacier National Park and purple loosestrife invasion of wetlands. Garry oak and associated ecosystems on southern and central Vancouver Island are under increasing threat by Scotch broom and gorse. Himalayan blackberry and Japanese knotweed have spread quickly within riparian vegetation alongside coastal steams and formed dense thickets that exclude native vegetation, reducing biodiversity and altering natural ecosystems. English ivy is an aggressive climbing vine that kills tress and threatens the structural integrity of tree species.

    Plants deposited in ponds and lakes may also become invasive. Eurasian watermilfoil was accidentally deposited into Okanagan Lake. Water lilies and yellow flag iris have also been introduced to lakes. Cordgrass has invaded the tidal mudflats near Delta.

  • Agriculture - Invasive plants produce a wide range of detrimental impacts on the agriculture industry. Many act as hosts for insects and crop diseases. They reduce crop quality and market opportunities, and similarly decrease farm income by reducing yields by an average of 10-15 percent. Every year, British Columbian farmers and ranchers lose millions of dollars in crop revenue, and also pay millions of dollars for control measures, such as herbicides and cultivation.
  • Animal Health - Livestock and wildlife are affected by some invasive plant species. St. John's wort increases photosensitization of ungulates, making them more vulnerable to skin burns from solar radiation. Animals that consume hound's-tongue or tansy ragwort can experience cumulative liver damage from the toxic alkaloids in these species, and those that graze on Russian knapweed or yellow starthistle can be inflicted with a fatal nervous disorder. The seed heads of burdock and hound's-tongue can cause serious irritation around the eyes and ears of livestock and wildlife ungulate species when embedded, and can also reduce thermal insulation when matted in the animals' hair.
  • Forest Management - Gorse can increase the risk of wildfire because of the high oil content in the branches and cheatgrass alters the natural fire regime by significantly reducing the intervals between fires. Also, when woody invasive species, such as Scotch broom, replace native vegetation, they contribute to high-intensity fires from increased fuel accumulations.

    In harvested cutblocks, Scotch broom can interfere with Douglas-fir regeneration and diffuse knapweed can affect the survival and growth of planted conifers. Other species, including marsh thistle, can bend the stems of young conifer seedlings through" snow-press" and permanently alter their form.

  • Socio-Economic - There are no specific data for British Columbia on the individual social or economic impacts of invasive plants. However, economic impacts generally create social impacts through their close linkage.
  • First Nations - First Nations are very concerned about the effects of invasive plants on their sustenance activities within their traditional territories, including hunting, fishing and the gathering of food and medicinal plants.
  • Tourism - Invasive plants destroy the natural beauty of the landscape by replacing native plant communities with an aggressive single species. As well, the burrs, thorns and prickles of some invasive species cause physical discomfort and are a deterrent to recreational use on that land.

For more information:
Invasive Plant Council of British Columbia
Email: info@invasiveplantcouncil.ca
Website: www.invasiveplantcouncilbc.ca

Return to Environment

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) (2013)

Are You Harbouring an Aggressive Alien Invader in Your Garden?

By any standards Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is an impressive plant. It sprouts from rhizome (root ) fragments as small as 2 cm (less than 1”), reaches heights of 5 m (16.4’), it can grow through asphalt, and it can be found lurking in local gardens! Japanese knotweed (sometimes called Mexican bamboo, Japanese fleece-flower, or wild rhubarb) is a Provincially Noxious invasive plant (designated under the BC Weed Control Act) first introduced into North American gardens in the 1800’s. 

Japanese Knotweed


Japanese knotweed is one of four species of invasive knotweed found in BC: Bohemian (Fallopia x bohemica), Giant (Fallopia sachalinensis) and Himalayan (Polygonum polystachyum). In BC all four knotweed species have “jumped the garden fence” and can be found in along roadsides, lakes, streams, fields, meadows and the ocean. Knotweed infestations form extensive, dense stands that shade out other vegetation and displace native flora and fauna. Dense knotweed infestations along waterways block access by animals and humans. Knotweed’s rhizomerous root system does not stabilize stream banks like native vegetation and results in stream bank failure and increased sediment in the water. Knotweed damage isn’t limited to natural environments. Knotweed is infamous for breaking through drains, concrete foundations and buildings. Removing knotweed from Olympic venue sites added millions to the cost of hosting the 2012 London games.

Identification: Japanese knotweed is a herbaceous, rhizomatous perennial, native to eastern Asia. It has speckled, hollow, bamboo-like stems, arching branches, and large, alternating, green spear shaped leaves of up to 12 cm (4.7 inches) long. Sprays of creamy white flowers appear at the tips of the branches between August and September.

Control: The extensive rhizome system (up to 3 m, 9.8 feet deep and 7 m, 23 feet radius) means treatment often needs to be repeated over several years for long-term control to be achieved. Herbicide treatments, either by stem injection or foliar spray, are generally recommended for complete control. Knotweed can be cut, mowed or grazed but these methods only reduce the height and density of plants they do not control the infestation and the plant will continue to grow once cutting or grazing stops. Cutting stems and covering the stumps with black tarps can slow the spread of knotweed but plants will continue to sprout up around the edges of the tarps requiring the trapped area be repeatedly expanded. Care needs to be taken so that fragments of splintered stem are not spread - plants can re-sprout from the fragments. Cuttings and infested soil should be treated as contaminated waste and be buried deep in landfills, never composted or used as fill! Treated areas should be monitored for many years to ensure that no new shoots appear. The Northwest Invasive Plant Council (NWIPC) is working to identify all infestations of knotweed on public and private lands with the goal of controlling infestations before they dominate our local environments. You can help by reporting infestations directly to NWIPC (1-866-44WEEDS or info@nwipc.org), or through the provincial Report-A-Weed application for smart phones (www.reportaweedbc.ca) and by getting involved in local invasive plant control efforts. Check out www.nwipc.org for more information and to find events in your area. - See more at: http://nwipc.org/news-events/are-you-harbouring-an-aggressive-alien-inva...

Filed under: 

Northwest Invasive Plant Council (2005)

Return to Environment

Northwest Invasive Plant Council Taking a New Approach to the War on Weeds in Northwest BC
Honey Giroday, NWIPC Program Manager

The Northwest Invasive Plant Council (NWIPC) has completed the first year of a three year pilot project begun in April 2005. The NWIPC was initially established in the mid-1990's to co-ordinate the invasive plant control activities of its member organizations including government, industry, environmental and First Nations agencies.

The primary goal of the NWIPC pilot project is to have a single agency responsible for the coordination and delivery of invasive plant control and public education. This single agency will enhance the effectiveness of invasive plant management in northwest BC, thus reducing the cost for the numerous agencies across various jurisdictions.

NWIPC program manager, Honey Giroday, states that "previous to the NWIPC pilot project, agencies including the Ministry of Forests (MOF) and Ministry of Transportation (MOT) let contracts for the control of invasive plants in their jurisdictions and often contractors for MOF or MOT would drive past each other to treat sites almost next to each other, and as a result was costing more in the long-term". Within the NWIPC area, which spans from the Alberta border to the Queen Charlottes, and from the Yukon border to north of Quesnel, nine contracts were awarded to perform active invasive plant control.

The NWIPC pilot project was found to be highly successful in its first year of operation and Honey Giroday states that "operationally it has provided more effect invasive plant control, better service for the public and, with minor adjustments, will prove to be even more effect in the 2006 & 2007 field season".

The NWIPC's primary goal is to prevent troublesome weeds found in surrounding areas from establishing in northwest BC. These weeds include Spotted Knapweed, a weed introduced from Europe that has established itself as a major pest in rangeland of the Okanagan including infesting approximately 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) and reducing the forage potential by up to 90%. Spotted Knapweed is found in approximately 40 sites in northwest BC.

Honey Giroday also explains that "a community based and public education approach to invasive plant control has to be used in order to get invasive plant sites reported". The NWIPC established a toll-free number from May to October for information exchange and public reporting of invasive plant sites. Invasive plant control contracts finished for the season in October, and the NWIPC will now begin to evaluate the work performed during the 2005 season.

Honey-Marie Giroday, BSc, BIT
Northwest Invasive Plant Program Manager
P.O. Box 5, 2011 PG Pulpmill Road
Prince George, BC V2L 4R9
Phone: (250) 562-5412
email: hgiroday@edynamics.com

Return to Environment

Province Takes Action Against Invasive Plants (2008)

Return to Environment

British Columbia is taking provincewide action to protect our valuable land resource against invasive plants with increased funding and a new Invasive Plant Management Program, announced Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell while presenting a $250,000 cheque today to the Northwest Invasive Plant Council (NWIPC).

"Today, as we celebrate Earth Day, the Province is continuing its commitment to provide strong leadership to ensure a collaborative approach to invasive plant management in B.C.," said Bell. "One example is the successful NWIPC pilot project here in Prince George in which a single agency is co-ordinating services in dealing with invasive species across jurisdictions, from the Alberta border to the Queen Charlottes, and from the Yukon border to north of Quesnel."

Grants totalling more than $800,000 have been issued across B.C. for management of noxious weeds and other invasive plants. Funds will be used by local and regional community-based invasive plant committees for expediting and monitoring control, gathering and maintaining inventory and mapping information, and expanding through education of stakeholders and the broader community.

The Invasive Plant Management Program is designed to strengthen the Province's capacity to manage invasive plants. The new program is based on collaboration with the ministries of Forests and Range, Environment and Transportation and in consultation with stakeholders and the Invasive Plant Council of B.C. Existing functions will continue and new approaches and partnerships for managing invasive plants will be implemented throughout the year.

B.C.'s new Agriculture Plan highlights invasive plant management in the province, and supports continued provincial funding for local weed committees, the Corrections Program, the Community Weed Pull Program, and the advancement and application of biological control. As a leader in invasive plant management, B.C. continues to implement new and innovative management approaches.

Invasive plants have the ability to severely affect the biodiversity of our natural ecosystems and to permanently alter landscapes (i.e. Scotch broom, purple loosestrife, spotted knapweed).

The Province will continue to build partnerships with stakeholders such as the federal and local governments, universities, the private sector, and the Invasive Plant Council of B.C. to develop collaborative strategies for effective invasive plant management.

Contact: Liz Bicknell
Communications Director
Agriculture and Lands
250 356-2862

Return to Environment

Land Use

Morice Region Arability Study Completed (2008)

Return to Environment

Over twenty thousand hectares of undeveloped Crown land in central BC could eventually be available for farmers and ranchers to expand their farming operations. The possibility emerges from the results of a newly-completed study of crown land in the Morice Region, south of Houston, looking at the suitability of the land to grow vegetable, grain and forage crops.

The massive multi-year study, championed by the Pleasant Valley Cattlemen's Association (PVCA), involved site visits, field arability analyses, and mapping. According to PVCA President Shirley Hamblin, it's an extremely timely initiative because of the lack of good land use planning information in the region. "Unlike some resource uses that can be moved across a landscape, arable lands are a finite resource that must be identified and conserved for primarily agricultural use if we are to maintain livestock and crop production opportunities," Hamblin says. "The knowledge gained from this project, we hope, will guide not only future land use planning exercises but also long term Crown land development for agriculture and range use; at least until we learn how to grow good crops on rocks or pavement!"

The lands identified in the study include areas most likely to be arable and least likely to result in resource conflicts with other users. Targeted areas will be further delineated to minimize inclusion of land of high value for other purposes, such as First Nations cultural resources and fish and wildlife habitat. With the completion of this additional work, farmers and ranchers will be able to apply for access to expand their operations. As with all Crown land applications, eligibility criteria will apply.

Partners in the project include Agriculture and Agri-food Canada's Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-foods Program (ACAAF), the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, the B.C. Ministry of Forests, and the Beef Cattle Industry Development Fund. The Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C. delivers the ACAAF program on behalf of the federal government. According to IAF Chair Stuart Wilson, the arability maps resulting from the study are excellent tools for farmers seeking to expand their operations. "The maps show them where the good land is," said Wilson. "The field data will even tell them what kind of soil there is in a particular area and what crops would be best adapted."

For more information please contact:

Shirley Hamblin, President
Pleasant Valley Cattlemen's Association
Phone: (250) 845-7849

Gayle Farrell
Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C.
Phone: (604) 731-9912

Return to Environment


A Sustainable Approach to Manure Management (2009)

Return to Manure

Pacific Agriculture Show Seminar
February 20, 10:00 am

Farmers are some of the most responsible environmental stewards of the province's land and water resources. They accept responsibility for managing their livestock wastes in a manner which increases agronomic benefits while reducing the risk of over-application, runoff, and leaching. Yet, since nutrient management is usually viewed as a cost which impacts on profitability, the approach taken to waste management needs to be both cost effective and work well.

The Fraser Valley is recognized as one of the most concentrated areas in Canada for poultry and dairy farms. These operations are also located in relative close proximity to expanding urban centres and to some of the most important ground water and surface water resources in the Province. Furthermore, as a source of greenhouse gas emissions, livestock operations will increasingly need to be mindful of the quality and type of their emissions. Against this backdrop, it is critical that the farming community (in the Fraser Valley and elsewhere in B.C.) remains proactive in mitigating the impact of livestock wastes through effective manure management.

This presentation will begin with an overview of the subject of animal wastes - in general and specific to the Fraser Valley. A primary seminar focus will be a review of the advantages of using an aerobic process instead of the (more commonly and less desirable) anaerobic process in breaking down poultry and dairy liquid and dry manures. This will include a discussion of new developments in manure management technology from Europe that enable liquid and solid animal wastes to be processed effectively, economically and in an environmentally-responsible manner, without the requirement for expensive capital expenditures or equipment. It will point out how this approach to manure management has been proven effective in usage around the world and also how recently several of the leading livestock rearing states (in the U.S.) have initiated a shift from anaerobic to aerobic methods of processing animal wastes.

The implications of this sustainable approach to manure management will be overviewed in terms of overcoming the main "nuisance" implications commonly associated with animal manure - e.g. odour, pathogens, and land, air and water pollution. It will also discuss the important agronomic benefits of this approach. Subject to time allocated for this presentation, methods of composting and field application of manure can also be discussed.

In other jurisdictions, as varied as Manitoba, North Carolina and parts of Europe, where due care was not taken in implementing effective manure management programs and managing farming's interrelationship with the environment and the broader community, moratoriums have been imposed. These legislative actions have had the effect of restricting the operation and/or expansion of livestock operations, thereby affecting the livelihood of farmers (and cost structure of farming). This presentation will provide thoughtful information that will help in protecting the integrity and health of the farming economy of the Fraser Valley and B.C., while remaining mindful of the broader environmental and community context in which it exists.

Presented by: Derek Pratt, B.E.S., M.B.A.

Return to Manure

Ag-Canada study shows slurry can replace fertilzer nitrogen on grassland

Although farmers have already cut back dramatically on fertilizer inputs, many still apply 200+ kg/ha of nitrogen to grassland on an annual basis. New research from Agriculture & Agri-food Canada shows that this may not be necessary.

The DPCG and Ag-Canada have used a small prototype of the SMA since 1992. Research with the SMA has provided invaluable information on improving slurry use for forage production and environmental protection.

In a massive manure research study, Dr. Shabtai Bittman found that grasses respond similarly to the mineral nitrogen in manure as they do to fertilizer nitrogen. This was true throughout the growing season. They key is appropriate application technique.

In Bittman's study, the main comparison was between manure application with the Sleighfoot Manure Applicator (MSA) and a conventional splash plate. The trial also looked at rate and timing of manure application. Here's what was found with respect to crop yield and nitrogen uptake:

  • At equivalent rates of mineral N, response to manure application with the SMA was similar to fertilizer N (ammonium nitrate). These results were consistent, whether manure was applied in spring, summer, or fall.
  • Response to splash-plate applied manure was less consistent than with the SMA. Yield with the splash-plate was as much as 1.3 t/ha (dry matter basis) less per cut than comparable fertilizer applications.
  • Delaying fertilizer or manure application by 7-8 days slightly reduced yields but did not reduce N uptake. This means that delaying fertilizer can result in higher protein content. It may also result in higher nitrate content.

Although no measurements were taken to evaluate crop damage when manure was applied with the splash-plate, the visual effects were stunning. On hot summer days, the splash-plate application often resulted in tip-burn on the grass, leaving the field with a displeasing golden hue for several days afterwards. With the SMA, the manure was totally hidden beneath the leaf canopy. In fact, a common challenge for SMA operators was to see where the last load of manure was spread.

Results Have Implications For Fall And Winter

Whether it's because they don't want to annoy their neighbors or they fear damaging their grassland, many forage producers avoid spreading manure on grass during the summer months. At the end of summer, their pits are full of manure and they are faced with the dilemma of spreading in fall.

In a year like 1996 when fall rains came early, some producers got stuck with pits that were full and land that was too wet to spread on. Using new technology like the SMA can provide the answer to avoiding this problem.

By getting a bigger portion of manure nutrients recycled through the crop during the growing season, producers have several incentives for using the SMA.

  • You save money on purchased fertilizer.
  • You have greater flexibility during the growing season. In summer, waiting a week after cutting to apply manure can actually be better because the new regrowth provides a better canopy, thus reducing the amount of ammonia lost to the air by volatilization.
  • By keeping off your fields in fall and winter, you not only minimize leaching losses but you reduce the harmful effects of soil compaction.
Previous Page: « Harris Report Concludes Custom Sleighfoot Manure Application Can Be Economically Viable. »
Next Page: « Sleighfoot Addresses Air Quality Issues »

Effects of Method of Applying Liquid Manure on Ammonia Emission (2001)

Return to Manure

Experiment & Measurement of Ammonia Loss

Scientists at the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, in collaboration with Holland Hitch Ltd., have developed a new precision, high-speed implement for applying liquid manure into the soil of grassland, minimum-tilled crop land as well as conventionally tilled fields.

The new applicator, called Aerway SSD, applies slurry in narrow bands directly over surface openings made by its ground-driven aerator tines, in one operation. Compared to broadcasting with a conventional splash-plate applicator, the Aerway SSD applies manure more uniformly and with less exposure to the air. Compared to conventional injectors, SSD causes less soil disturbance, requires less power, can be used on stony land, and is available in wider units. Scientific evaluation of this new technology was started in 1999 in order to assess agronomic crop response, nutrient use efficiency, and ammonia loss relative to conventional manure application. This report summarizes first-year results of a study to compare ammonia loss from dairy slurry applied on grassland with the Aerway SSD, surface banding with drop-hoses and conventional broadcasting with a splash-plate.


Two trials (July 21 and August 17) were conducted on a 5-year-old stand of tall fescue and one trial (Sept. 1) was on a 2-year-old stand of orchardgrass. Manure application rates ranged from 70 to 115 kg ammonia-N/ ha and from 55,000 to 75,000 litres/ha. The splash-plate spread a 9-m wide strip; the SSD unit (also used for the drop-hose treatment) was 4.5 m wide. The bands of both the drop-hose and the SSD treatments were spaced 19 cm apart. The soil openings made by the Aerway SSD, set at 2.5 degree offset, measured 15- to 18-cm deep, 20-cm long and were spaced 20-cm apart in the row.


There are different methods for measuring volatilization losses of ammonia following land application of manure. The micro-meteorological method uses small samplers mounted at different heights on towers located around the perimeter of a treated area. This method does not affect the airflow over the soil but large plots (at least 20 by 20m) are required. In contrast, the semi-open chamber technique, used in this study, does not require large plots so a larger number of treatments can be monitored at once. However, these chambers restrict airflow, reducing ammonia loss, and hence capture smaller amounts of ammonia than the methods that use either ventilated chambers or no chambers at all. Nevertheless, previous work has shown that the semi-open chamber can reveal relative differences among application technologies. Results from the micro-meteorological study will be summarized in a future report.

The ammonia in these chambers was trapped in sorption pads soaked in acid. Ammonia extracted from the sorption pads was quantified with a flow injection autoanalyser. Three chambers were used for each experimental plot. Ammonia samples were collected 1, 2, lete and 13 days after manure was applied.

Photos below show manure application with the SSD and splash-plate applicators at approx. 7,000 gal/acre (70,000l/ha).


Trial 1 (See Table 1)

In Trial 1, ammonia losses for Day 1, Day 2 and total losses over the 13-day measurement period had the ranking: splash-plate > drop-hose > Aerway SSD. Total ammonia loss from manure applied with the Aerway SSD was 33% lower (significant at P

Table 1. Ammonia loss after application of dairy manure-slurry with different implements in Trial 1 started on July 21, 1999



----Ammonia Loss(kg/ha)----

. Splash-plate Hose Aerway SE*
Day 1 3.95a** 3.19a 1.93b 0.33
Day 2 1.16a 1.07a 0.74a 0.04
Day 3-5 1.18a 1.31a 1.03a 0.18
Day 6-13 1.07a 1.29a 1.15a 0.04

** Treatment means in each row that are followed by the same letter are not statistically different at P*Y Standard error

Trial 2 (See Table 2)

In Trial 2, ammonia losses in Day 1 and total losses over the 14-day measurement period had the same ranking as in Trial 1: splash-plate > hose > Aerway SSD. After Day 1, emissions were low with no significant differences among treatments. Total ammonia loss over the measurement period was significantly (P

Table 2. Ammonia loss after application of dairy manure-slurry with different implements in Trail 2 started on Aug. 17, 1999



----Ammonia Loss(kg/ha)----

. Splash-plate Hose Aerway SE*
Day 1 7.52a 3.30b 3.15b 0.60
Day 2 1.09a 0.90a 0.87a 0.10
Day 3 0.40a 0.27a 0.30a 0.06
Day 4-16 0.41a 0.48a 0.44a 0.09
Day 7-14 0.16a 0.12a 0.15a 0.02
Total (Day 1-14) 9.58a 5.07a 4.91a 0.77
** Treatment means in each row that are followed by the same letter are not statistically different at P* Y Standard error

Trial 3 (See Table 3)

Ammonia loss for all periods, and the total over all periods, was greater for the splash-plate than the Aerway SSD. Highest ammonia emissions were measured during this trial, probably due to the warm conditions that are conducive to volatilization of ammonia. Ammonia losses were significantly lower for the Aerway SSD than the splash-plate in all Periods (except Day 3-5), and for the entire period by 62%. Ammonia losses during the first day were 64% and 71% of the total measured over 13 day for the splash-plate and Aerway SSD applicators, respectively. Ammonia emission from the non-manured plots (control) over 13-day measurement period averaged 0.14 kg/ha.

Table 3. Ammonia loss after application of dairy manure-slurry with different implements in Trial 3 on Sept. 1, 1999



----Ammonia Loss(kg/ha)----

. Splash-plate Aerway SE*
Day 1 8.59a** 3.67b 0.42
Day 2 1.58a 0.48b 0.03
Day 3-5 1.54a 0.40a 0.28
Day 5-13 1.50a 0.42b 0.14
Total (Day 1-13) 13.21a 4.97b 0.86

** Treatment means in each row that are followed by the same letter are not statistically different at P* Y Standard error

Observations & Acknowledgements

Some Observations

Results from the three trials showed significantly lower ammonia emission losses (33%, 47%, and 62%) for the Aerway SSD manure applicator compared with the splash-plate. Average reduction in ammonia emission loss by the Aerway SSD, over the three trials, was 47%.

Results for banding manure with the drop hoses were less consistent, but on average, intermediate between the splash-plate and the SSD.

  • Over half of the total amount of ammonia loss occurred during the first day in all trials; this proportion was greater for the splash-plate than the SSD.
  • Differences among methods were less apparent after Day2.
  • Results presented in this report are preliminary. Additional results using the micro-meteorological technique and from trials conducted in the year 2000 will be summarized in a future report.


We are grateful to the following people for their contribution to this project: F. Bounaix, A. Friesen, S. Briant, M. Schaber, X. Wu, C. Vanlaerhoven. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support by BC Investment Agriculture, Agriculture Canada Matching Investment Initiative and Holland Hitch Ltd.

L.J.P. van Vliet, S. Bittman, and E.A. Kenney

Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Box 1000, Agassiz, B.C. Canada V0M 1AO

Contact: Laurens van Vliet (604-796-2221 ext.223) or E-mail VanVlietL@em.agr.ca

Return to Manure

Fall & Winter Manure Management Information for the Okanagan/Shuswap (1996)

Return to Manure


Goal: To prevent contaminated runoff from entering surface or groundwaters.

Issue: Excess nutrients entering into surface waters in the Shuswap/Okanagan have resulted in reduced water quality. Runoff from manured fields is believed to be a significant source of these nutrients. Manure may also carry pathogens which, together with excess nutrients, may reduce downstream water quality for drinking or recreation.

Producer Responsibility: Manure must be applied to land only as a fertilizer or a soil conditioner. Producers are responsible for ensuring that contaminated runoff from their fields does not enter watercourses (i.e. ditches, streams, marshes, rivers or lakes).

What is Contaminated Runoff? Water is contaminated if it exceeds the water quality objectives for the water course it enters.

Rule of Thumb: If the water running off of a manured field is brown in color, it is clearly contaminated

What can Producers Do?

In order to prevent or reduce the risk of contaminated runoff from entering a watercourse, producers should not spread manure:

  • within 5 in of a bank or slope leading to a watercourse;
  • within 30 in of any well, stream or spring used for domestic purposes. These distances should be increased where the ground slopes toward the stream, watercourse or well;
  • on steep or very long shallow slopes where erosion and/or surface runoff is likely to occur;
  • on saturated soils or in areas of standing water where manure will not infiltrate into the soil; and
  • within the high water mark of field depressions during times of the year when there is a risk of direct surface runoff to a water course.

Fall and winter application rates of should not exceed the total annual nutrient requirements of the crop. Fields receiving manure should have a good level of vegetative cover or crop residue present. Avoid tilling under crop residue as this may increase the risk of soil and manure loss in runoff. A crop specialist can advise the producer on a suitable application rate.

Uncontaminated runoff (clean water) should be diverted around pens, exercise yards, manured fields, or other areas where contamination is likely to occur. lf contarnination of some runoff is likely, facilities should be constructed (storages, berms, swales etc.) to contain that runoff until it can be spread as a fertilizer.

Rule of Thumb: If runoff water is clean ? keep it clean!

Application Conditions

1. Manure application to unfrozen ground in fall.

This is a good time to apply manure to many corn or grassland sites as most of the manure nutrients will be available for the crop next spring. Avoid wet areas, areas close to a watercourse and fine textured soils with long or steep slopes.

Rule of Thumb: If there has been runoff or flooding in previous years ? don't apply manure to that field.

2. Manure application to frozen ground in fall or winter

This practice is not recommended on most fields. The risk of contaminated runoff from this practice is high. If you must apply manure to frozen ground then apply to grassland or standing grain stubble where soils are coarser textured, and where slopes are shallow. Stay well away from water courses.

Rule of Thumb: Fields which have had runoff, even if only in some years, should be avoided as the risk of runoff is high.

3. Manure application to snow covered ground.

This practice is not recommended ? and may be further restricted in future if spring runoff continues to occur. Manure applied to snow is most at risk to create contaminated runoff. This is due to an increased rate of melt and limited potential for the manure to bind to the soil or crop residue. If you must apply manure to snow covered ground use fields that are level or have a shallow slope, are well away from a watercourse, have coarse textured soils, have a northern exposure (aspect) and have significant vegetative cover.

Rule of Thumb: Fields which have had runoff at snowmelt, even if only in some years, should be avoided as the risk of runoff is high.

BC Environment Role & Intentions

Enforcement of the Agricultural Waste Control Regulation is the mandate of BC Environment. Resolution of the "manure contaminated runoff' issue is essential to the success of a self regulated, environmentally sustainable agricultural industry. The Ministry is working actively with producer groups to substantively eliminate manure contaminated runoff within a tight time frame to meet BC Environment regulations and public expectations.

Responsibility for compliance with the Regulation rests with the producer. The Ministry is prepared to work with producers to find solutions where unusual circumstances exist. Producers who continue to experience contaminated runoff are in violation of the Regulation and are subject to enforcement under the Waste Management Act.

Contacts for more information

BC Environment

Barb John, Agricultural Impact Officer, Kamloops, (250) 371-6299
Ron Townson, Environmental Protection Officer, Penticton, (250) 490-8276

BC Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

Brian Harper, District Agriculturist, Salmon Arm, (250) 832-1629
Ted Moore, District Agrologist, Kamloops, (250)371-6052
Kevin Murphy, District Agriculturist, Vernon, (250) 260-3000
Geoff Hughes-Games, Soil Specialist, Abbotsford, (604) 556-3102

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Dr. Bernie Zebarth, Soil Scientist, Surnmerland, (250) 494-6391

AEPC or Commodity Group Peer Inspectors

Return to Manure

Harris Report Concludes custom Sleightfoot manure application can be economically viable

Research and demonstration trials have clearly shown the agronomic benefits of the sleighfoot manure applicator (SMA). One would think that by now producers would be purchasing the SMA in droves. In reality, the response by producers has been cautious at best.

The main holdback has been financial. Rumors of outrageous costs have hurt the SMA. Even when realistic cost figures are used, producers still shake their heads and say they can spread manure cheaper the way they have been doing it for the last 25 years.

In her report on the viability of the SMA, agricultural consultant Andrea Harris set out to collect the economic facts on this system and present them back to producers in a straightforward manner.

The individual floating feet on the SMA ensure that slurry is deposited in neat bands beneath the leaf canopy of the grass.

The individual floating feet on the SMA ensure that slurry is deposited in neat bands beneath the leaf canopy of the grass.

In the end, Harris's results confirmed the hunch many producers were already feeling. An individual farmer purchasing a new vacuum tank with a SMA attachment will spend more in a year on manure management than a farmer purchasing the same-sized vacuum tank with a splash-plate attachment. But what about looking at some other options?

Using a computer spreadsheet model, Harris looked at a variety of test scenarios. For example, if a custom manure applicator offered a SMA service, would it be financially viable? Or if a farmer purchased a new vacuum tank with a splashplate attachment, would he save money over hiring a custom worker offering a SMA service?

The answers could shape the future of manure application trends in British Columbia. Though SMA ownership does not appear economically viable, manure application with a custom SMA looks very promising.

Assuming custom splashplate manure application on grass costs $15/acre, the farmer can pay up to $50/acre for custom SMA services and still save money. The difference is primarily due to the fertilizer savings a producer can expect with the SMA.

On the surface, the sensitivity analysis looks like the SMA wins in a cakewalk if you are using a custom worker. In reality, the custom worker may take up to twice the time to cover an acre with the SMA. Add to this the potential for hose blockage and the advantage is less than it seems. Still, a custom worker with a well-built SMA should be able to easily apply manure on grass for less than $50/acre.

Using the same assumptions, Harris evaluated hiring a custom SMA service versus purchasing a vacuum tank with a conventional splashplate applicator. She concluded that unless the farmer is growing over 150 acres of grass, the advantage goes to the custom SMA service.

Beyond the economic evaluation, Harris notes that some account must be made for a number on non-monetary benefits associated with the sleighfoot application system. These benefits include:

  • Reduced risk;
  • Flexibility in terms of application;
  • A reduction in odors;
  • Reduced environmental impact.

Because manure is applied in bands beneath the grass canopy, the risks associated with burning or fouling grass regrowth are reduced significantly. This provides farmers with greater flexibility in terms of applying manure after harvest. Reduced odors can be particularly important for farms located near urban areas. Finally, a reduced need for chemical fertilizers and a more efficient use of nitrogen provides environmental benefits in addition to cost savings.

Depending on the value farmers place on these non-monetary benefits, the SMA may be a viable alternative to conventional manure application methods. .

Previous Page:  Sleighfoot Manure Applicator Solves Stinky Problem »
Next Page:  AG-Canada Study Shows Slurry Can Replace Fertilizer Nitrogen On Grassland.

Managing Manure for Top Grass Production


Shabtai Bittman, Grant Kowalenko, Naveen Patni and Derek Hunt.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Agassiz, BC


We started our research on manure by asking the question "why do farmers apply more manure on corn than on grass?" Logically more manure should be applied to grass than corn because:

grass takes up more soil nutrients than corn

grass produces almost twice as much protein on a given land area compared to corn

grass can receive manure all summer long, not just spring and fall

grass provides a permanent cover that resists wintertime losses by leaching, runoff and erosion.

Our initial studies were designed to test the efficacy of manure nitrogen relative to fertilizer for grass production. We also wanted to determine if efficacy of manure is affected by the method of application.

Phase 1: Short term efficiency of manure on grass

We carried out 9 trials in 1994-96 to compare the response of grass (tall fescue) to dairy slurry relative to fertilizer. The slurry was either broadcast with a conventional splash plate or surface-banded with the sleighfoot (drag shoe) applicator. The trials were conducted in spring, summer and fall so that all weather conditions and grass conditions would be taken into account.

A summary of these trials is presented in Figure 1. Grass growth responded to N fertilizer in the usual manner. Note that yield response to fertilizer is greater in the spring than in the summer or autumn, showing that grass crops need more nitrogen in spring.

How well did the grass respond to manure? The figure shows that the grass receiving manure from the sleighfoot applicator (triangles) responded similarly to the fertilizer in most cases, whereas grass that received manure from the splash plate applicator often yielded less. Of the 9 trials conducted, manure applied with the splash plate performed well in 5 and poorly in 4. In contrast, the sleighfoot manure performed within a few percent of fertilizer in all trials! The significance of this finding is that with the technology available, farmers cannot expect to get reliable results by applying manure on grass. This may explain the reluctance of farmers to rely on manure as the main fertilizer source for their grass crops. Why was the sleighfoot applicator more effective than the splash plate? The main reason is that banding manure on the soil surface conserves the nitrogen in the manure. Most of the readily available nitrogen in manure is in the ammonia form and ammonia is very volatile. We have recent data that shows that the new SSD manure applicator (manufactured by AERWAY, Norwich, Ont), which bands manure over openings made in the soil, reduces ammonia emission by 50%. There is also recent data from Texas A&M University that shows that the SSD substantially reduces odour emission.

To be effective as a nutrient source, manure must be applied uniformly. Splash plate applicators typically have variability of 30-60%, and under windy conditions, the variability is even greater. In contrast, the variability of the manure banding is typically less than 10%, even under windy conditions. In comparison to manure injectors which have the virtues of conserving ammonia and uniform application, the sleighfoot and SSD applicators band closer together, do not tear up the grass (allowing multiple applications), and require little additional horsepower. Also, manure can be spread faster by surface banding than injection; sleighfoot and SSD applicators that are 6 m (20 feet) wide, or more, are available.

Another impediment to the use of manure instead of fertilizer on grass is the amount of time it takes to spread all the fields. Often the grass starts to grow back before all the fields can be spread. Producers are concerned that the manure will contaminate and possibly burn the new growth. Banding applicators greatly reduce contamination because they deposit the manure beneath the canopy.

Fig 1. AYield of tall fescue as affected by NH4NO3 fertilizer and dairy slurry spread with splash plate and drag shoe applicators in spring, summer, and autumn (1994-96).

Since manure application is relatively slow, how does delayed application of manure affect grass response? In our studies, we found that an 8-10 day delay in application is similar with fertilizer or manure; there is a slight reduction in yield (see Fig. 1) but a slight gain in crude protein content. We were concerned that delayed application might cause high nitrate levels but this was not observed. Interestingly, workers in Denmark have shown that when manure is surface-banded under a grass canopy, more ammonia is conserved because there is less air movement and some of the ammonia is directly absorbed into the leaves.

It is important to stress that the short-term comparisons between manure and fertilizer described above are based on equivalent amounts of mineral-N, ignoring the organic-N portion of the manure. In dairy manure, usually half of the total N is in the mineral form. Hence the manured treatments received twice the amount of total N compared to the fertilized treatments. A comparison of the long-term effects of applying fertilizer and manure on grass is described below.

Fig 1. AYield of tall fescue as affected by NH4NO3 fertilizer and dairy slurry spread with splash plate and drag shoe applicators in spring, summer, and autumn (1994-96).

Phase II. Long-term effects of manure use on grass

Having shown that, in the short term, manure can be used to replace fertilizer at equivalent rates of mineral-N, we set out to determine the long-term implications of applying manure at these rates. In this study, we compared the effects of multi-year applications of fertilizer and manure at equivalent rates of both mineral-N and total-N. To ensure uniform application, all manure was applied with the sleighfoot applicator in equal amounts for each harvest. The study examined a wide range of effects including grass production, soil chemistry, soil biology, and movement of nutrients.

Grass yield

Based on equivalent rates of mineral-N, manured plots yielded 2-3 t/ha more than fertilized plots (Table 1). This was due, in part, to the manured plots receiving organic N, some of which gradually mineralized into ammonia. However, even based on equivalent amounts of total-N (400 kg/ha, shaded areas in Tables), the manured plots yielded 1 t/ha more than the fertilized plots. From the nitrogen perspective, this was surprising because some of the manure N was incorporated into the soil organic matter (see below).


Treatment Applied
Mineral N
Total N
    -----kg/ha------ t/ha
Control 0 0 7.3
Low N      
Fertilizer 200 200 13.2
Manure 200 400 15.0
High N      
Fertilizer 400 400 14.0
Fert/Man 400 600 16.8
Manure 400 800 16.5
Table 1. Annual dry matter yield of tall fescue (1998-2000) as affected by manure and fertilizer applied since 1994. Fert/Man treatment received alternating applications of fertilizer and manure. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.


The manure plots had higher soil pH, P, K, Zn and other nutrients. The fertilized plots were amended according to soil test (see below) but as discussed in the paper by Grant Kowalenko in this proceedings, it is hard to perfectly balance nutrient requirements with fertilizer. On a farm, such a loss of potential yield would not be apparent unless comparative test strips were employed. The benefit of the manure may include greater biological activity in the soil (see below), which contributes to soil tilth and perhaps other benefits.

Note that the high manure treatment yielded only 1.5 t/ ha (10%) more than the low manure treatment, although it was given 400 kg/ha more total N annually.

Grass stand

The high rate of manure reduced the density of the grass stand and increased the amount of bare soil (Table 2). Weeds were not affected by the treatments. As evident from Table 1, the thin stand of the high-manure plots yielded more that the thicker stands receiving less manure or fertilizer, showing that a thin but weed-free stand can yield well. Often the decline in stand density in manured fields is attributed to wheel traffic but this was not a factor in this study because measurements were made between the wheel tracks. The cause of the decline in stand is not known.

Treatment Applied
Mineral N
Total N
    -----kg/ha------ ---%---
Control 0 0 65
Low N      
Fertilizer 200 200 72
Manure 200 400 73
High N      
Fertilizer 400 400 69
Fert/Man 400 600 63
Manure 400 800 58
Table 2. Percent ground cover of tall fescue in 1998 as affected by manure and fertilizer applied annually since 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.


Nitrogen uptake and protein content

At the same rate of applied mineral-N, manured plots took up 40-50 kg/ha more N than fertilized plots (Table 3). However, at equivalent rates of total-N (400 kg/ha), the fertilized plots took up 60 kg/ha more N than the manured plots. Also, the fertilized plots contained over 4% units more crude protein. Even at equivalent rates of mineral-N, crude protein was similar or better on the fertilized plots than the manured plots. Interestingly, the plots receiving both manure and fertilizer took up the most N.

These results show that manure favours yield but fertilizer favours N-uptake and protein content. Two factors may contribute to this: 1. manure-N is less available to plants than fertilizer-N because of competition by soil microbes which is enhanced by the carbon in the manure (see below) and 2. manure has benefits additional to N . That manure enhances yield more than protein may be an advantage because high concentrations of easily degraded grass protein are used inefficiently by dairy cows.

Treatment Applied

Mineral N


Total N





--kg/ha-- ---%---
Control 0 0 136 11.7
Low N        
Fertilizer 200 200 292 14.0
Manure 200 400 336 13.9
High N        
Fertilizer 400 400 395 18.2
Fert/Man 400 600 474 17.3
Manure 400 800 443 16.6
Table 3. N-uptake and crued protein concentration of tall fescue (1998-99) as affected by manure and fertilizer applied from 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.

The yield and protein results taken together suggest that manure applied annually at 200 kg mineral N/ ha would be nearly adequate for yield but inadequate for protein production. These results suggest that the optimum manure application rate on a productive grass stand would be around 275 kg/ha of mineral N or 550 kg/ha of total N. At this application rate, the crop would remove between 340 to 440 kg/ha of N. Taking a mean value of 380 kg/ha of N removed, N use efficiency based on total-applied N would be about 70% which is quite realistic.

Biological activity in the soil

Treatment Applied Mineral N Applied
Total N
Bacteria Protozoa Nematodes
celss/micro-g soil celss/mg soil /100 g soil
Control 0 0 600 168 246
Low N          
Fertilizer 200 200 --- --- ---
Manure 200 400 763 263 1017
High N          
Fertilizer 400 400 521 107 268
Manure 400 800 931 533 1092
Table 4. Bacteria, protozoa, and nematodes in the soil (1998) as affected by manure and fertilizer applied from 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.


Application of manure greatly increased microbial populations in the soil whereas fertilizer either decreased or had no effect on microbial populations (Table 4). The bacteria compete with plants for mineral nitrogen so less is available for crop growth in the short term (referred to as immobilization). Immobilization may help to explain the relatively low uptake of N in manured plots. When bacteria are consumed by protozoa, and when both bacteria and protozoa are consumed by nematodes, mineral N is released and available again to plants and bacteria (called mineralization). This 'microbial food web' mitigates against nitrogen leaching from manured grassland soils (see below).

High rates of manure also favour populations of earthworms and carnivorous ground beetles that feed on earthworms and other insects (Table 5). The increased populations of invertebrates improve soil tilth and distribution of nutrients.

Treatment Applied

Mineral N


Total N





/trap /sample
Control 0 0 24 30
Low N        
Fertilizer 200 200 30 25
Manure 200 400 26 31
High N        
Fertilizer 400 400 27 23
Fert/Man 400 600 34 38
Manure 400 800 38 43
Table 5. Earthworms and ground beetles (1998) as affected by manure and fertilizer applied from 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.

Build-up of total nitrogen, carbon and organic matter in the soil

Manure application produced an increase of soil organic matter, total soil carbon and total soil N compared to fertilizer and control (Table 6). The increase in organic matter and carbon signifies an improvement in the quality of the soil and shows that the soil can help store carbon which may have implications for reducing greenhouse gases. Most of the nitrogen is organic and represents a stable pool in the soil.

Treatment Applied

Mineral N


Total N

Total Soil


Total Soil




Control 0 0 3.45 0.29 8.1
Low N          
Fertilizer 200 200 3.21 0.27 7.8
Manure 200 400 3.82 0.31 8.7
High N          
Fertilizer 400 400 3.56 0.30 7.8
Manure 400 800 3.81 0.31 8.7
Table 6. Percent total soil carbon, nitrogen and organic matter (1998) in the upper 15 cm of soil as affected by rate of manure and fertilizer applied since 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.

Effect of manure and fertilizer history on uptake of nitrogen from the soil

The amount of nitrogen released from the soil was determined in 1998 from plots that did not receive any nutrients in that year. The historically unfertilized (control) plots released 133 kg/ha of N while the historically fertilized plots (200 and 400 kg/ha annually) released only 10-15 kg/ha more N than the unfertilized plots (Table 7). In contrast, the manured plots released 60-110 kg/ha more N than the fertilized plots at equivalent rates of mineral-N. At equivalent rate of total-N, the manured plots released 60 kg/ha of N more than the fertilized plots.

These results demonstrate the short-term immobilization of some manure N. The results also help to explain lower N uptake by the grass in the manured than in the fertilized plots and the increase in soil N (see above). Data not shown here demonstrate that the release of nitrogen is mainly form the manure applied in the previous year; manure applied two or more years prior contributed little to release of N, suggesting that it is stable.

Treatment Applied

Mineral N


Mineral N

Control 0 0 113
Low N      
Fertilizer 200 200 123
Manure 200 400 186
High N      
Fertilizer 400 400 129
Fert/Man 400 600 223
Manure 400 800 241
Table 7. Effect of application of manure and fertilizer in previous years (starting 1994) on uptake of soil N by tall fescue in 1998. (No nutrients applied in 1998). Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.

Residual soil nitrate in the fall and movement of nitrates in the soil

Residual soil nitrate in Nov. 1999 was quite low for all plots, including those receiving high rates of manure (Table 8). The low levels may be the result of a number of factors such as immobilization, losses to the environment by denitrification and by dilution due to heavy rainfall. Plots receiving high fertilizer rates contained about twice the nitrates as plots receiving low fertilizer or manure at high or low rate.


Mineral N


Total N


Soil Nitrate


Control 0 0 4 5 4
Low N          
Fertilizer 200 200 5 5 4
Manure 200 400 6 5 5
High N          
Fertilizer 400 400 11 12 8
Manure 400 800 6 5 5
Table 8. Residual nitrate in three soil layers on Nov. 1, 1999 as affected by application of manure and fertilizer starting in 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.

The concentration of nitrates in the soil solution was tested in 1997 through the winter of 2000 using suction lysimeters placed at 60 and 90 cm depths in the soil. The concentration of nitrate in the soil solution was low most of the year, with peaks coinciding with the start of the rainy period around Nov. Absence of leaching in the spring and summer was previously reported by Dr. Grant Kowalenko of our research centre.

The magnitudes of the peaks for the high manure and fertilizer treatments in the figure appear to increase from year to year, suggesting that the nutrient application was gradually overtaking the stabilizing capacity of the soil. The peak in autumn of 1999 reached about 27 ppm for the high manure plots and 22 ppm for the high fertilizer plots.

Other nutrients

Increasing levels of soil P and K are a concern when high rates of manure are applied over many years.


Mineral N


Total N


Soil Phosphorous


Control 0 0 135 89 25
Low N          
Fertilizer 200 200 133 94 21
Manure 200 400 162 102 32
High N          
Fertilizer 400 400 136 99 27
Manure 400 800 194 129 22
Table 9. Concentration of P in 3 soil layers sampled in Oct. 1999 as affected by manure and fertilizer applied starting in 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.


Mineral N


Total N


Soil Potassium


Control 0 0 108 82 101
Low N          
Fertilizer 200 200 33 31 90
Manure 200 400 122 99 112
High N          
Fertilizer 400 400 41 28 70
Manure 400 800 293 146 152
Table 10. Concentration of K in 3 soil layers sampled in Oct. 1999 as affected by manure and fertilizer applied starting in 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total N.



Manure Management Guidelines For The Lower Fraser Valley (2001)

Return to Manure


BC Environment will continue to ensure compliance with the Agricultural Waste Regulation to protect the environment. The following guidelines were prepared in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Foods (MAFF), the Agricultural Environmental Protection Council (AEPC), various commodity groups and Producer Conservation Groups. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Environment Canada were also part of the consultation process.

These guidelines are intended to help producers identify activities which, under certain conditions, have a high risk of being out of compliance with the Code of Agricultural Practice for Waste Management (the Code).

Goal: Compliance with the Code.

Issue: An excess of nutrients and other contaminants entering surface and groundwater in the Lower Fraser Valley have resulted in reduced water quality. During high risk periods, runoff from manured fields and uncovered manure piles has been a significant source of excess nutrients and other contaminants in surface and ground water.

Producer Responsibility: Under the Code, manure must be applied to land only as a fertilizer or soil conditioner. Because most manures have a high nutrient content they should be managed primarily as a fertilizer and secondarily as a soil conditioner.

Note: Manure should be applied at the same times of year as inorganic (chemical) fertilizer would normally be applied.

Runoff must not be allowed to pollute watercourses (ditches, streams, etc.) or groundwater supplies.

Producer Benefit: Manure is an important resource and an integral component in a wide variety of sustainable agricultural systems. When applied at appropriate agronomic rates during the growing season, manure can be a valuable source of plant nutrients and organic matter.

Managing Risks

Spreading manure during any high rainfall not recommended because of the potential of causing pollution. During these periods:

  • the risk of contaminated runoff entering into watercourses is high, and
  • the risk of groundwater contamination due to leaching is high.

In order to meet the Code it is recommended that manure not be applied:

  • on land where runoff is likely to occur;
  • on snow or frozen ground; or
  • at rates which exceed the amount required for crop growth.

High Rainfall/High Risk Periods: November, December and January

Moderate Rainfall/Moderate Risk Periods: September, October and February, March.

The next 5 items discuss the risks of: spreading manure on established grassland, cover crops and fall seeded grassland, berry crops, and bare land; and uncovered manure piles.

1. Spreading Manure on Established Grassland

A grass relay cropped with corn is considered to be the same as grassland providing it is well established. Grasslands planted after September I st should be treated the same as a cover crop (see Item 2 below).

To reduce the risk of contaminated runoff or leaching of nutrients to groundwater during the moderate and high risk periods it is recommended that:

  • manure not be spread during November, December, and January (periods of high risk);
  • not more than approximately 1/4 of the annual nutrient requirements be spread during September and October (periods of moderate risk);
  • not more than approximately 1/3 of the annual nutrient requirements be spread during February and March (periods of moderate risk); or
  • not be spread closer than 10 metres (30 ft.) from ditches and streams (periods of high to moderate risk ? September to March).

2. Spreading Manure on Cover Crops and Fall Seeded Grassland

A cover crop, planted in the spring or summer or grassland planted before September 1st and actively growing in the fall, has the same environmental concerns and recommendations as grassland (see Item 1 above).

To reduce the risk of contaminating surface or ground water it is recommended that:

  • a cover crop or grassland planted in the fall (after the beginning of September) should not receive manure in the fall as there is usually enough nitrogen remaining in the soil to meet cover crop or grassland needs at that time; or
  • a cover crop or grassland planted in the fall, for which the need for nitrogen has been confirmed by a soil test, may have some manure applied during September and October; and
  • manure be applied after January only if the cover crop or grassland is well established.

3. Spreading Manure on Berry Crops

To reduce the risk of contaminating surface water or groundwater it is recommended that:

  • manure not be spread from July to mid February, inclusive; and
  • when preparing a field for planting the following year refer to Item 4, Spreading Manure on Bare Land.

4. Spreading Manure on Bare Land:

Bare land includes lands from which crops have been harvested (corn, vegetables, etc.), poorly established cover crops, or grass which has been killed. For Raspberry crops see Item 3.

From mid?September until the beginning of March is considered a high risk period for spreading manure on bare land. During this period spreading manure on bare land as a fertilizer can not be justified.

The month of March is considered a moderate risk period. To reduce the risk of contaminated runoff or leaching of nutrients to groundwater, it is recommended that:

  • manure be spread only if the land will soon be planted;
  • manure not be spread closer than 10 metres (30 ft.) from ditches and streams; and
  • manure not be spread on land if runoff is likely to occur.

5. Uncovered Manure Piles

The Code requires that field stored agricultural waste be securely and completely covered with a waterproof material from October lst to April lst, inclusive.

Compliance with the Code

Non-compliance with the Code may result in the following action:

Uncovered Manure Piles:

A Pollution Prevention Order may be served allowing one week to comply. Non-compliance may result in a ticket or formal charges under the Waste Management Act.

Manure Application (not used as a fertilizer or likely to cause pollution):

  • efforts will be made to involve peer advisors to resolve the issue as set out in the MoU;
  • in some cases MELP staff will respond directly;
  • application of manure which causes pollution may result in formal charges under the Waste Management Act; and
  • a Pollution Prevention Order may be considered. One of the requirements of the Order may be that a Best Agricultural Waste Management Plan be developed.

If you spread manure during high risk periods there is a good chance that you are not in compliance with the Code. If you are unable to comply with the Code please contact MELP. Staff will try to work with you to develop a solution to the problem as best they can.

Further Information

Producers are encouraged to refer to their commodity's "environmental guidelines" prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in cooperation with their producer associations. The guidelines describe generally acceptable farming practices. However, there may be some portions of the guidelines which do not apply to every farm. In such cases it is the responsibility of the individual producer to consider other management options, as well as these guidelines, to prevent pollution.

Producers may also consider the development of a Best Agricultural Waste Management Plan/ (BAWMP) Nutrient Management Plan (NMP). A BAWMP and a NMP are formal environmental evaluations of a farm by a professional qualified in the field of agricultural environmental assessment. These evaluations will assist the producer in organizing a comprehensive plan that results in the integration of environmentally safe waste and nutrient management practices into overall farm operations. Producers who want a BAWMP and/or NMP prepared for their farm should contact their local MAFF office.

For further information on environmentally sustainable farming, contact:

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food
Resource Management Branch:

Agricultural Protection Advisory Service:

These guidelines have been prepared by MELP in consultation with MAFF AEPC & Producer Conservation Groups. For further information on the Code and this guideline please contact:

Bev Locken - 1-604-582-5340

Return to Manure

Manure Powers Forage Crop Benefits (2005)

Return to Manure

Management practices that extend the life of a forage crop may make more economic and environmental sense than spending time and money to start over.

When it comes to hay and pastureland productivity, Paul Cowger and Brian Clarke have seen the power of manure. The B.C. Peace River Region farmers both describe a dramatic difference in forage stands on their respective farms after manure application. The producers from the Fort St. John area participated in a multi-agency funded forage and nutrient management project. Part of that funding came from the federally funded Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program (GHGMP).

Cowger, who runs a cow/calf and hay operation near Montney, says manure significantly increased the carrying capacity of an older alfalfa and timothy pasture he manured in the fall of 2002. "We saw a very good response in grass production in 2003," he says. The manure application was combined with a tined aerator tillage treatment that aerated the pasture soil. The increased forage growth allowed Cowger to extend the grazing period on the manured field by about two weeks with more head of cattle.

Clarke made similar observations on his family run beef, dairy and grain operation at Sunrise, east of Fort St. John. He applied manure to a 10-year-old hay field on a northeast-facing slope where most of the alfalfa had died in recent years. "By far, manure produced the best response of any of the treatments," he says, referring to other parts of the field that received various combinations of commercial fertilizer.

Although yields varied across the field, the manured area had more lush, vigorous growth that produced up to a tonne more hay per acre than the fertilized area. And, crude protein increased by three percent.

Distance is a Factor
While manure is an effective treatment, it not always a perfect option, say both producers. "It works well if you have enough manure," says Cowger. Clarke noted that "you can't forget the economics. It costs money to haul manure, so you need forage land within a reasonable distance of your manure source."

The nutrient management project involving forages was part of a multi-year demonstration project funded from a variety of sources, says Sandra Burton, forage co-ordinator of the Peace River Forage Association (PRFA), and regional co-ordinator of the GHGMP.

The forage project was launched three years ago with support from industry, producer and provincial government sources, and continued last year with further assistance from GHGMP funds.

Reports of increased winterkill of pasture and hay stands in recent years prompted a look at the nutrient needs of forages, says Burton. The PRFA surveyed more than 50 fields. "It varied from year to year, with some producers seeing only patches of winterkill and others finding whole fields dead," she says.

Several factors contribute to winterkill of forages. Disease, cold temperatures and little or no snow cover are often what ultimately kill the plants. But, severity and timing of grazing, wildlife pressure, hay-cutting practices and poor regrowth conditions can weaken plants.

"If plants haven't fully recovered from harvest and haven't stored the necessary reserves in their root system, they are more susceptible to winterkill," says Burton.

Proper fertility of both injured and healthy stands is particularly important to maintain productive pastures and hay land. "In many cases fields are just tired and hungry," she says. "Most producers invest in fertilizer for their annual crop land, but as a general practice, it hasn't been a priority with hay and pasture. There may be manure additions to the field but not in proportion to what is being taken off by haying or grazing."

There are several benefits to keeping forage stands vigorous and productive for as long as possible. Along with the cost of breaking fields to re-establish new stands, the production from those fields is lost for at least one season. Poorly performing forage stands also have reduced capacity for capturing carbon dioxide and storing carbon in the soil. That process known as carbon sequestering helps reduce the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

Range of treatments
With funding partners that included Norwest Labs, Beef Cattle Industry Development Fund and GHGMP, Burton established field scale plot comparisons for a range of treatments.

One plot with no treatments served as the check, while other plots received a complete fertilizer blend as recommended by a soil test: sulphur only, potassium only, or manure only.

"As with everything in cropping, moisture is the key," says Burton. "There was less of a response in drier years, but when we had the moisture there was definitely a yield response to fertility, and manure appeared to have a greater effect than commercial fertilizer.

"Along with increased production of pasture and hay, improved fertility also improves forage quality, which can be a bonus in winter-feeding programs, especially in years when there may be a shortage of hay," says Burton.

With higher quality hay, supported by a nutrient analysis, the PRFA was able to show producers how to formulate rations that stretch winter feed supplies. "Producers can feed cattle less of the higher quality hay, supplement with straw and still maintain cattle in good condition," she says.

"Maintaining a vigorous and productive forage stand in most cases makes more economic sense than plowing down and starting over, or clearing another quarter section to make new pasture," says Burton. "Improved fertility reduces the risk of winterkill, and can produce more, high quality forage. Producers obviously need to keep economics in mind, but they need to consider all benefits that stem from improved fertility."

Return to Manure

Not all Manure is Created Equal (2009)

Return to Manure

This article has been submitted by Planistics (Penergetic Canada).

Not all Manure is Created Equal - submitted article in pdf format.

Be it liquid manure from a hog or dairy farm, solid manure from a cattle feedlot or litter from a poultry operation, there can be dramatic differences in the quality of nutrients in the manure, its beneficial characteristics for soil and crops and its impact on neighbours and the environment.

Unfortunately, still today, the most common form of manure management practiced at farms in western Canada often involves “no treatment” at all. For instance: take your typical modern dairy farm: automatic scrappers push manure from the alleys in a free stall barn into an interim storage pit from which the slurry is subsequently pumped to a storage lagoon and eventually spread back on the farm’s fields. If left untreated, an anaerobic process becomes established in this stored slurry which can lead to a problem situation: floating layers and/or solidified sedimentation layers in the slurry tank or lagoon; a need for extensive agitation before applying the slurry; an acrid, pungent smell in the area of barns and pits; gas emissions during stirring and application of the slurry; potential burning and scorching of crops after application and many other problems. Often despite the farmer’s best efforts, the slurry fails to produce the desired fertilizing effect. This leads to the application of additional fertilizers and other crop protection measures.

The underlying problem – putrefaction

Typically, slurry will become a problematic waste product when conversion takes place by means of putrefaction processes. This involves decay under anaerobic conditions, i.e. in the absence of oxygen. Anaerobic conversion of slurry leads to the development of malodorous gases, including hydrogen sulphide and ammonia, and odourless methane gas. Also problematic, the odour carriers in manure – indole and skatole (3-methylindole) – attract harmful insects. These insects lay their eggs in the slurry, and the subsequent larvae are contained in the slurry which is applied to the crops, leading to crop damage and the need to apply pesticides. Furthermore, the valuable substance ammonium nitrogen is lost in the anaerobic slurry, because ammonium is converted into ammonia (off gases by volatilization) and is no longer available for plants.

Oxygen through aeration

The conventional method of introducing oxygen into the slurry involves mechanical aeration by means of agitators or compressors. However, this technical method becomes problematic when dealing with large quantities of slurry which cannot be stirred effectively every day. Floating layers then quickly form, further sealing off the slurry from the oxygen supply and thus strengthening the anaerobic environment. The capital cost and annual energy costs of lagoon agitation can also be considerable.

The natural solution – decomposition

But there is another way! The simple and natural solution to turn slurry into a valuable organic fertilizer involves activating those decomposition processes in the slurry, which only take place with oxygen. The decomposition processes involve mould fungi, yeasts and other microorganisms and include several biological processes which are absolutely vital to maintaining a state of equilibrium in nature. Mould fungi very quickly bind any ammonia which is present in the first stage of the rotting/decomposition process to form ammonium nitrogen, which is subsequently available to plants as a slow release source of nitrogen. The harmful and unpleasant biogases are also largely eliminated, providing for a noticeable difference in the pit/lagoon or storage tank (e.g. SlurryStore®) and during application. A healthy, decomposed slurry thus constitutes an important element of a closed substance cycle management system which benefits the soil, plants, animals and humans alike.

Activating sludge

The best solution is a simple method which activates the aerobic bacteria, while avoiding the need for agitation (or external energy) and other factors detrimental to the environment. Penergetic g (a product from Switzerland, now available in Canada, through Penergetic Canada), possesses the specific active properties of oxygen and reactivates the life processes in slurry. The putrefactive bacteria die and the oxygen which is present in the slurry is aerobically activated. An oxygen-producing and breathing biomass quickly results. The micro algae which develop change the colour of the slurry to dark green and the work performed by the bacteria renders the slurry homogeneous. In the course of time, existing floating layers and sedimentation layers dissolve. As a natural side-effect of these processes, the smell is diminished and a more nutrient rich valuable organic fertilizer results. Using the decomposed (or rotted) slurry produced in this manner enables the quantity of commercial fertilizer used to be reduced.

This information was recently presented at the Pacific Agriculture Show in Abbotsford, B.C, by Derek Pratt of Penergetic Canada, in a seminar titled: Sustainable Manure Management. Pratt pointed out the striking differences in the quality and effects of anaerobic and aerobic manure (see comparison in table below). It was also noted that while farming areas in Europe and elsewhere in the world have long ago recognized the environmental and agronomic advantages to be gained from aerobic manure treatment, too often farmers in Canada still seem content to allow manure to loose much of its nutrient quality, create odours and potential pathogenic or insect problems and be more prone to impact on ground and surface water quality.

By drawing upon the experience of dairy farmers in Europe, it was pointed out that when dairy liquid and dry manures are broken down via an aerobic process (instead of the more common and less desirable anaerobic process) a number of positive benefits are achieved – including a dramatic reduction in the unpleasant ammonia and carbon monoxide odours often assumed as inevitable in conjunction with livestock rearing. Owing to higher population density, stricter government regulations and a longer history of agricultural use, farmers in Western Europe have been confronted with the need to develop appropriate means of manure handling sooner than has been the case in western Canada.

New developments in manure management technology from Europe enable liquid and solid animal wastes to be processed effectively, economically and in an environmentally-responsible manner, without the requirement for expensive capital expenditures or equipment. It was pointed out how the “aerobic approach” to manure management is increasingly gaining favour around the world and how some of the leading livestock rearing U.S. states have initiated a shift from anaerobic to aerobic methods of processing animal wastes. Seminar presenter, Derek Pratt of Penergetic Canada stated: “Over 10,000 dairy farms in Europe have adopted an aerobic approach to manure management as the benefits speak for themselves”.

The implications of this sustainable approach to manure management were overviewed in terms of overcoming the main “nuisance” implications commonly associated with animal manure – e.g. odour, pathogens, and land, air and water pollution, while at the same time producing a better nutrient rich end product to apply back on the fields. Also discussed were the important agronomic benefits of this approach, the resulting benefits for animal and worker health, methods of composting and field application of manure.

Easy to apply

This approach to liquid manure management is uncomplicated to administer. The product is easy to apply – it is simply mixing with water (5 grams/cow/week) and applied directly into the effluent channel or alley in the barn (or poured through slatted flooring), where it is scraped (or carried) to the in-barn holding tank/pit and ultimately transferred to the storage lagoon. It starts working right away, improving the atmosphere in the barn. For situations where slurry is already in the main storage lagoon, the product is simply mixed well with water and applying directly into the lagoon where it goes to work.

Decomposition and putrefaction - the great adversaries

Putrefaction (anaerobic) - untreated

Decomposition (aerobic) - treated

Leads to the formation of: hydrogen sulphide, hydrogen chloride,hydrocarbon, phosphorus hydride, ammonia (NH4) N losses

Result: toxins (poisons) which promote disease

The following substances are formed / made available: plant-available trace elements such as zinc, copper, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum and others

Nitric oxide (NO3); N bound to form fungal protein

Result: antibiotics, inhibitors that prevent disease

livestock exposed to risk of viruses destruction of viruses
anaerobic bacteria do not produce vitamins mould fungi produce vitamins and enzymes
putrefaction leads to pest infestation decomposition processes are essential for healthy plants.
acrid, pungent putrescent odours low-odour to odourless
formation of floating crust and sediment layers in slurry slurry remains liquid and homogeneous
formation of strong root toxins no substances to inhibit root growth
danger of scorching during application no scorching of plants during application
promotes growth of wood top grass = inferior fodder promotes growth of ground-covering bottom grass = nourishing fodder
realtively high quantities of fertilizer are required, mineral fertilizer also needs to be used small quantities of slurry per ha. due to high fertilizing capacity, no or reduced mineral fertilizer required
Pollutants in dissolved form = dange fo the groundwater nutrients in bound form = no risk to the groundwater

Source: Erhard Hennig, The Secrets of Fertile Soil [English edition of "Geheimnisse der fruchtbaren Böden”, Germany


At a cost of just two cents (2¢) a day per cow, it is also inexpensive. Plus with no capital equipments or operational modifications required, a savings on energy use and the generation of a higher quality end product, it was shown how the “Penergetic approach” is a cost effective solution able to fit into any farmer’s budget.

Sustainable approaches to managing solid manure were also discussed. Whereas, it is common practice to simply pile solid manure (e.g. soiled livestock bedding and spent poultry litter) and allow it to breakdown on its own, Pratt discussed how a second product, penergetic k can be used to accelerate the breakdown of solid manures. Once again by stimulating an aerobic process it helps to produce a rich humic compost more rapidly, without foul (anaerobic) odours, free of pathogens and instead populated with beneficial fungi which support soil fertility. This product can also be used directly on bedding in stalls or poultry litter to reduce problems of ammonia smell, help to contain potential pathogenic problems and start to decompose the stall bedding or litter and any excrement.

Livestock are inefficient at extracting nutrients from feedstuffs - typically 75-90% of major nutrients fed to livestock pass directly through the animal into the manure. In a closed cycle, where much of these nutrients are often raised right on the farm and with today’s prices for synthetic fertilizers, the extent to which these nutrients can be returned to the soil and made available to subsequent crops will depend to a large degree on the way the manure is stored and handled.

Also discussed were the advantages of manure composting and key considerations in developing an effective composting system. Pratt pointed out that well composted manure slowly releases its nutrients into the soil, enhancing the soil microbiological life and soil texture; whereas, the highly-soluble nutrients in raw (or in-adequately treated manure) are quickly leached away and can damage both the soil biology and crop.

While focusing somewhat on the agricultural community in the Fraser Valley, which has perhaps the highest concentration of intensive dairy and poultry operations in the country, this presentation provided thoughtful information that should prove useful to farmers with livestock or poultry, anywhere in western Canada, who are interested in an economical, agronomically-sound and environmentally appropriate means of transforming what is often considered to be a problematic waste into a valuable organic fertilizer.

Return to Manure

On-Farm Nutrient Management Planning - A Summary


Presented by: Geoff Hughes-Games, PAg, Provincial Soil Specialist, BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries

(Dateline December, 2000) A handbook (Nutrient Management Planning Handbook - Draft November 2000) is currently being developed which will guide farmers with confined livestock facilities through the process of nutrient management planning. Decisions regarding which farm fields should receive nutrient in the upcoming crop year will be made. This includes the amount of manure each field should receive based on the crop to be grown, the expected yield and quality of that crop, and the amount of available nutrients already present in the soil. Calculations of manure application rates for each field are based on meeting the crop's need for one of the three main nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium. The amount of supplementary fertilizer in addition to the manure application will be determined. And finally, a nutrient balance on the farm will be completed comparing the amount of manure produced by the animals on the operation, and the amount of manure all fields can use for the crops to be grown.

The handbook details 12 steps for Nutrient Management Planning as well as providing additional information on other aspects of nutrient management, laboratories and blank worksheets. These 12 steps consist of 11 worksheets and 9 accompanying data tables, plus step-by-step instructions for completing the worksheets.

The following is a selected summary of the steps in the Nutrient Management Planning Handbook. Some pertinent details have been left in for reference.

Step 1. Planning

Step 1. Planning
(begin at least one month ahead of planned manure applications)

Field and Crop Information
For each cropped field that will receive manure and / or fertilizer, this information is required:

  • the size of the field
  • the crop to be grown this cropping year - include new seeding, annual and perennial forage and silage corn.
  • the expected yield and quality of the harvested crop this growing season (total of all cuts of forage, or single crop of silage corn),
  • past manure applications to the field - annual heavy applications, annual light applications or less frequent use of manure, type of manure
  • past fertilization of field - heavy, medium or light

Information on yield and protein content of forage and silage corn crops from previous years will be useful in predicting this year's yield and protein content values.

Manure Information
If significant amounts of more than one type of manure (e.g. liquid and solid dairy manure, or dairy and hog manure) are to be applied, samples of each type of manure need to be taken and submitted to the lab for analysis. The sampling section that follows outlines how to do this. Information is also required on either the total volume of manure that will be applied (all types), or the number of animals whose manure will be applied to the fields.

Information Required in Advance of Soil Sampling
If soil samples have never been taken from the fields before, spend a few minutes thinking about each field that will be cropped in terms of its size, uniformity and previous fertilization and cropping. Divide the farm into fields with similar sizes and draw a simple map of each field well before samples must be taken. A decision is also required on what sort of sampling equipment will work for the soils found in the farm fields (e.g. sandy, gravelly, clay or organic). Locate the equipment if necessary.

Step 2. Soil, Crop and Manure Sampling

Step 2. Soil, Crop and Manure Sampling

This step involves collecting soil, crop and manure samples and sending the samples to a laboratory to be analyzed. The resulting lab reports will be needed in order to complete the worksheets.

A. Soil Sampling

The purpose of soil sampling is to collect a soil sample for lab analysis that represents the variability in the soil of the field being sampled. To do this many small samples will be collected and mixed together to make one composite sample for each field. Ensure that a representative sample is collected. There are qualified professional agrologists throughout the province who will do soil sampling; contact the closest local BCMAFF office or the BC Institute of Agrologists (1-604-855-9291) for a list in your area.

What Analyses are Required?

To complete the nutrient management worksheets, the following soil test information is required:

  • available phosphorus (P) [Bray P1 or Kelowna]
  • available potassium (K) [ammonium acetate or Kelowna]
  • nitrate-Nitrogen (NO3-N) and for spring soil tests in the Interior ammonia-nitrogen (NH4-N)

Other information may be included with the soil test report, such as soil concentrations of secondary and micro-nutrients, and metals, bulk density, pH and % organic matter. This is important information, and should be kept on record.

B. Crop Sampling

To get accurate analytical data, the crop samples collected must be typical of the whole crop. The procedures outlined below suggest appropriate sample collection methodology. Crop samples should be collected throughout the growing season, and the values can be used in the nutrient management worksheets to estimate the following year's forage protein and dry matter content.

What Analyses are Required ?

To complete the nutrient management worksheets, crop protein content and dry yield for each field are required for each field. This information can be estimated, however, much more accurate information can be obtained with sampling and lab analysis. Request a protein and dry matter analysis for each sample. Other information which is useful but not required information includes: forage nitrate and potassium concentration. These can be used to alert the livestock manager to potential problem forages.

C. Manure Sampling

The manure sample submitted to the lab must be representative of the whole manure pit or pile. For that reason, careful sampling is very important. Check with the lab for both the turnaround time for sample analysis, and the type of container in which they prefer to receive samples. Be prepared to submit samples 2 to 3 weeks before planned the planned manure application to ensure sufficient time for analysis.

What Analyses Are Required ?

To complete the nutrient management worksheets, the following manure test information is required:

  • total nitrogen (N or TKN)
  • ammonium or ammonia (NH4-N)
  • total phosphorus (P)
  • total potassium (K)
  • total solids or dry matter (TS or DM), or moisture (MC)

Most labs offer manure analysis packages which also include some secondary nutrients and micronutrients. This additional information is useful for the farm records but will not be required for this exercise. Request manure nutrient data in kg per tonne of wet manure; if the lab cannot provide the information in these units, conversion tables are provided in the handbook.

Step 3. Calculate the Annual Crop Nutrient Application Requirement

Step 3. Calculate the Annual Crop Nutrient Application Requirement

In this step the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that each crops will need during this cropping season will be calculated. This is based on crop uptake and nutrients already present in the soil. A soil report from each field will be used to decide how to manage that field. It will also aid in identifying any fields which have an excess of either phosphorus and potassium. The nitrogen fertility level of each field will be estimated based on previous manure and fertilizer use.


Figure 1 is an example map and Figure 2 is an example of planning information a dairy farmer may produce.

Example Dairy Farm Based Information

A Fraser Valley dairy farmer wishes to develop a nutrient management plan utilizing the farm's supply of dairy manure and cropland. The farm has 70 milking cows and about another 70 dry cows, heifers and calves.

field history    
Field Field Size


Crop History Manure and Fertilizer History
#1 6.25 5 year old grass stand, ploughed in recommended rates
#2 5 2 year old grass stand recommended rates
#3 4.5 grass planted last fall after 2 years in corn recommended rates
#4 12 4 year old grass stand recommended rates

crop information
Expected 'As Produced' Annual Crop Yield
Field Crop Silage (tonnes/ha) Hay (tonnes/ha)
#1 corn 63 --
#2 grass --- 19.5
#3 grass 25.75 --
#4 grass --- 16.25

The manure is incorporated into the soil within 24 hours on the corn field, and not incorporated at all on the grass fields. The farm manure spreader holds 9.4 m3. However, as field #2, P and K levels in the soil are getting to be elevated, manure is spread using a custom applicator with a sleighfoot attachment for better utilization of the N and hence reducing the P and K application.

Crop, Soil and Manure Test information:

Crop Test


Protein (dry matter basis)


Dry Matter


# 1 / Cron silage
#2 / Grass hay
#3 / Grass silage
#4 / Grass silage

Soil Test
Nitrogren (Nitrate-N)


Phosphorus (P)


Potassium (K)


Field #1
Field #2
Field #3
Field #4


Manure Test
Total Nitrogen
Phosphorus (P)
Potassium (K)
Liquid Dairy

Question: How should this farmer manage the manure application to minimize chemical fertilizer purchased, keep the levels of nutrients from getting too high in the soil, and maintain crop yeild and quality?

Step 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8

Step 4. Calculate the Crop Available Nutrients in the Manure Source

This step will looks at the lab analysis of the farm's manure. From that information calculations will be made as to the amount of crop-available nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is contained in the manure.

Step 5. Calculate the Manure Application Rate Based On Meeting Crop Annual Need for Nitrogen, Phosphorus or Potassium

In this step the amount of manure required to meet the crops annual need for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is determined.

Step 6. Selecting the Annual Manure Application Rate and Balancing Nutrients from Manure and Fertilizer

In step 5, three different manure application rates for each field were generated. Each application rate designed to meet the crop's requirement for either nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium. In general choose the lowest application rate of manure, and apply supplementary fertilizer to make up crop requirements. If higher rates are chosen, either of the one or two nutrients will be over applied or, over time the soil level of these nutrients will increase. If soil levels are already high, the risk of causing the herd health and environmental problems discussed previously will increase. If soil levels of phosphorus and potassium are low, there is little risk in the short term from increasing the soil level of these nutrients, but this practice is not acceptable for the long term. For each field, one of the three application rates of manure or a modified rate, depending on the farm's management strategy will be chosen.

In Step 6, the total amount of manure that will be required to meet the needs of all fields based on the selected application rate will be determined. From the calculated manure application rates selected in previous steps and the manure nutrient content will be used to determine how much supplementary fertilizer nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium will be required to meet crop needs.

Step 7. Calculate the Total Amount of Manure Produced on Farm and Assess Farm Manure Nutrient Balance

This worksheet will calculate the amount of manure is produced per year by the operation (in tonnes) based on livestock numbers and determine if there is any excess or deficiency of manure for the land base.

Step 8. Convert Manure Application Rate Based on Weight to Solid or Liquid Manure Volume Application Rates and Spreader Loads per Area

This worksheet converts the metric solid manure values which have been used to this point in the worksheets into liquid metric equivalents and Imperial units in order to prepare for manure application. Information from previous steps, the volumes of the various manure spreaders that will be used to apply manure (liquid and solid) and information on manure density will be required.

Step 9. Selecting Time and Amount of Each Application

Step 9. Selecting Time and Amount of Each Application

In Step 8 the annual amount of manure to apply on each field was determined. In this step the amount to be applied each application during the growing season is determined and the best time or times to apply are discussed.

Application Timing

The timing of manure application should be prior to the crop needing the nutrients and when crop growth will not restrict applications. The South Coast and Interior Regions have different monthly considerations. In addition to timing of application related to crop or seasonal climate conditions, other factors do play a role in nutrient use. Such as time of day and weather conditions to reduce drift that may cause odour problems (i.e. cool and early morning, little wind, etc.). There are times when manure application is not acceptable due to the risk of impacting the environment or little potential for nutrient utilization by the crop. Figures 3 and 4 show the times of year when fertilizer/manure applications should be considered.

The South Coastal Area:

February and March: If the land is not subject to flooding and/or runoff manure fertilizer can be applied on grassland or an established over-wintering cover crop. Use T-Sum 200 or T Sum 300 to determine time of first fertilizer application

April to August: Avoid spreading on wet soils which could compact or cause crop damage.

September and October: Restricted manure fertilizer application to grasslands that are well drained and not subject to flooding and/or runoff. Winter cover crops must be well established before any manure application is contemplated.

November to January: Application of fertilizer (particularly manures) is not recommended.

The Interior Area:

February and March: Manure fertilizer application should only be considered within fields with no history of runoff and/or flooding, and on soils that are not snow covered or frozen.

April to September: Avoid spreading on wet soils which could compact or cause crop damage.

October: Manure application to thawed ground only.

November to January: Application of fertilizer (particularly manures) is not recommended. If spreading is to occur then spread only within fields with no history of runoff and/or flooding, and with soils that are not snow covered or frozen.

Individual Application Amount

Crops follow a relatively predicable growth curve as illustrated for corn in Figure 3 and grass in Figure 4. Crops should be fertilized with an amount of nutrient which is proportional to the amount of annual growth expected prior to the next harvest. Figures 3 and 4 also show the percent of annual manure application that can occur at various manure spreading opportunities.

Each manure application:

  • should not exceed 50 m3/ha for slurry or 50 tonnes/ha of solid manure at one time
  • leave at least three weeks between applications this reduces sealing of the soil surface and allows for the soil to recover
  • irrigation of liquid manure should not exceed the soil infiltration capacity

Step 10. Choosing An Application Method and Calibrating Equipment

Step 10. Choosing An Application Method and Calibrating Equipment

Manure can be spread as a solid or liquid with various equipment as shown below. Methods that have accurate placement on the soil surface or within the crop canopy require less buffer distance to sensitive areas.

Liquid Manure Application Methods (Order of Preference)
Method Advantages Disadvantages


Aerator with Dribble Bar

(attached to vacuum tanker)

- low ammonia (NH3) loss

- maximizes fertilizer value of manure

- wider spreading window

- minimizes (nitrous oxide) N20 release

- accurate placement

- unitofrm application

- higher cost

- slow application rate

- crop damage

Low Trajectory Boom

(attached to hose real)

- low soil compaction

- low crop damage

- low N20 release

- higher risk of run-off

- shorter application window


(attached to vacuum tanker)

- maximizes fertilizer value of manure

- accurate placement

- uniform application

- high N20 release

- only suitable for some soil and crop conditions

- cost

- slow application rate

- short application window

Splash Plate

(on vacuum tanker)

- low cost

- low N20 release

- soil and crop compaction

- short application window

- high ammonia loss

- non-uniform application

Irrigation Gun

(attached to hose real)

- low cost

- rapid application rate

- low N20 release

- high risk of run-off

- short application window

- high ammonia loss

- high risk of pathogen, aerosol and odour drift

- non uniform application

- in accurate placement


- low trajectory booms on a taner will result in higher compaction and slower application rates

- inejector on a hose reel will have neutral compaction and a higher application rate.

Solid Manure Application Methods (Order of Preference)
Method Advantages Disadvantages
Spinning Disks - high application rate

- accurate placement

- need dry manure

- high dust production

Flail Broadcast - can spread variable moisutre content - poor placement

- low uniformity

Dump and Grade - cheap - poor uniformity

- difficult to control rate

Rapid incorporation, less than 2 hours, of both solid and liquid manure will reduce odour and nitrogen losses.

Damage to crops will be reduced by methods that use high floatation tires, place manure under the canopy, deliver dilute slurry or have low soil disturbance.

Methods that reduce the risk from preferential flow of manure or nutrients to drains include using solid manure or have significant soil disturbance prior to or at the same time that liquid manure is applied.

Calibrating Application Equipment

Calibration refers to a determination of the amount of solid or liquid applied per unit of area or unit of time for the piece of manure application equipment used by the farm. It also refers to the uniformity of application. It has been reported that applying manure uniformly has resulted in up to 15 % increase in forage crop yields compared to the same amount of manure that was not spread uniformly.

Ideal uniformity over the width of an application (splash plate, gun or solid spreader) is illustrated in Figure 5.

Note that effective width is less than the spreader width. However, the correct overlapping of runs can give a uniform application over the field.

As manure nutrients become available over time. Varying the application pattern will tend to average out any minor uniformity problems. This may require entering the field differently or changing the direction of travel each time manure is spread.

Step 11. Selecting Buffer Sizes and Types to Protect Sensitive Areas

A) Sensitive Areas

The following cautions or risks should be considered before any application:

Surface Runoff: The speed at which liquid soaks into the soil is important in working out the risk of run-off. Water ponding on the soil surface shows that the liquid is being applied faster than it can soak into the soil. There is a greater risk of run-off on sloping land. Application should be stopped or the rate reduced depending on the circumstances. On some sites, even a small amount of rain will cause run-off.

Land Drains: Fields with effective land drainage systems cause a particular risk. The danger is that liquid applied to the surface will find its way into the drains and watercourse. This risk applies to any drained field whatever its slope or how near it is to a watercourse. Most lowland clays or silt loams have had drainage systems installed at some time and pipes may still work even if a modern system has not been put in.

Groundwater Contamination: Applying waste to land can pollute water underground. The risk applies in any field where permeable soils lie directly on top of rock formations or in deep unconsolidated sands and gravels that hold water, especially where the watertable is shallow.

Weather Conditions: Applying manure in adverse weather conditions will increase the risk of escapes which may cause pollution. Avoid windy or rainy days, and frozen or snow covered land.

Crop or Crop Residue Conditions: The presence of an actively growing crop, cover crop or significant crop residue will reduce the risk of run-off of manure. Actively growing crops will reduce the risk of nutrient loss from the soil.

Wildlife Habitat: Some sensitive wildlife habitat can be adversely affected by the application of nutrients or manure. These areas should be identified and avoided. Plant species and soil microbes do respond to the application of nutrients however this response may cause undesirable shifts in species composition or alter usefulness of the area for other species including domestic livestock.

Human Habitat and Transportation: In addition to protecting water supplies it may be necessary to alter or avoid application of nutrients (i.e. manure) in areas adjacent to homes and transportation routes. This may be due to climatic or equipment conditions or nuisance issues. Changing timing, spread type or nutrient source can achieve the desired protection of these areas. Avoid windy conditions and high trajectory applicators.

B) Determining Buffers

Buffers are used to protect watercourses, sensitive habitat and wellheads from contaminated surface water runoff, and adjoining properties from undesirable effects. Buffers may vary in width and composition depending on the sensitivity of the area to be protected. When the risk of runoff is high due to soil, season of climatic conditions (i.e. higher rainfall, reduced growth) buffer width or filtering ability will need to be greater.

Figure 7, is an example of buffers based on the time of year that manure is spread and risk of impacting a sensitive area.

Early spring manure application will need a wider buffer from a watercourse compared to summer manure application. This is due to expected higher rainfall and stormwater runoff events in the spring compared to the summer.

Manure application equipment which places manure accurately and immediately on the soil surface will need a narrower buffer than equipment that throws manure into the air (Figure 7). Solid manure is less likely to move across a field that liquid manure during application.

To determine if the buffer size is appropriate, monitoring is required to ensure that the buffer is stopping all contamination from reaching the area to be protected.

Buffers may be a continuation of the forage field, a separately managed grass area, a planted belt of trees and shrubs, the riparian area along a watercourse or a combination of the above.

Check the following before applying nutrients:

  • the presence of a sensitive area
  • buffer size/quality matches runoff risk -> height/width/species mix/stage of growth
  • look for seasonal changes -> i.e. taller, wider or more dense in spring and fall

Additional information is available in the draft Riparian Self Audit Handbook (being prepared for Beef, Dairy and Horticultural Producers).

Figure 7. Buffer based on Season and Equipment Type

Step 12. Monitoring Nutrient Management Effectiveness and Recording Nutrient Management Activities

This section contains information on monitoring the effectiveness of nutrient management planning and recording planning information and nutrient management activities.

A) Monitoring

Fall or 'Report Card' Soil Nitrate-Nitrogen Testing

Fall soil sampling for nitrate level can help to evaluate the effectiveness of the past season's nitrogen management. Spring soil samples are taken to help predict how much fertilizer is needed for the upcoming season, while fall sampling will give an indication of the accuracy of your predicted nitrogen requirement. If the soil level of nitrate is low in fall after crop growth has stopped, the amount of nitrogen applied in manure and fertilizer was appropriate for the crop grown (in that the crop was able to use almost all of the applied nitrogen). If the soil level of nitrate is high after crop growth has stopped, the crop was not able to use all of the nitrogen present in the soil, and manure and/or fertilizer application rates should be reduced for a similar crop next year. If you live in coastal B.C., residual soil nitrate-nitrogen will be lost from the soil through leaching by next spring, and will eventually find its way to groundwater. If you live in the Interior of B.C., residual nitrogen will be available for crop growth next spring, and should be considered when determining the nitrogen requirement for next year's crops.

Long-term Soil Quality Monitoring

Once every three to five years it is useful to do a complete nutrient and metals scan on your soil samples as a way for you to monitor the long-term soil quality of your fields. The nutrient management planning worksheets look at only nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium levels in soil, and at none of the secondary nutrients, micro nutrients, metals and other soil parameters that can change in your soil as the result of on-going manure and fertilizer applications, and cropping practices. Request an analysis of the secondary nutrients calcium, magnesium, sodium and sulfur as well as micronutrients and metals, particularly copper and zinc. Most agricultural labs have a standard nutrient and micronutrient/metals package that will give you the required background information to monitor soil quality. Reports should be kept on file, and used to compare with on-going sampling results to pick out any significant changes in soil concentrations of metals or nutrients.

B) Record Keeping

For the most effective nutrient management program, it is essential to keep track of soil, crop and manure testing results along with all information about the rates, type and timing of fertilizer, manure and soil conditioner applications. Other observations on crop growth, yield, quality and weather during the growing season are also useful.

Use a filing cabinet with dividers or a binder with tabs to store information in the following format for easy use:

1. Yearly Reports Include: - manure reports and manure volume; - Nutrient Management Plans

2. Field Reports Include (by year for 5 years): - soil report; - yield results; - crop reports; - actual manure and fertilizer application amounts and times

3. Archive: - by field any information that is 5 or more years old, keep every 5th year (i.e. 1980,'85,'90,'95, & 2000); - keep Nutrient Management Plans with manure information

Additional Information

This section contains information on:
- environmental concerns with high phosphorus soils
- livestock health concerns with high potassium forages

A) Environmental Concerns with High Phosphorus Soils

Soils that have an elevated phosphorus concentration can pose a risk to surface water sources. Movement of soil containing high levels of phosphorus into surface water that drains into fresh water lakes can cause eutrophication of fresh water. Phosphorus entering lakes on eroded soil or manure particles will cause an algal bloom which depletes the lake's oxygen and can kill fish. When high phosphorus soil is eroded from farmland, a large amount of phosphorus can enter the water course in the eroded soil. Eroded sediment containing phosphorus settles on the lake bottom and is released gradually over many years, creating a long-term water quality problem in the lake.

High phosphorus soils are a concern in the following circumstances:

1. When streams and drainage systems empty into lakes, such as in the southern Interior of B.C.

2. When the fields in question are located next to surface water sources and are susceptible to erosion, or when fields have artificial drainage systems that empty ultimately into a lake system.

In areas of the province where fresh water and artificial drainage systems drain into major rivers that enter salt water, high phosphorus soils are not considered a concern at this time. In phosphorus-sensitive areas of the province, fields that are located well away from fresh water and where there is no risk of surface runoff and erosion of soil, high phosphorus soil is also not considered a major problem.

Management Suggestions to Minimize the Risk of Soil Erosion

Fields that are situated next to a fresh water source that discharges into a lake system and that due to topography or soil type are susceptible to erosion, should be managed carefully. Never apply manure or fertilizer when there is risk of surface runoff of rain or snow-melt water into the stream. Establish well-vegetated buffer strips of at least 30 m between the stream and field to catch any eroded material. Do not apply manure or fertilizer in the buffer strips. Avoid over applying phosphorus in manure and fertilizer to keep soil concentration in the optimum range - runoff of low phosphorus soil will do much less damage to a freshwater aquatic system.

Phosphorus Loss Through Artificial Drainage Systems

Phosphorus can also move downward through the soil and into drainage systems, and enter surface water through this route. The main route of phosphorus movement downward through the soil is by preferential flow which is the rapid movement of soil water (and liquid manure) through cracks, fissures and biological macropores (worm borings) in the soil directly to drain tiles or groundwater. The amount of phosphorus that is lost from the soil through downward flow is directly related to the concentration of phosphorus in the soil because small soil particles move down and into drain tiles. As well, at extremely high soil phosphorus concentrations when the soil's capacity for retaining phosphorus is exceeded, phosphorus can leach in much the same manner as nitrate.

Management Suggestions to Minimize Phosphorus Loss from Drainage Systems

Downward movement of phosphorus through macropores and cracks, and in the soil solution is a concern in tile-drained fields where drainage enters a fresh-water lake system. Tile-drained fields in sensitive areas should be tilled before manure or fertilizer application in the spring to break up all cracks and macropores. On fields in perennial forage, pre-application tillage is not possible; to limit phosphorus loss in drain tiles in perennially cropped fields, apply liquid manure in several small applications over the season rather than one large application in early spring.

B) Livestock Health Concerns with High Potassium Forages

High potassium forages are becoming increasingly of concern in intensively farmed areas of the province. When the soil concentration of potassium has become elevated due to long-term over application of potassium in manure and fertilizer, forage will take up this potassium in direct proportion to its concentration in the soil; far beyond the amount required for normal growth of forage, in a process called 'luxury consumption'. Forages with potassium levels much higher than normal will result.

When this high potassium forage makes up greater than 3.5% of a dairy cow's diet (such as with dry cows), the potassium interferes with the uptake of calcium and magnesium in the cow's digestive tract. The cow is not able to keep body levels of these nutrients at the desired level as there is so much competing potassium. This imbalance of calcium and magnesium can lead to many health problems in dairy cows. A high potassium diet will also result in increased water consumption by affected cows, and increased urine output which puts stress on the kidneys.

High potassium soils create a vicious, difficult to break cycle on a farm. Virtually all of the potassium consumed by the cow in her ration is excreted in the urine and is re-captured in the manure. The manure is reapplied to the field, where forages take it up in 'luxury' levels again. Very little potassium is lost during the storage and application of manure, and most soils have the capacity to hold large amounts of potassium. Once the soil level of potassium is elevated, the excess potassium is difficult to get rid of unless forage is sold off farm and low potassium forage is purchased and brought on farm. To prevent soil buildup of potassium, monitor soil potassium levels annually. If the soil potassium level exceeds the optimum level of 300 ppm, no fertilizer potassium should be applied to any crops. Manure application on high potassium fields should be limited to the amount removed by crops.

'Advanced Forage Management' (Bittman et al, 1999) makes the following management suggestions for high potassium forages:

1. Reduce potassium fertilizer application and eliminate off-farm manure sources.

2. Set aside a specific field for feeding dry cows. Do not manure this field, and use no potassium fertilizer. Over time, the soil potassium level will decline to a safe level.

3. Dilute high potassium forages with low potassium feeds. Purchase forages from non-livestock operations where soil potassium levels should be lower

British Columbia Agricultural Testing Laboratories

The cost for a basic soil fertility package ranges from $24.00 to $45.00 per sample, and typically includes nitrate-nitrogen, available phosphorus, available potassium, sulphate, and pH, and may include other tests. Most basic fertility packages also include fertilizer recommendations. Some do not include nitrate-nitrogen or ammonia-nitrogen - be sure to request this analysis, especially if samples were collected in the interior of B.C. To complete the nutrient management worksheets, you need the following information about your soil: available phosphorus, available potassium, nitrate-nitrogen and ammonia-nitrogen. Check that the lab will provide you with these analyses before you submit samples.

The cost of a basic manure analysis ranges from $25.00 to $50.00 per sample, and the analysis includes total nitrogen, ammonium-nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, dry matter and occasionally electric conductivity. Some labs do not provide an analysis of ammonium-nitrogen, which is required to complete the nutrient management worksheets. Check that the lab will provide you with an analysis of total nitrogen, ammonium-nitrogen, total phosphorus, total potassium and dry matter (or moisture content) before you submit samples. Nitrate-nitrogen is also useful.

The following is a list of laboratories that do agricultural testing. After each firms name, in brackets is the type of testing they do [soil (S), crop (C) or manure (M)].

  • Pacific Soil Analysis (S, M), 5 - 11720 Voyageur Way, Richmond, B.C., V6X 3G9, Phone: (604) 273-8226, Fax: (250) 273-8082
  • M & B Research & Development Ltd. (S, C, M), 10115C McDonald Park Road, Sidney, B.C., V8L 5X5, Phone: (250) 656-1334, Fax: (250) 656-0443, Web Page: http://www.mblabs.com
  • Soilcon Laboratories Ltd. (S), 275 - 11780 River Road, Richmond, B.C., V6X 1X7, Phone: (604) 278-5535, Fax: (604) 278-0517, Web Page: http://www.soilconlabs.com
  • Norwest Soil Research Inc. (S, C, M), Suite 104 19575 55A Avenue, Surrey, B.C., V3S 8P8, Phone: (604) 514-3322, Toll free: 1-800-889-1433, Fax: (604) 514-3323, Web Page: http://www.norwestlabs.com
  • Vancouver Island Soil Testing (S), 6021 Cassino Road, Duncan, B.C., V9L 4G5, Phone: (250) 746-8633, Fax: (250) 746-8633, Email: jbourque@telus.net Note: lab and price information given in this section was current as of November, 2000

Publications or Assistance

Copies of:

Nutrient Management Planning Handbook, for Producers Applying Manure from Confined Livestock Facilities in BC (draft - November 2000)


Blank Worksheets for use with the Nutrient Management Planning Handbook (draft - November 2000)

are available from Resource Management Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.

For further information:

Contact: Geoff Hughes-Games
Provincial Soil Specialist
Phone: 604 556-3102


Rick Van Kleeck
Waste Management Engineer
Phone: 604 556-3108

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
1767 Angus Campbell Road
Abbotsford BC V3G 2M3
Toll free phone: 1-888-221-7141

Responsible Manure Management Necessary (2001)

Return to Manure

MELP will once again be undertaking inspections...

As part of its stated strategy to protect drinking water, the Ministry of Environment Lands and Park's (MELP) Surrey Regional Office has advised producer organizations that Agency staff will again be undertaking inspections to ensure compliance with the Agricultural Waste Control Regulation. MELP has stated that inspections are planned commencing in October, "to determine compliance with regulation requirements for covering manure piles and manure application on bare ground."

While the MELP inspections will be targeted in the Fraser Valley, it is important that producers in all regions of the province use caution and appropriate practices when making manure applications. MELP officials have again emphasized that it is each producer's own responsibility to prevent pollution from occurring and to be in compliance with the Code of Agricultural Practice for Waste Management.

It should be emphasized that soils will generally have sufficient quantities of nitrogen to establish a cover crop following a corn silage harvest. However, where the need for nitrogen has been determined to aid in cover crop establishment and growth, a moderate application could be made as soon as possible following harvest if conditions are appropriate. Manure should never be applied to bare land not being seeded with a cover crop.

As established grass crops will generally undergo considerable growth in September and October, appropriate manure applications can be made to these fields. When the days get shorter and colder and precipitation increases, grass growth slows significantly and added precaution should be taken.

The overall intent is to match the crop's nutrient requirements with the available nutrients of manure - applying manure in excess of these needs, or when conditions are not appropriate, can lead to environmental contamination and must be avoided. When in doubt, producers should always consider contacting the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries office to discuss methods available to assist in deciding when crop conditions are optimum for manure application.

NEW Sustainable Manure Management Program (SMMP)

Sustainable Manure Management Program (SMMP) The BC Milk Producers Association, in cooperation with BC's poultry producers and the BC Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries, is administering thenew Sustainable Manure Management Program (SMMP). Thefollowing is information on the program. OBJECTIVES The Sustainable Manure Management Program (SMMP) will provide incentives for increasing the manure storage capacity of existing livestock and poultry facilities on BC farms and ranches.

The increased storage must be shown to improve producers' nutrient management practices and better utilize manure as a fertilizer, thereby improving the overall viability of BC farms and ranches. ELIGIBILITY To be eligible for assistance, projects must be consistent with the objectives of the SMMP, be designed by a Professional Engineer, and must expand the manure storage capacity to a minimum of 5 months. All existing livestock and poultry producers in BC are eligible to apply to SMMP.

Users of manure, such as horticulture or grain producers, are also eligible where there is a demonstrated (i.e. signed contract) long term commitment to receive and utilize manure from existing poultry or livestock farms. Projects must comply with all federal and provincial environmental regulations and guidelines and producer codes of practice. Project costs incurred prior to the approval date of funding will not be eligible for reimbursement. A total expenditure of $1 million dollars has been approved for the SMMP, and individual projects will be approved in order of receipt of application.

Participation in another government funded assistance program does not exclude a project's eligibility, provided the SMMP funding is for a separate and distinct activity not funded by current or previous programs. ELIGIBLE ACTIVITIES Eligible activities include, but are not limited to:

• Investigation of manure production rates and existing manure storage capacity;
• Covering existing uncovered manure storage facilities;
• Constructing environmentally responsible manure storage facilities, such as;
• Earthen lagoons
• Concrete tanks
• Metal silos
• Engineering design of facilities;

Activities not eligible include, but are not restricted to the purchase of machinery or equipment for manure handling. FINANCIAL Approved projects will receive reimbursement of up to 25 percent of eligible activity expenditures, to a maximum of $20,000. Projects that exceed $80,000 will only be eligible for the above maximum reimbursement. APPLICATION PROCESS If you are a livestock or poultry producer in British Columbia, and feel you may be eligible for this program, please contact the BC Milk Producers Association by e-mail to receive an application form. Please specify if you would like the application formatted in MS Word or WordPerfect, or if you would like to receive a faxed copy.

Producers should treat November through January as a no-spread period, and should not plan on making any manure applications during that time. In some years, limited manure applications in the earlier part of November or the latter part of January could be made, but only under the conditions described in the attached table.

Application of Manure to Grassland in the Fraser Valley
During Early November and Late January

Item Explanation How to Estimate
Suitable Grass Stand The grass stand must be in a suitable condition to be able to take advantage of the planned manure application.
  • grass is alive, green, not dormant and the stand is healthy and uniform.
  • mean daily air temperature generally above 5?c for two weeks
Manure Application Rate The amount of manure applied must match the needs of the crop. On average, only about 5% of the annual growth of the crop occurs during the winter period, so manure application should not exceed a total of 20-30 kg/ha of nitrogen (about one load or 2,000 gallons per acre) during this period. an estimate of the nitrogen content of liquid manure can be established, preferably by using one of the following methods* :

- hydrometer
- nitrogen quick test
- laboratory analysis

book values can also be used, particularly for estimating the nitrogen content of solid manure.

Soil Condition The soil must be sufficiently well drained and relatively dry.Water table should be well below surface.Soil should not be frozen. in its natural condition the soil is moderately well to rapidly drained, OR there is a farm drainage system with outlet conditions that allow the lines to function properly.Equipment can operate on the field without damaging the crop or soil.

more than 2 days since the last significant rain and no significant rain forecast in the short term.

Buffers to Protect Water Quality application should not occur closer than 10 metres on level ground (0-2% slope) and larger buffers should be provided where land slopes towards a water course (2-5%).spreading should not occur where slope exceeds 5% buffer is effective because there is no evidence of run-off within 5 metres of the water course
*Producers should contact B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Food staff to obtain assistance in estimating nitrogen content of manure.

Return to Manure

Sleighfoot Manure Application - Frequently asked questions

Won't the SMA slow me down to much?

Without doubt, the SMA is a slower method of spreading manure than with a splash-plate. The question is "How much?" If you run the manure through a chopper on the intake, loading time is increased. How much depends on the type and capacity of the chopper and on the nature of the manure. In the best case, loading time is probably only increased by 10-20%. In the worst case, it could be doubled.

Travel time to and from the field is not really affected. spreading time in the field is increased but only slightly. The DPCG found that overall spreading time was increased by 50-100% over conventional splash plate applicators.

It is quite possible that a locally built model could address some of the "slow-down" problems without much extra cost. Note that in the Harris report, the SMA can be more economically viable even at half the speed of a splash plate applicator, when offered as a custom service.

What about blockages?

Getting slurry to flow foolproof through 2-inch hoses is indeed one of the challenges with the SMA. Even with a chopper on the inlet and a chopper/distributor on the outlet, the DPCG ran into plugging problems on a few farms. Usually these were farms where everything went into the pit.

If you are considering the SMA for your farm, you also need to consider how you handle your manure. Solid wastes (bedding from calf pens and maternity pens, spoilage from silos) must be kept out. The SMA works best on farms, which have put in stall mattresses and have reduced bedding inputs.

Won't the SMA kill earthworms?

There is no evidence from Canadian experience to support this allegation. Because the individual "feet" glide on the surface, there is not cutting action in the soil that can physically kill earthworms. Sod injection, particularly deep injection, could have a negative impact on earthworms.

There is plenty of evidence showing that manure application has an overall positive impact on soil biological properties, including earthworm populations. In a long-term manure application trial at Agassiz in which the SMA was used as the manure application technique, visual observations were that earthworm and beetle populations were higher in manured treatments.

Won't the SMA cause more leaching?

No, especially if manure is applied at agronomic rates. When manure is applied at the right rate with the SMA, purchased fertilizer inputs can be eliminated. As long as you have a healthy forage stand, the crop will take up the vast majority of mineral nitrogen in the soil.

Sleighfoot Manure Applicator Solves Stinky Problem

By Judy Walters

A new device tested by members of the Dairy Producers' Conservation Group (DPCG) promises to easy southwestern BC farmers' manure disposal problems.

The DPCG brought the sleighfoot manure applicator (SMA) in from Holland for its members to test in 1992. Field trials conducted by Dr. Shabtai Bittman of Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada indicate that using the SMA is not only environmentally responsible, but also economically sensible.

Unlike conventional manure applicators which splatter manure all over the field, the SMA deposits manure in neat bands beneath the leaf canopy of a standing crop of grass, explains DPCG co-ordinator Orlando Schmidt.

Dutch fabricator Buts Meulepas loaned the DPCG this commercially sized sleighfoot manure applicator for the 1996 growing season. The machine was demonstrated on 500 acres of forage grass and has since been purchased by a forage producer on VancouverIsland.

The SMA deposits the manure precisely where it should be, concurs Abbotsford dairy farmer Bernie Klinger. "Manure doesn't do much good on top of the crop. It needs to be on the dirt."

The SMA deposits manure right on the ground, at the base of the plant, says Schmidt.

The SMA features feet, which ride on the surface. The feet comb through the grass and part it. After the manure has been deposited, the grass resumes its upright posture.

Because no manure lands on top of the crop, it doesn't get flattened, smothered, or burned, says Klinger, who has witnessed the damage conventional application techniques can do.

In addition to accurate placement, the SMA solves the problem of evaporation, says Curtis Strong, assistant manager of Woodwynn Farm, a forage production operation in Saanich.

When farmers use traditional manure application technologies, such as a splash plate, they create an aerosol of fine particles, which remain suspended in the air, he explains. That's what causes the smell neighbors living in the nearby residential subdivisions complain about.

"The SMA deposits the manure gently under the leaf canopy. Then the crop folds over the manure. There's no smell," says Klinger, who applied manure at a rate of 3,000 gallons per acre on a hot day last August right next to a group having a picnic. They never knew the difference.

Because the SMA deposits manure on the ground right next to the target plant's roots, nutrient uptake is enhanced.

Ammonium nitrogen (NH4-N), the type of nitrogen contained in manure which is readily available to plants, evaporates very easily, explains Strong. The SMA reduces the amount of NH4-N that evaporates. That means the crop gets it.

The SMA also gives farmers a lot of flexibility, says Klinger. It means "you don't have to wait until just before a rain or until after you've harvested your crops."

New provincial Manure Management Guidelines require producers farming at the coast, where heavy winter rains cause runoff which contaminates surface and ground water, to apply all their manure before October 31. With the SMA, farmers can apply their manure "from April to September," reports Klinger.

More important than time management, you can apply the manure right when your crops need it most, says Klinger.

"Manure is not a waste product. It's a resource," concurs Strong. "It should be managed carefully."

Farmers can substantially reduce the amount of money they have to spend on commercial fertilizers if they apply manure to their crops when they need it, says Schmidt, who is analyzing the costs and benefits of using a SMA, thanks to a grant from the Canada-BC Farm Business Management Program.

The CBCFBMP is a federal-provincial program designed to help farmers manage change, adopt modern farm business management principles and practices, improve their international competitiveness and self-reliance, address environmental issues and ensure the long term sustainability of the industry.

Using a partial budget, Schmidt and agricultural economists Andrea Harris compared the fixed and variable costs of each manure application system and the effect each had on the farm's annual net income.

When only variable costs are considered, the SMA beats conventional splashplate technology, due primarily to a reduction in chemical fertilizer costs explains Harris. When fixed costs associated with capital investment are included, however, the splashplate is more economical than the SMA. For example, waste management would cost a 100-acre farm $4,5000 more per year.

Application System Cost
Slurry Irrigation System $80,000
Imported Sleighfoot Manure Applicator $53,174
Locally Manufactured Sleighfoot $47,100
Vacuum Tank With Splashplate $25,500


On the face of it, the SMA doesn't look like an economically feasible alternative, primarily because of high capital costs. If, however, farmers forego ownership in favour of leasing, jointly owning or hiring custom operators, the economics of the SMA improve significantly. When custom rates are compared sleighfoot application is cheaper than splashplate application.

Over and above financial considerations, the SMA offers producers some important non-monetary benefits. They include: flexibility in terms of application, a tool to manage risk, a reduction in odors, and a chance to reduce the environmental impact of normal farm practices.

Acres Add'l


Costs Per Acre








Total Add'l


50 $149 $7,456 $4,700 $2,756
100 $139 $13,900 $9,399 $4,501
150 $137 $20,557 $14,099 $6,459
200 $134 $26,800 $18,798 $8,002


Looking ahead, predicts Strong, the pressure on farmers to use "environmentally friendly" practices is going to intensify. "The writing is on the wall." The SMA offers farmers an environmentally and economically sustainable alternative.

Next Page: « Harris Report Concludes Custom Sleighfoot Manure Application Can Be Economically Viable. »

Sleighfoot addresses air quality issues

In the Eastern Fraser Valley, hot summer days have become synonymous with hazy skies and bad air. To get a good grasp of this, all you have to do is hike up one of the local mountains during an August heatwave. From the peak of Mt. Cheam, 15 km east of Chilliwack, you will be lucky if you can see the local municipality. Turning around, the view to Jones Lake and beyond is unimpeded and quite spectacular. The contrast is amazing.

Air pollution has become a significant problem in the Fraser Valley. Although the vast majority of air pollution is attributed to the automobile, scientists now believe that ammonia being emitted through agricultural practices is a major player as well.

The splashplate is still used by many farmers in BC today. It is a very time effective method but does not produce as consistent results for forage production as the SMA.

An Environment Canada report suggests that ammonia - a by-product of manure application - may play a key role in air pollution by forming ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulphate. It is estimated that 86% of airborn ammonia in the Fraser Valley is from agriculture. Ammonia-based particles tend to generate a white haze as opposed to the brown haze, which results from industrial emissions.

Essentially, pollutants from industry and the automobile (mainly from Vancouver) migrate down the Valley and mix with gases being emitted from agriculture to form the particulate matter. Because the valley is funnel-shaped, the white haze gets trapped against the mountains in the Eastern Fraser Valley.

The occurrence of white haze is quite common now and can last for weeks if a high-pressure weather system is in place.

Obviously the problem would be reduced if automobile and industrial emissions were cut back. The problem would also be less if agricultural emissions were reduced. A joint strategy to achieve both of these objectives is necessary.

With environmental policies that favor the protection of water quality, there has been a shift in manure spreading patterns away from the winter months and towards the spring and summer months. The rationale is that if manure is applied and utilized during the growing season, there will be fewer pollutants entering watercourses and groundwater.

Unfortunately, without appropriate technology, summertime manure application can worsen air quality. With warmer temperatures, ammonia emissions from manure application can worsen air quality. With warmer temperatures, ammonia emissions from manure application increase. Your nosebuds can testify to this - the smell of manure is always worse during a summer barbecue than during a winter skate.

This is where the sleighfoot manure applicator comes into the picture. The concept is simple, by depositing manure in bands beneath the leaf canopy of a growing grass crop, you are placing it where it is less exposed to the air and closer to the roots of that crop. Utilization by the crop is enhanced and ammonia emissions are reduced.

Scientists in the Netherlands and Germany have been measuring the ammonia emissions from various manure application techniques. The results from 2 studies are presented in Table 3.

Table 3. Reduction of ammonia emissions, as influenced by method of manure application

Method of Application
Emission Reduction
Source: Lorenz & Steffens, Germany
Source: Huijsmans, et al., The Netherlands
Sleighfoot **
Shallow Injection

*Compared to conventional broadcast methods.

**Referred as "sliding shoe" or "trailing feed" in literature.

The research results are quite consistent in showing that the sleighfoot is pretty good for reducing emissions but that shallow injection techniques are even better. The problem with injection systems is an increased risk of sward damage, higher power requirements, and higher costs. German scientists Frank Lorenz concluded from his work that the sleighfoot is the "most favorable slurry application technique for use on grassland".

The sleighfoot alone will not solve the Fraser Valley's air quality problems but it certainly should be included as one of the pieces in the puzzle.

Previous Page: « AG-Canada Study Shows Slurry Can Replace Fertilizer Nitrogen On Grassland. »
Next Page: « Frequently Asked Questions »

Soil Aeration on Grassland Receiving Slurry Application: Pros and Cons for Water Quality (2001)

Return to Manure

A large proportion of the nitrogen requirements for growing grass for forage in South Coastal British Columbia is provided by manure. Would opening of the surface soil by an aeration implement prior to applying manure to grassland reduce the quantity of runoff and the nutrient and sediment load in the runoff ? This question is being addressed in a research trial at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Agassiz, BC.

The study was conducted on a field with a 4% slope planted to a permanent stand of orchardgrass. We set up three plots (each measuring 6 by 21m) that were aerated and three plots that were not aerated. The soil was aerated across the slope with a Holland Hitch Aerway implement in the spring and fall of each year. Both treatments received the same amount of manure after each cut of grass, five or six times per year. We measured the amount of runoff and the amount of nitrate and sediment in the runoff from each plot over the late fall and winter periods. We also measured leaching of nitrate and ammonia-N with suction cup lysimeters installed at 60 and 120 cm depth in each plot.

Preliminary results from May 1998-January 2000 show that aeration reduced the quantity of runoff and the nitrate-N loading by just over half, and the sediment load by two-thirds compared to no aeration. Ammonia-N and total Kjeldahl-N loading was reduced by just over 70% as a result of opening the surface soil with the aerator. Lysimeter data show that aeration increased concentrations of nitrate-N (33%) and ammonia-N (5%) in the soil solution at 60 cm soil depth, but no differences were found at 120 cm depth. Our preliminary data show that aeration on sloping grassland is effective in reducing runoff and its constituents but may have a tendency to increase leaching. More research is required to substantiate these results.

Correspond with Laurens van Vliet, email:vanvlietl@em.agr.ca Phone: 604-796-2221-Ext.223; Fax: 604-796-0359. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, P.O. Box 1000, Agassiz, B.C. Canada. V0M 1A0

Return to Manure

VIDEO: Perspectives on Wintertime Nitrogen Losses (2014)

Video:  Perspectives on Wintertime Nitrogen Losses
Dr. Shabtai Bittman, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, BC, Canada

Fall applied manure N is both conserved and lost over winter - which is right?  Dr. Shabtai Bittman proposes that to manage nitrogen on land and on farms, farmers must take into account the LEAKY PIPE model.

Leaky Pipe Model

Washington State Science Symposium: Managing Dairy Nutrients for Stewardship
May 2 2014, Olympia, WA

VIDEO: Phosphorus Management Seminar ... Making the Most of Dairy Slurry: The Dual Manure Stream Concept (2012)



Agricultural Plastic Recycling Update (2007)

Return to Environment

Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen Press Release
August 15, 2007

Late last year the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) launched its Agricultural Plastic Recycling Program, a new major initiative in BC. Plastics have made our lives easier, however with that ease came the complication of how to dispose of them. Plastic items ranging from ground crop and greenhouse plastic to irrigation plastics and baler twine don't belong in a landfill and can't be burned.

The agriculture plastic recycling pilot program, funded through the Agriculture Environment Partnership Initiative, an Agri-Food Futures Fund program managed by the British Columbia Agriculture Council, with additional funding support from the RDOS and Ministries of Environment and Agriculture and Lands, was set up to find convenient, efficient means of collecting the various types of plastic. It also set out to identify partner(s) in the Plastics Processing Sector, to develop methods for recycling; and to make sure that there are adequate volumes collected to sustain market viability.

The program started by giving special collection bags - accompanied by information sheets - in the RDOS area. Once the bags were filled, they were delivered to landfills with no tipping fees.

The staff and volunteers working with the project have been pleased with the willingness of all seven landfills in the RDOS area to jump on board and participate. As the project gathered momentum the pilot program was extended to December of 2007 in order to complete the trials. Once all the data is collected all regional districts and municipalities will receive a copy of the final report.

The trials are the main component of this pilot project, as they help determine the resin type, the processing methods and where to find suitable markets for the processed waste plastic. Cost effective transportation is also a component of the pilot. One of the struggles faced during this pilot has been to find suitable markets for the recycled plastics and when those markets aren't available, to develop new markets and strategies. Although many are willing to accept the recycled plastic, there still needs to be a place to accumulate enough volumes to send it for the actual processing for recycling.

Some of the trials conducted included silage bags which are a low-density polyethylene, similar to greenhouse film. This type of plastic is very suitable for recycling provided the bottoms of the bags aren't dirty. To overcome this problem, bottoms can be cut off to minimize contamination. They are then recycled into items like multi layer coex film and drainage pipes. Users of the waste agricultural such as the silage bags are asked to bag or tie into bundles using the same type of plastic or twine.

Another successful trial was with bail twine which is a polypropylene. The twine must be clean and fairly free of hay/straw or manure in order to process it into a secondary recycled product. The processor cuts twine into small pieces and have the contaminants blown off or, a more effective method is to use a densifier, which cuts, shreds and melts the twine. In order to keep contamination levels low there is an easy method to keep twine clean that won't break apart the bale. Simply hold the knot and cut the twine close to it. Still holding the knot, pull the twine through the bale and clean off any hay or debris; then place into clean, dry bags for delivery to collection site.

Originally this product was shipped to the USA; however, the RDOS pilot program has provided the opportunity to process it right here in BC, providing contamination levels stay low. The recycled twine can be made into #5 grower and flowerpots and wood composite material.

Those living in the RDOS area are using recycled super sac bags to sort and collect their waste agricultural plastics. Empty bags are provided free and are picked up at any RDOS or municipal landfill or at Terra Link South Valley Sales in Oliver and Keremeos.

Agriculturists can tie their clean and sorted film plastics into bundles with twine or with a strip of the same plastic.

The launch of this program and sharing of information gathered to date has helped with a twine and film plastic collection pilot program on Vancouver Island. The continued work conducted by the RDOS pilot trials are making recycling of these waste plastics possible. The RDOS plans to make the templates from their collection program and trials available to all BC municipalities and Regional Districts so they can incorporate a similar model for their area.

For more information contact RDOS Air Quality: 490-4212, or toll free at 1-877-610-3737

D. Ashton RDOS Board Chair

Return to Environment


Twine Recycling Project on Vancouver Island (2007)

Return to Environment

Adapted from: Country Life in BC, April 2007

Frustrated by having no other option but to send used plastic baler twine to the dump, Vancouver Island resident Jill Ackerman has launched a grassroots campaign to begin recycling twine and other plastic hay coverings.

"I wanted to find a new life for the used orange, black and blue, green, yellow plastic baler twine that wraps hay and straw bales," says Ackerman, "even the Liquor Stores use clear twine."

"The twine is just the first step. Silage and round bale plastics plus green house nursery sheeting have also been added into the collections," Ackerman reports.

Ackerman received the green light from Genesis Recycling in late January 2007 and within five weeks had already secured 15 delivery sites across Vancouver Island. She has now secured 25 delivery locations - mostly farm and feed stores - from Victoria to Campbell River and 4 in the lower mainland.

"Another recycling business, International Paper Industries in Cumberland/Nanaimo, has agreed to accept the plastic twine, silage and round bale wrap plastics, compress and bale it, then ship it to a Broker," explains Ackerman. "Simply Plastics in North Delta is already processing any twine that is received, but the silage and round bale plastics tend to be more of a problem with contamination particles and until we reach a level of acceptance, these plastics are still in limbo."

Simply Plastics melts the twine and forms it into pellets. The recycled product is then sold to manufacturers throughout North America.

"To my knowledge ... this is the first time in Canada a recycling agent is going to actually process the twine and sell the product," Ackerman notes.

Ackerman and 4 assistants pick up the twine and agricultural plastics on a weekly basis from feed stores in Campbell River/Courtenay and south to Sidney. In the Lower Mainland, twine can also be delivered to Vanderveen Hay, Roddick Farm & Feed or directly to Genesis Recycling in Aldergrove or Simply Plastics, N. Delta.

"I have to watch my gas and the economics as well as the environmental damage of me driving to each place picking up twine and plastics. But at least I am only one truck and not 100 of them driving to the dump each week," notes Ackerman.

The pilot project became an Agriculture Environment Partnership Initiative in June 2007; partners include the Comox Valley Farmer's Institute, Vancouver Island Milk Producers and The Comox Valley Therapeutic Riding Society who act as administration assistants.

The Agriculture Environment Partnership Initiative is an Agri-Food Futures Fund program created to help the agri-food industry contribute positively towards resolving wildlife and environmental issues. Agriculture and Agri-food Canada and the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands provide funding for this initiative through a trust agreement with the Investment Agriculture Foundation of British Columbia. The British Columbia Agriculture Council manages the program.

Still Needs Volume

With the system now in place, the pilot's success now rests on farmers to deliver a consistent supply of twine and prepare the silage and hay wrap for collection.

"If everyone participates in the recycling process, the volumes of plastics we collect will represent those that have been diverted but were headed to the landfill or burn piles." says Ackerman.

Ackerman hopes to one day see the grassroots campaign expand into a national program, and notes the project has already sparked interest from other areas of the country. A major twine distributor in Ontario has committed to advising his distributors about the project and a French manufacturer has contacted her requesting information on how her project is being managed.

"Farmers need to know they have a choice," she adds. "that's a huge thing for me because there never was a choice before. Now the choice is up to them: do they burn it, bury it, dump it or recycle it? It's pretty simple."

For an easy way to recycle twine, Ackerman recommends cutting the twine from the bale at the knot. Then, holding the knot, pull the rest of the twine through the bale. This method will help keep the product free of hay. If you use multi-coloured twine, store any black twine separately from the other colours. This way the processors don't have to re-dye the black if it is already delivered separated. Save the twine in a movable container or bag, and then take it to the nearest delivery site when the container is full. Easy Step information for silage and round bale wrap is also available on hand-outs or on her website.

For information, contact Jill Ackerman at 250-703-0048 or acker944@shaw.ca


Vancouver Island delivery sites include:

  • Black Creek - Black Creek Farm & Feed
  • Black Creek - Saddlebags Consignment Store
  • Campbell River - Shar-Kare Feed
  • Cobble Hill - Laughing Llama Country Store
  • Courtenay - Shar-Kare Feed
  • Courtenay - South Country Feeds
  • Courtenay - Way Out West
  • Cumberland - International Paper Industries
  • Duncan - Buckerfield's
  • Ladysmith - The Trading Post
  • Ladysmith - Walker Creek Feed & Tack
  • Langford - Willow Wind Feed & Tack
  • Nanaimo - Buckerfield's
  • Nanaimo - Shar-Kare Feed
  • Parksville - Bridles and Bits
  • Parksville - Buckerfield's
  • Saanich - Buckerfield's
  • Saanich - Dan's Country Market
  • Saanich - Integrity Sales & Distributors
  • Saanich - White House Stables
  • Victoria - Borden Mercantile
  • 842 Finlayson Arm Rd. private residence

Lower Mainland deliveries are accepted at

  • Genesis Recycling Ltd., 26049 30A Avenue in Aldergrove. Contact Al or Doug Surtees at 877-607-1117
  • Simply Plastics, 7700 Vantage Rd. Tilbury Industrial Park, N. Delta
  • Vanderveen Hay Sales, Surrey and Roddick Farm and Feed, Ladner

Return to Environment


International Year of Soils

2015 has been declared the International Year of Soils by the 68th UN General Assembly. The key objective is to increase public awareness of soil's importance for food security and essential ecosystem functions.

Canadian Society of Soil Science celebrates the 2015 International Year of Soils.

Provincial Soil Organizations

Soils are a finite natural resource and are nonrenewable on a human time scale.  Soils are the foundation for food, animal feed, fuel and natural fiber production, the supply of clean water, nutrient cycling and a range of ecosystem functions.  The area of fertile soils covering the world's surface is limited and increasingly subject to degradation, poor management and loss to urbanization.  Increased awareness of the life-supporting functions of soil is called for if this trend is to be reversed and so enable the levels of food production necessary to meet the demands of population levels predicted for 2050.  Soil Science Society of America

To celebrate 2015 as the International Year of Soils, Sustainable Food Trust and FutureLearn offer free online course Soils: Introducing the World Beneath Our Feet.  https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/soils      Learn about soils, the variety of life they contain and how humans impact this fragile system, with this free online course.





Soil Management

Abbotsford Soil Conservation Association

Return to Environment

What is the Abbotsford Soil Conservation Association?
The ASCA is a registered non-profit society that is "directed by farmers, for the community". The Association uses a cooperative approach in the development of sustainable land stewardship strategies that offer economical and effective solutions to issues related to soil conservation, water quality, and nutrient management.

What is the purpose of the Association?
The purposes of the organization are:

  • To promote the retention and preservation of agricultural land in the City of Abbotsford and undertake projects which are aimed at achieving this purpose.
  • To promote sustainable agriculture and stewardship practices which conserve and enhance the long term productivity of agricultural land.
  • To undertake or assist field projects and research activities which promote sustainable agriculture and stewardship practices which conserve and enhance agricultural land.
  • To promote stewardship practices which contribute to the long term sustainability of the quality and quantity of water resources and associated riparian areas.
  • To promote public awareness and appreciation of agriculture and the importance of its conservation for the benefit of future generations.
  • To cooperate with other agencies and organizations which have aims and objectives similar to the society by participating in joint ventures or assisting projects which follow the purposes of the Society.
  • To function at all times as a non-profit, non-political, charitable body which is independent from governments and other organizations.
  • To acquire, hold, lease, manage, rent, mortgage or sell real property for the purpose of establishing and maintaining areas to further the purposes of the Society.
  • To operate as a charitable organization and to receive, acquire, and hold gifts, donations, devices and bequests of every nature and kind toward the purposes of the Society.

Who participates in the ASCA?
ASCA consists of a Board of eight Directors:

Peter Reus, President
Terry Feser, Vice President
Rose Schroeder, Secretary
Len Smit, Treasurer
Bruce Wisbey, Director
Jim van Dongen, Director
Kim Ross, Director
Dick Bunbury, Director

and three Technical Advisors:
Geoff Hughes-Games (BCMAFF)
Mark Robbins (BCMAFF)
Frank Wright (City of Abbotsford)

Why does the Abbotsford area need a soil conservation association?
Due to the excellent soils provided by the Fraser River, Abbotsford is a one of the most intensive agricultural areas in Canada. To maintain production viability, and prevent soil loss and water quality deterioration, soil conservation activities such as planting windbreaks and undertaking cover-cropping are extremely important.

Do other areas of the Fraser Valley / Province have similar associations?
ASCA is an amalgamation of several smaller soil conservation associations in the lower mainland; there are currently no other soil conservation groups similar to this one in the province. However, the Canada Soil Conservation Association has similar interests. The Soil Conservation Council of Canada oversees the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program (which the Abbotsford Soil Conservation Assoc. administers for BC). The ASCA also has a major partner - the Peace River Forage Association - which delivers the GHGMP for the northern area of the province.

What are the main issues currently being addressed by the ASCA?
ASCA acts as BC's delivery agent for the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program (GHGMP), sponsored by the Soil Conservation Council of Canada. The objectives of the GHGMP are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the agriculture and agri-food sector through soil, nutrient and livestock management practices and to increase carbon sinks. Although the scope of the GHGMP program is quite wide, ASCA focuses on various sustainable manure management techniques.

What are the goals of the ASCA
The goals of the Association are to promote:

  • the conservation of agricultural land in the City of Abbotsford, for the benefit of present and future generations; and
  • the long-term management of soil and water resources to enhance the productivity and profitability of agricultural lands.

How does your organization function?
The Board meets monthly. The organization has a Group Coordinator who oversees projects.

For more information, please visit www.abbotsfordsoilconservation.com

Return to Environment

Soil Compaction VIDEO - Taking Action on Soil Compaction (2017)

Swiss researcher Matthias Stettler set up his soil compaction sensors for a unique live show for farmers at the recent Compaction Action field day in Ontario. In this video Stettler talks about the impact of compaction and some of the options producers have to help counteract it. Click here.

Soil Health Tech Bulletin I (2017)

A & L CANADA LABORATORIES, INC. 2136 Jetstream Rd. London, ON N5V 3P5 Phone: 519-457-2575 Fax: 519-457-2664 Aginfo@alcanada. com www.alcanada.com Fact Sheet No. 820 Revised 05/2017

Soil Health is on every one’s mind these days and most people are looking towards more sustainable agriculture with a reduction in the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Soil Health is a combination of biological, chemical and physical properties that combined determine the Soil Quality but more importantly of recent termed Soil Health. These two terms will continue to overlap as we look at soil, not just as a lifeless inert growing medium but more as a living, dynamic and continually changing ecological environment. Healthy soils are all about the interaction between plants and soil microorganisms that complete this cycle of life and the activities going on in the top 15 cm of soil that supports most of the life on this plant. This is less understood than the vast universe that we are a part of.

Researchers today are looking at the human biome and what is happening with the microbial population in the human gut and how we function. Our research on soil health is finding that the plant rhizosphere is much like the human gut or I relate it to the gut of the plant and the interaction of the microbes in the rhizosphere is much like the relationship in the human gut. Research at A&L on soil health is taking on an ecological approach where we are studying the relationship between plant and the soil biome and the signaling that takes place here.

The plant returns 40-60% of the photosynthates that it produces to the ryzosphere. This is a tremendous amount of energy that goes to feeding the organisms in the rhizosphere and culturing the soil biome. Plants use these many compounds that are produced to signal organisms and in the proper system encourage a relationship with a very select group of bacteria (endophytes) that help the plant grow, produce the nutracueticals that are the plant, fight disease and insects, and produce the crops grow.

A&L Biologicals, since its beginning in 2010, has focused on identifying and understanding the soil microbiological, plant relationship and how it influences crop production. The research was directed to “what is the identity of the microbes that populate the rhizosphere and host, how does the host select or signal for them, what is the unique characteristics of each of the microbes, and how do we create a healthy environment to assist the host in maintaining the ideal equilibrium amongst these populations.

Soil Health and Soil Chemistry

The primary component in this assessment is the Soil Health chemical analysis that measures the general fertility of the soil which A&L’s research shows has direct correlation to the plants ability to provide the necessary nutrients (carbon) that attracts and supports the organisms that benefit and support plant growth. Included in this test is the Solvita 1-day test that measures soil respiration which measures the carbon dioxide being released by the soil microbes over a 24 hour period. Also, it provides a new analysis which is “Reactive Carbon” that research has also shown to be a more responsive test that signals the deterioration of physical, chemical, and biological properties. The soil factors that may cause a decline in “Reactive Carbon” include reduced aggregate stability, increased bulk density, reduced water infiltration and water holding capacity, microbial activity, and nutrient availability.

Click here for full PDF Version of this document


Soil Health Tech Bulletin II (2017)

BIOLOGICAL SOIL HEALTH TEST: Microbial diversity is an excellent indicator of soil health (Nielsen and Winding 2002). They report that variation in microbial population or activities precede changes that can be noticed in some cases as early signs of soil degradation or amelioration. Water and nutrient supply from soil, particularly N and P, determine the plant growth both in natural and agro-ecosystems. It is important to understand that the above ground vegetation is the ultimate source of C for the microbes in the rhizosphere that, in turn, support the macro-fauna. Thus, it is important to understand that the above ground vegetation influences the below ground microbial community structure and soil properties (Orwin and Wardale 2005). A&L Biologicals research has shown that microbial popula ons require certain carbon sources that the plant must provide and maintain in the rhizosphere in order to sustain healthy beneficial populations of microorganisms.  A&L’s soil health test is designed to measure the important nutrient levels that are needed to support the plants ability to provide these essen al carbon sources to feed the soil biome.

From the past few years of study on unravelling the interaction of soil & plant physical, chemical and microbial parameters on soil & plant health through agricultural innovation program research, we found some interesting interactions of microbes on soil health, overall fertility and yield. The total microbial population in the soil, root, and rhizosphere measured through plating on selective nutritional media did not show any contribu on to the yield or the overall fertility. When we dissected these microbiome in subgroups such as Gram negative and positives we found some interesting facts. Gram negative bacteria such as Pseudomonas, Rhizobium, Azospirillum showed a strong positive correlation with the high productivity and the general fertility of the soil; thereby higher yield. Gram positive bacterial populations such as Bacillus species have strong positive correlation with the low productivity of the soil; thereby lower yield. Based on the in depth tests on several related aspects and findings, we developed a simple, fast, and affordable test to identify the indicators of soil health by measuring the key components. This biological test will complement the other physical and chemical soil tests to arrive at complete soil health information and for effective soil management and sustainability.

The following soil parameters influence the soil biome and from our research have a strong correlation to the relationship to the population of the indicator organisms that have a positive or negative in uence on crop performance. By increasing or reducing any of these indicators based on the ranges that have been established in our field research a grower can have a direct influence on the population of these organisms in both the bulk soil and the rhizosphere. Although other cultural practices such as crop rotation and addition of organics have a strong relationship to soil quality it still requires a good balance of nutrients available to the plant to provide the proper carbon source to attract and maintain these organisms.

Read the complete pdf article here:  http://alcanada.com/index_htm_files/821%20Soil%20Health%20Tech%20Bulleti...

Soil Temperature and Soil Moisture Probes (2012)

Is there published temperature curves for seasonal soil temperature, for different soils at different sites and at varying depths. Or are there averages for areas (South East Kelowna in particular) based on ambient temperatures? If so where would this data be found?
The View Winery & Vineyards 

The relationship between soil temperature and air temperature is affected by soil texture, soil moisture content and plant cover.  We don’t have any models built for this relationship although there are some pedo-transfer functions in the literature. We have measured soil temperature at various depths in many experiments. In general, in coarse textured soils, similar to many of those in SE Kelowna, soil temperature in the top 10cm in non-grassed soils tends to respond very rapidly to air temperature and be similar in magnitude.  Below 10cm the response to air temperature is more ‘damped’ and is more affected by soil moisture content.  If this is an on-going question, soil temperature is a cheap and easy measurement to make.

Denise Neilsen Ph.D.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada/Agriculture et Agroalimentaire Canada
Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre/Centre de Recherches Agro-alimentaires de Pacifique 
Summerland, British Columbia/Columbie Britannique

Many thanks for this! I installed the Irrometer Watermark soil moisture probes and they needed to be calibrated to soil temperature. Since we have 5 different soil types on the 19 hectares of grapes here I was hoping to be able correlate soil temperatures taken at say 20cm depth to those lower in the soil profile for the different soil types. I appreciate the complexity of the issue but still hoped for a simple solution...is the simplest way to get the readings at depth to use a long probe thermometer?? Guess so.
Vineyard Manager,
The View Winery and Vineyards

Soil Nutrients

Cooperators Needed for Soil Nutrient Study (2005)

Return to Environment

Volunteer farm sites are needed in the Fraser Valley this summer to help soil scientists track the impacts of the Canada-BC Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) Program by finding out what the soil nutrient status is now.

A collaborative research project designed to assess soil nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium status in the Fraser Valley, is set to begin in May of 2005. The project, funded jointly by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, under the Agriculture Policy Framework, and Environment Canada, under the Georgia Basin Action Plan, will be administered by the British Columbia Agriculture Council.

Cornie Hertgers is the dairy industry representative and Allen James is the poultry industry representative on the project steering committee. This producer representation has been essential to ensure all producer concerns such as biosecurity are addressed.

The Fraser Valley is a region that generates approximately $1.4 billion in annual farm gate receipts. The climate and soils in the region support a wide range of intensive agricultural operations. Increasingly, farmers are being asked to manage crop nutrients on their farms in a more precise manner. The environmental risks of excess or inappropriate nutrient application include nitrate leaching, release of ammonia and nitrous oxide into the air, and phosphorus transfer to surface water. The economic risks include lost nutrients, poor crop growth due to nutrient imbalances, and impacts on feed quality (i.e. elevated potassium and/or nitrates in forages). This research project will potentially provide soil scientists with new tools that can help farmers be better managers of their crop nutrients.

In Phase One of the project, 54 fields will be selected representing a cross-section of 9 major soil management groups (see Table 1 below) identified on soil maps of the Fraser Valley. On these fields, soil pits will be dug (approximately 1 metre deep by 1 metre wide by 1 metre long) and the research team will be looking at making correlations between soil physical characteristics (e.g., sand, silt, and clay content at different depths) and soil chemical characteristics (e.g. nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium content). In selecting fields, one of the goals is to compare fields that have a history of intensive nutrient applications with fields having a history of minimal nutrient applications. All samples will be analyzed at the Soils Research Lab at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Agassiz.

Table 1: Soils Identified for Sampling in 2005 Fraser Valley Soil Nutrient Assessment

General Location Soil Parent Material Soil Management Group
Agassiz Fraser River Fairfield, Monroe, Page, Grevell
Chilliwack Fraser River Fairfield, Monroe, Page, Grevell
Nicomen Island / Matsqui Prairie Fraser River Fairfield, Monroe, Page, Grevell
Sumas Prairie Lacustrine (lake deposits) Sumas
West end of Sumas Prairie & North of Hatzic Lake Local stream deposits Carvolth
Abbotsford Airport Glacial till or outwash Abbotsford, Bose, Columbia, Lehman, Heron, Summer
Abbotsford / Langley Uplands Glacial Marine Whatcom, Scat, Berry
Cloverdale / Nicomekl drainage area Marine Cloverdale (and shallow organic soils)
Delta / Westham Island Deltaic Delta, Benson, Crescent, Ladner

What is the objective of this study?

The key objective is to obtain baseline data on soil nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium status in the Fraser Valley that can be used in the future to evaluate the effectiveness of the Canada-BC Environmental Farm Plan Program.

Who are the partners in the study?

A steering committee has been established with representatives from the following agencies:

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • BC Agriculture Council
  • BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
  • BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection
  • Environment Canada
  • University of British Columbia

Why dig a soil pit?

The soil pit allows soil scientists to visually examine the physical properties of a soil at various depths. This also allows collection of samples by soil horizons (natural layers). Preliminary research has shown that different soil types have differing properties in terms of their abilities to bind nutrients such as phosphorus. One of the potential outcomes of this project is that new soil testing procedures may be developed that could be customized to soil type.

What is involved in volunteering?

Cooperators will allow the soil scientists and technicians to enter their field (one or more) and dig 3 soil pits for examination and sample collection. In most cases, the hole will be dug by a mini-excavator and backfilled by hand.

One of the key principles of the project is that participation is voluntary and individual results are to be kept confidential. Only pooled results will be reported. Cooperators will be asked to respond to a questionnaire to get some background information on the field being sampled and on general manure management practices. Once the results are compiled, producers who volunteered will be provided basic results from their own farm.

How do I sign up?

To participate or get more information on this project, please contact Orlando Schmidt at the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (604-556-3101 or email orlando.schmidt@gov.bc.ca.)

Return to Environment

Fraser Valley Soil Nutrient Study Update (2005)

Return to Environment

Sampling Phases Completed on October 31, 2005

A collaborative research project was established to assess soil nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium status in the Fraser Valley in 2005. The study will generate a soil nutrient database that can be used in the future to assess the success of the Canada-British Columbia Environmental Farm Plan Program.

The project, funded principally by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, under the Agriculture Policy Framework and the PFRA, and Environment Canada, under the Georgia Basin Action Plan, is being administered by the British Columbia Agriculture Council. Additional financial and in-kind support has been provided by the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, the BC Ministry of Environment, the University of British Columbia, and the University College of the Fraser Valley.

Special recognition needs to be made to all the producers in the Fraser Valley who have volunteered to have their fields sampled. Two key principles of the study are that participation is voluntary and individual results will be kept confidential. Overall, most producers who were contacted were very cooperative in providing fields for the study.

Phase One – May to August 2005

In Phase One of the project, 54 fields were selected to represent a cross-section of 9 major soil management groups identified on soil maps of the Fraser Valley (Table 1). Sampling began on May 4, 2005 and was completed on August 16, 2005. Six fields were sampled from each area with three of those being classified as intensively farmed and three as non-intensive. On each field, three soil pits approximately one cubic metre in size were excavated. Samples were collected from a minimum of three depths in each pit. In addition, a physical description of each soil was obtained, using the Canadian System of Soil Classification.

Table 1. Sampling Locations for Phase One of the 2005 Fraser Valley Soil Nutrient Study (Six samples from each location.)
General Location Soil Parent Material Soil Management Group
Agassiz Fraser River Fairfield, Monroe, Page, Grevell
Chilliwack Fraser River Fairfield, Monroe, Page, Grevell
Nicomen Island / Matsqui Prairie Fraser River Fairfield, Monroe, Page, Grevell
Sumas Prairie Lacustrine (Lake deposits) Sumas
West end of Sumas Prairie and North of Hatzic Lake Local stream deposits Carvolth
Abbotsford Airport Glacial till or outwash Abbotsford, Bose, Columbia, Lehman, Heron, Summer
Abbotsford / Langley Uplands Glacial marine Whatcom, Scat, Berry
Cloverdale / Nicomekl drainage area Marine Cloverdale (and shallow organic soils)
Delta / Westham Island Deltaic Delta, Benson, Crescent, Ladner

Phase Two – September and October 2005

Phase Two sampling had the objective of determining the soil nutrient status at the end of the growing season, with a particular focus on nitrogen. One hundred and seventy-two (172) fields were sampled from five census zones within the Fraser Valley (see Table 2). The fields were selected to proportionately represent the major crop production systems within each zone. Sampling was done using conventional soil probes. Triple replicate samples were collected from three depths (0-15 cm, 15-30 cm, and 30-60 cm) in each field.

Sampling began on September 21 and was completed on October 31.

Table 2. Sampling Locations and Crop Types for Phase Two of Fraser Valley Soil Nutrient Study

Crop Type

East Chilliwack

Abbotsford (Sumas Prairie Area)

South Matsqui (south of airport)

West Matsqui (Mt. Lehman/Bradner area)

West Delta

Pasture, alfalfa, hay, and fodder crops










































Total = 172






Phase Three – Producer Surveys, Sample Processing and Analysis

In total, over 2000 individual soil samples were collected in Phases One and Two. After collection, samples were refrigerated temporarily at the Abbotsford Agriculture Centre and then delivered in batches to Agassiz where they were air-dried in a greenhouse at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre. Once dry, they are being further processed (crushed and sieved) in preparation for laboratory analysis.

The lab analysis phase is being lead by Dr. Grant Kowalenko of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Initial nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium analysis is expected to be completed by March 2006 with a preliminary report due in the spring of 2006.

Concurrent to the analysis phase, the farmers who volunteered their fields will be interviewed to obtain further management information on each field.

Parallel Studies

Dr. Tom Forge, a soil biologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, is leading a study looking at the biodiversity of soil nematode populations in relation to soil nutrient status. This work builds upon previous research that suggests some aspects of nematode biodiversity can be used as indicators of soil fertility and soil health. A subset of the soil samples will be used in this study.

Dr. Merv Wetzstein, a veterinarian with the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, is leading a study in which a subset of the soil samples will be analyzed for the presence of pathogens. Where pathogens are present, the study is also assessing the pathogen organisms for anti-microbial resistance. Further analysis will be conducted to determine the presence of veterinary pharmaceutical residues.


The 2 sampling phases of this project have been a huge coordination effort. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the steering committee and all the volunteers and contractors who worked diligently to stick to the timeline targets we had set. At this point, some invoices from Phase Two are still being processed but Phase One and Two were essentially on time and on budget.

I would like to express particular appreciation to Ella Monro, a Coop student from SFU working with MAL, who recruited the volunteer farmers and coordinated the day to day sampling schedules. Her diligence and coordination ability was a key factor in the success of the sampling phases.

Submitted by:

Orlando Schmidt, PAg
Environmental Soil Specialist
BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands
November 2, 2005

Return to Environment

Magnesium - The Case for Managing Magnesium (2017)

Like sulphur, Mg is moving into the foreground

No one is taking anything away from “The Big Three.” Clearly, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N, P and K) have a direct and powerful influence on yield, and must be managed with great skill.

Increasingly, though, we’re learning that secondary nutrients and micronutrients are also worth paying attention to.

In 2016, for instance, agronomists began raising awareness about sulphur levels that were dropping in Ontario and across much of Quebec. Environmental programs that have cut acid rain mean growers are no longer seeing the unintended deposition of sulphur that came from the wide-scale pollution of the past 50 years. In the face of cleaner air, the agronomic recommendation from retailers, extension personnel and advisers was to increase sulphur applications.

But why is the spotlight now on magnesium? It’s hard to overstate magnesium’s importance. A 2010 issue of Better Crops (published by the International Plant Nutrient Institute (IPNI)) lists eight crucial metabolic processes affected by magnesium. They include: photo­phos­phorylation, photosynthetic carbon dioxide fixation, protein synthesis, chlorophyll formation, phloem loading, partitioning and utilization of photo-assim­i­lates, generation of reactive oxygen species and photo-oxidation in leaf tissues.

Complete Article:  Country Guide

Nitrogen Report Card 2001

Do Agassiz Corn Kings use more nitrogen (manure and fertilizer)?

As in past years, the fall soil tests taken in 2001 say ‘no’. There was no link between corn ranking and soil nitrate levels in the fall. For example, one of the top-ranking corn fields in the 2001 competition had the least soil nitrate, a very admirable 77 kg nitrate-N/ha (69lb/ac). The highest soil test came from the corn field with the second lowest rating.

Samples taken from fields entered into the 2001 Corn King Competition at Agassiz show that, on average, levels of fall soil nitrate were up from the previous year. Amount of soil nitrate-N to a 60cm (2 ft) depth in the 11 fields sampled averaged 125kg/ha (110lb/ac). Last year the Corn King fields averaged just 93kg/ha (83lb/ac). Over the previous five years of sampling, average soil nitrate-N levels have bounced between 48-150kg/ha (43-134lb/ac).

The fall soil nitrate test has been used for several years in BC and the Pacific Northwest as a “report card” to evaluate nutrient management practices on corn land. The report card enables farmers to evaluate their nitrogen application rates. Since it is hard to predict in spring how much N should be applied to a corn field, the report card gives farmers feedback on their nitrogen application rates. To get an “A”, the soil should contain no more than 90kg/ha (80lb/ac) of nitrate-N in the top 60cm (2ft) in the autumn. Levels above 90kg/ha indicate that excessive nitrogen was applied. Excess soil nitrate represents an economic loss to the farmer, as the nitrate will leach away during the winter months. At Agassiz in 2001, 7 out of 11 fields had over 90kg/ha of nitrate-N.

How does the fall soil nitrate test work? Corn can take up a limited amount of nitrogen so if nitrogen is over-applied, the surplus stays in the soil. Corn grows and consumes most of its nutrients in June and July. During August and September, soils are warm so the organic matter actively mineralizes, releasing nitrates into the soil at a time when corn no longer takes up the nitrates. More nitrate is released when soils are wet. In 2001, high rainfall in August (124mm or 5.5in compared to 54mm or 2.1in average) combined with warm temperatures could explain the higher fall nitrate. Probably because of the August rainfall, more than half the nitrate in 2001 was found at the 30-60cm (12-24in) soil depth. The year-to-year variation in fall soil nitrate from the Corn King competition is related to different weather, soil and management practices.

O. Schmidt, BCMAFF, Abbotsford.

Previous Page: « Reduced Tillage in the Fraser Valley »

Next Page: « Year in Review - South Coast »

Phosphorus on Dairy Farms (2009)

Return to Environment

Forage, Phosphorus and Soil on Dairy Farms

Dr. Shabtai Bittman
Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Agassiz, BC

Take Home Message:

  • Phosphorus (P) is an important nutrient and an important contaminant of fresh water
  • P fertilizer is a diminishing resource and improved practices are needed, especially on livestock farms, to conserve P and minimize pollution.
  • Manure application can contribute to P loading of soils and it is suggested that solid-liquid separation produces two products that can be managed more effectively than whole manure (solid-liquid combined).
  • The liquid fraction can be used as a primary N source with relatively little P loading.
  • The solid fraction can be used to replace fertilizer P.


While the importance of nitrogen (N) to food supplies and its multifaceted role in environmental contamination is receiving a lot of international attention, the role of phosphorus (P) is no less important. There can be no life without P as it is involved in fundamental energy processes, in DNA and in animal bone formation. For crop farming, the challenge is usually to manage P inputs effectively, because P is reactive in many soils and P is less mobile than the other major nutrients. But on livestock operations, the emphasis has recently been on the problem of surplus P inputs and excess P in farm soils.

Unlike N, P does not cause global warming or air pollution, but loss of P from farms is a major threat to fresh water bodies causing algal accumulation, oxygen depletion and fish death, a process referred to as eutrophication. The problem of P contamination is of greatest concern wherever there is a concentration of animal production or where there is a lot of runoff and soil erosion.

While P is being lost from farms to the environment, the global reserves of fertilizer are dwindling. About 75% of all mined P resources are concentrated in just a dozen countries and the vast majority located in just two countries, China and Morocco. The most reasonable predictions suggest that half of all existing reserves will have been consumed in about 50 years and large increases in biofuel production would hasten depletion.

The goal of our research work is to investigate ways to improve the utilization of P on dairy farms and to reduce losses to the environment.

A Phosphorus Primer

Plants require P for all energy processes and P is a component of DNA. Animals need P for the same reasons but also for bone formation so P is commonly supplemented to livestock.

Uptake of P by crops is hampered by two key factors. First, P tends to be chemically bound up in soils, by aluminum (Al) and Iron (Fe) in very acid soils and by Calcium (Ca) and Magnesium (Mg) in basic soils, so P is most available around pH 6-7. The second factor is the low solubility and slow movement of P in soils. This means that P uptake is a function of root length and uptake may be difficult for juvenile plants with small root systems. As plant uptake is a diffusion process which is strongly temperature and moisture dependent, P uptake is slowest in cold and in dry soils. The result is that the P level in crops is often deficient in early season when roots are small and soils cold, and P must be supplied to address this deficiency. Indeed, plants are most likely to appear P deficient in the juvenile stage after seed P supplies are exhausted; in corn this is at the 3-6 leaf stage.

... page is under construction ...

Return to Environment

That's Not Dirt - It's Soil (2006)

Return to Environment

  • Soil is made from the weathering of rocks. It can take 100 to 1,000 years to form one centimeter of soil.
  • Many soil properties are determined by the original type of rock or parent material.
  • A single gram of coarse sand has approximately 1,000 particles. A gram of clay has approximately 90 billion particle.
  • Soil provides all but three of the 16 nutrients essential for plant growth: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, copper, manganese, boron, chlorine, zinc, and molybdenum. The other three are provided by air and water.
  • A single spade full of rich garden soil contains more species of organisms than can be found above ground in the entire Amazon rain forest.
  • A teaspoonful of soil contains more than two billion microorganisms, more than the number of people on earth.
  • A healthy soil supports plant growth, protects air and water quality and ensures human and animal health.
  • Soil erosion causes redistribution of soil in the landscape due to the action of wind, water and tillage.
  • The loss of one inch of topsoil due to erosion is equivalent to 150 tonnes of soil per acre. Approximately 7 tonnes of organic matter, 400 kilograms of nitrogen, 300 kilograms of phosphorus and 3 tonnes of potassium would also be lost.
  • Management practices to reduce carbon loss include reduced tillage systems, reduced summerfallow, and marginal land conversion to permanent land cover.
  • Plants protect soil from erosion. They form a blanket of vegetation on the surface that shelters soil from wind, rain, running water and the direct rays of the sun.
  • Organic matter consists of decomposed plant and animal parts as well as millions of microscopic soil organisms.
  • Soil organic matter holds individual soil particles together in soil aggregates, thereby reducing the risk of erosion.
  • Soil organic matter improves soil structure, workability, aeration, water penetration and water holding capacity.
  • Soil organic matter reduces the risk of crusting on the soil surface, which can reduce or prevent seedling emergence.
  • Soil organic matter is important to store and supply nutrients essential to plants and soil microorganisms. Crop rotations with more forages and legumes result in higher organic matter levels because these crops leave more residues than other crops.
  • Soil organic matter can be increased through continuous cropping, planting forage crops, eliminating summerfallow, reducing soil disturbance and leaving crop residue.
  • Soil compaction can develop in any type of soil and result in poor soil structure and unstable aggregates. Medium and fine textured soils are most susceptible to compaction and water erosion.
  • Grassed waterways slow water flow, decreasing erosion and trapping sediment and other contaminants from runoff water.
  • Soil quality is important to support and sustain crop, rangeland and woodlot production. It is also important to maintain other resources such as water, air and wildlife habitat.
  • Addition of organic matter can improve virtually all soil properties: it results in more porous soil, lower bulk density, higher water-holding capacity, greater aggregation, increased aggregate stability, lower erosion problems, greater soil fertility, increased CEC.
  • Almost all of the antibiotics we take to help us fight infections were obtained from soil microorganisms. Approximately one acre of land is used to supply the food for each person in the world.
  • Erosion of one inch (2.5 cm) of topsoil per acre removes as much total nitrogen and phosphorus as 485 bushels of wheat.
  • If you can see any soil blowing, you are losing at least five tons of topsoil per acre. Soil losses of 50 tons per acre or more can occur in more severe storms.
  • Wind erosion carries off the most nutrient-rich fraction of the soil.

Source: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/newslett.nsf/all/agnw9056

Return to Environment

Tips to Minimize Soil Nitrate Levels in Fall

  • Match nitrogen applications (whether from manure or fertilizer) to expected crop nitrogen uptake. This requires an understanding of your soils, a manure nutrient analysis and calibration of your manure spreading equipment.
  • Use most manure on grass, not corn land.
  • Use the Pre-Sidedress Nitrate Test (PSNT) to see if your soil needs a nitrogen boost at sidedress time. A reading of over 25ppm nitrate means you don’t need to add nitrogen.
  • Plant a relay-crop of Italian ryegrass between the corn rows when the corn is at the 5-6 leaf stage. A well-established relay crop can take up 60 kg/ha (53lb/ac) of residual soil nitrates after the corn is off.
  • If a relay crop has not been planted, seed fall rye to capture up to 30 kg/ha (27lb/ac) of soil nitrate.

Soil Testing

Soil Sampling and Soil Testing

By Ross McKenzie
Columnist, Grain News
Click here for link to article.

In the last issue of Grainews Les Henry wrote a great article on soil testing. I couldn’t agree more that soil sampling and testing is a great tool to assess the soil nutrient levels in your fields so you can wisely plan your fertilizer program for next spring. Here are some of my thoughts on soil sampling and testing.

When to soil sample?

Soil sampling annually-cropped fields just before spring seeding gives the most accurate measurement of soil nutrient status. But realistically, spring is often too short and rushed to allow soil sampling, analysis and developing your fertilizer plans. So, sampling in late fall after soil temperature has dropped to 5 to 7 C is often the most practical time.

But, it is important to remember that plant available soil nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur will fluctuate from fall to spring, particularly if soils are moist with warmer-than-normal conditions. Variation from fall to spring is greatest in the Chinook regions of the southern Prairies. There are years when we have to compensate for over-winter changes of soil nutrients. Also, I am not a fan of sampling frozen soils simply because of the difficulty in obtaining representative sampling depths.

Sampling options

Many fields across the Prairies have moderately rolling topography resulting in considerable soil variability. This is a major challenge when deciding how to take representative soil samples. Samples must be representative of the field or each management zone of a field. Work with your fertilizer dealer or agronomist to decide how to sample each field. I strongly suggest you go out with the person doing the soil sampling on your farm to ensure sampling is done in appropriate areas in your fields and to make sure enough sites are sampled in each field. When you are with the sampler you know where and how the samples were taken.

There are a number of ways field soil sampling can be done. The three more common sampling methods are:

  1. Random sampling of a whole field works best in fields with relatively uniform soil and topography. It involves taking representative samples throughout the entire field, but making sure to avoid unusual areas.
  2. Sampling soil/crop management zones works best in fields with variable soil and topography. Uniquely different zones are mapped based on soil characteristics, topography, and/or crop yield potential. Representative soil samples are taken within each zone. This works well in fields with variable soil. Each management zone can be randomly sampled or benchmark sampled. Consider working with an agronomist to prepare zone maps for each field.
  3. Benchmark soil sampling involves sampling a one to two acre area representative of the majority of the field or zone. Sample the same area each year. When a field is variable in soil or topography, three or more benchmark locations may be needed to represent the different field areas. When selecting soil/crop management zones make use of crop yield maps, aerial photos, topographic maps, soil salinity maps and satellite imagery information. Also, use your personal field knowledge and observations of crop growth differences (crop establishment, vigor, colour and growth) and topography of each field to identify where different soil types occur.

How many sampling sites?

I suggest taking a minimum of 20 soil sampling sites for each field, zone or benchmark area. Les Henry suggests 30! The more sampling sites, the more representative your samples will be of the field. A common mistake is only taking six or seven soil cores from a field or management zone, which is not enough and can result in unreliable information and inaccurate fertilizer recommendations.Why do we need so many samples? Typically, each soil sample sent to a soil testing lab weighs about two pounds. One acre of land, six inches deep, weighs about 2,000,000 lbs. If a 160 acre field is soil sampled to six inches, a two pound soil sample must be representative of 320 million pounds of soil. The soil sample would represent about 0.0000006 per cent of the field. This is an extremely small representation of the total field. Therefore, it is very important that an adequate number of soil cores be taken!

What depth 
increments to sample

Various sampling depths are suggested but my preference is to separate each soil core into depth intervals of zero to six, six to 12 and 12 to 24 inches. Place the three sampling depths into three clean plastic pails. Do this at each site sampled.

Most soil test correlation research with annual crops in Western Canada with nitrate-nitrogen and sulphate-sulphur has been with sampling to 24 inches. But, it is also important to know the distribution of N and S in the soil profile. Sampling three depths will give a good picture of the amounts of each nutrient and where the nutrients are located in the soil profile. For P and K, most soil test correlation research has been with the surface zero to six inch depth, as these nutrients are less mobile in soil than N and S. Some agronomists and dealers prefer to only sample one or two depths making the sampling process simple and faster. If only the zero to six and six to12 inch depths are sampled, you have no idea of the amount of N or S that may be present in the subsoil — this information is important to develop accurate N and S fertilizer recommendations. If the zero to six and six to 24 inch depths are sampled, the results of an extended sampling depth of 18 inches (six to 24 inch depth) can be more difficult to interpret and sometimes misleading.

After taking the 20+ soil cores, thoroughly mix each composite sample and lay out the soil samples to completely air dry to stop nutrient changes. If moist soil samples are sent to the lab in sealed bags, soil microbes can alter the levels of plant available nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur causing incorrect estimates of soil nutrient levels. To air dry, spread the soil sample in a thin layer onto clean paper, plastic sheets or place into clean, shallow plastic or aluminum trays. Dry the samples at room temperature in a clean room (no cats or other animals, to prevent contamination). Do not use artificial heat to dry samples. If moist samples are sent directly to the lab, they must be shipped in coolers, kept below 5 C and arrive at the lab the next day for drying

What analysis is required?

The important plant-available macronutrients to test for are: nitrate-nitrogen (NO3N), phosphate-phosphorus (PO4-P), potassium (K+), and sulphate-sulphur (SO4-2-S). Determine plant available N, P, K and S in the zero to six and six to 12 inch depths and test for N and S in the 12 to 24 inch depth. Normally, there is no need to test for plant available calcium (Ca+2) or magnesium (Mg+2) as these nutrients are very rarely deficient in Western Canada. It is a good idea to occasionally check the soil micronutrients copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), boron (B) and chloride (Cl). Testing for micronutrients every year is only necessary if one or more micronutrients are in the marginal or low range; otherwise testing every four years is fine. It is important to realize the tests for B and Cl are not very reliable. Often soil analysis levels are interpreted as low for B or Cl, but crops do not respond to added fertilizer. The problem is with the soil test methodology and critical levels used, resulting in unnecessary fertilizer recommendations.

Determining soil organic matter, pH (a measure of soil acidity/alkalinity) and electrical conductivity (E.C. — a measure of salinity) are useful to monitor soil chemical properties of your fields. Some agronomists may recommend determining Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) and determining base cation saturation ratios. Research has shown this is not a useful determination for making fertilizer recommendations for most soils or crops in Western Canada.

Finally, make sure the soil testing lab uses the correct soil test methods. For Alberta farmers, all soil test P calibration has been with the Modified Kelowna method since 1990, Alberta samples should be sent to a lab that uses this method. For Manitoba farmers, all soil test P calibration has been with the Olsen method (also referred to as the Bicarb method). For Manitoba farmers, use a lab the uses the Olsen method. For Saskatchewan farmers, either method can be used to determine soil P. Other soil test P methods, such as the Bray method, have never been calibrated to Western Canada soils. It is my opinion that other methods that have not been calibrated for western Canadian soils should not be used. Most labs report N, P, K and S levels in pounds per acre (lb./ac.) and the micronutrient levels are reported in parts per million (ppm). The process of soil test interpretation is the next step in the process. Make sure you seek the advice of several agronomists when developing your fertilizer plans for next spring.

Solar Radiation

Solar Eclipse August 21, 2017

You were sure to notice the drop in heat during Monday's eclipse.  A new solar radiation sensor installed by Environment and Climate Change Canada at the AAFC Agassiz Research and Development Centre picks up the drop in heat.  The graph below shows the solar radiation by the minute for August 21, 2017 in Agassiz, B.C.

 solar radiation

The eclipse shows up nicely and the minimum solar radiation during the eclipse was 66.4 w/m2 which occurred at the eclipse maximum at 10:22 which was a 0.89 magnitude eclipse.

If you eyeball the graph and figure the solar radiation should have been about 550 w/m2 but it was 66.4 instead because of the eclipse that is about an 88% drop in solar radiation; close enough to the 0.89 magnitude of the eclipse.

We had some smoke move by between 1:00 and 1:30


Agriculture Inspections To Help Protect Drinking Water (2001)

Return to Environment

As part of a provincial strategy to protect drinking water, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks staff will inspect farms throughout the Fraser Valley to ensure industry compliance with regulations around waste management.

Inspections will begin in October to determine compliance with requirements for covering manure piles and manure application. Under the Agricultural Waste Control Regulation and the Code of Agricultural Practice for Waste Management, producers must note the following:

  • Manure piles must be covered from Oct. 1 to April 1 inclusive to prevent the escape of agricultural waste. Manure piles where tarps have blown off will be considered uncovered manure piles.
  • Spreading manure on bare land during the fall and winter is not acceptable. Bare land includes harvested crops such as corn and vegetables, poorly established cover crops, etc.
  • Spreading manure on grassland during the months of November, December and January is not recommended. The risk of contaminated runoff or leaching of nutrients to surface or groundwater is greatest during this period.

The pollution regulations are designed to ensure that agricultural producers protect surface water and groundwater quality, especially in areas vulnerable to contamination such as the Abbotsford?Sumas aquifer. Protecting B.C.'s fresh water resource is vital to human health, community sustainability and the environment.

Non-compliance with provincial agricultural waste regulations may result in a request for a best agricultural waste management plan for the operation, an order, ticket or other legal action under the Waste Management Act.

Producers looking for help developing strategies to deal with manure can contact the regional office of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries or the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks.

For more information on B.C.'s freshwater strategy visit the environment ministry Web site at www.elp.gov.bc.ca/wat/wrs/freshwater/FSforBC.htm on the Internet.

Editors Note: Copies of the Agricultural Waste Control Regulation and the Code of Agricultural Practice for Waste Management are available on request or visit the Web at http://www.qp.gov.bc.ca/stat_reg/regs/elp


Bev Anderson, (604) 582-5340
Agricultural Impact Officer
Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks

Betsy Terpsma, (604) 582-5306
Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks

Rick Van Kleeck, (604) 556-3100
Resource Management
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries

For more information on the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks. visit our Web site at http://www.gov.bc.ca/elp on the Internet.

Return to Environment

Drones Help Island Winery Slash Water Use (2016)

It’s not very often that I come across a new technology that is literally the best solution I have seen to many current agricultural issues. Green Tourism member 40 Knots Vineyard and Estate Winery, located on Vancouver Island in the Comox Valley, has just proven how invaluable this new technology is by saving $11,000 over the past four months.

This groundbreaking technology recently developed by ASAP Geomatix, was installed on a drone to take super-high definition images of the 20-acre vineyard. Based in Campbell River, ASAP Geomatix is the four-year-old sister company to the well established ASAP Avionics Services. Many of ASAP’s current clients request wildlife and ecosystem information for remote regions, where HD imagery is captured by helicopter. But in the rural residential area in the Comox Valley, a drone makes much more sense. Drones are more cost effective, make no noise, are environmentally friendly (electric) and stay lower to the ground, avoiding air traffic airspace.

Layne Craig, owner of 40 Knots Vineyard and Estate Winery saw the bigger picture. He calls himself a semi-automatic farmer, using field studies and handwriting to track what works best for his vineyard. But the data he received from ASAP Geomatix complimented his own methods, giving him measurable statistics for:

How healthy and vigorous the vines are (measuring chlorophyll in an ENDIV chart)

  • Plant height comparisons
  • Soil moisture content
  • Land slope and elevation
  • High definition images of their property

The maps are so high def, you can zoom in to each individual plant. This spring Craig agreed to a pilot project to test this new technology on a drone (rather than helicopter), and gain insight into how a vineyard would use the data. The value and savings Craig realized from these results blew the team at ASAP Geomatix away. Owner Mark Sylvester, Technical Development Manager, John Carley and Business Development Manager Alex Sylvester have opened up a new market to help agricultural businesses better manage their resources with accurate and relevant data.

Sylvester realized not everyone is like Craig, who took this data and ran with it, drastically reducing his water consumption, fertilizer and chemical use and saving thousands of dollars. But there are probably more farmers, viticulturists and orchardists across the country that can benefit from this technology.

Here’s what 40 Knots saved in the past 4 months:

Water use slashed by 7/8’s compared to 2015

By looking at the moisture content map, Craig could see specific areas with less moisture retention than others in the vineyard. Once he studied this chart with plant health and plant growth, he realized that areas with high growth needed their watering cut completely, while other drier areas needed additional moisture. In other words, using drip irrigation, he only watered exactly where he needed to, cutting his consumption from 9000 m3 in 2015 to 800 m3 in 2016.

Fertilizers reduced by 30-35%

Craig works closely with Biofert Manufacturing Inc. to source only non-synthetic fertilizer applications for his vineyard. He adjusted his program to use the data provided by ASAP Geomatix, which allowed him to hone in on dry and less productive areas to apply compost and an organic granular fertilizer just to the areas that needed it. This “spot treatment” rather than blanket application cut his fertilizer use by nearly 35%. Next year, Craig is moving to a liquid fish/kelp fertigation application, hoping to further reduce fertilizer use by an additional 40%.

60% savings in pesticides and fungicides

40 Knots has converted all fungicides and pesticides to 100% organic, using only micronized sulphur, calcium, potassium bicarbonate and dish soap. Craig has radically reduced his costs by ordering these in a raw form directly from Biofert, and by growing well balanced and healthy plants, he is able to stay on top of any issues as they arise, reducing consumption. All these measures have resulted in a cost savings of 60% this year compared to 2015.

Crop increase of 41%

Making these changes has boosted crop production by over 40%. Even with the spring storms that reduced flowering in the white varieties and even with the sheep getting loose and deciding to munch on grapes (I could see the effects of this in the plant growth chart), crop production nearly doubled. Craig has used the ASAP Geomatix data to grow a crop balanced in nutrients and water, producing more grapes with less foliage. Some crops, like Gamay, increased from 2.3 tonnes per acre to 6.3 tonnes per acre.

The HUGE Okanagan potential

The Okanagan Valley and Comox Valley get a similar amount of sunshine each year (just under 2000 hours), but the high temperatures in the Okanagan increase evapotranspiration of irrigated water. There is a HUGE potential to reduce water consumption in Okanagan vineyards (not to mention chemical and fertilizer use) using this type of data. This study at 40 Knots has shown how improving the sustainability performance of an operating vineyard can save a lot of money and a lot of resources.

ASAP Geomatix will take images of 40 Knots Vineyard again next spring (by drone) to compare baselines and continue to reduce inputs while boosting outputs.

Geomatix won the 2015 Innovation and Technology Award Campbell River for the Community Economic Development Commission. To find out more about them, visit their website.

Lindsay Eason is the cofounder of GreenStep Solutions and manager of Green Tourism Canada. She writes blogs and articles about sustainable tourism and green business. Lindsay lives on Vancouver Island where she enjoys exploring nature, tasting local food and wine and living an active lifestyle.

Source: Orchard and Vine Magazine, Fall 2016 www.orchardandvine.net/columns/environment/drones-help-island-winery-sla...

Scheduling Irrigation with Farmwest.com

Farmwest.com can now help farmers decide when to irrigate and how much water to give their crops. How does this work?

The water requirement of any crop is directly related to 'evapo-transpiration'. Evapotranspiration or 'ET' is the total amount of water that evaporates from the soil plus the water released through the plant - called transpiration. ET can be calculated from air temperatures (and other measurements) obtained from weather stations.

Farmwest.com obtains daily weather data and 5-day weather forecasts for 42 weather stations in BC. Farmwest has a calculator that converts temperature data from the weather stations to ET values. Unfortunately, calculations that neglect wind and sunshine may over- or under- estimate ET. However, over a period of a week or more, our ET calculations are very close to the actual values. ET values are updated daily on farmwest.com. Farmwest also calculates a value for water deficit by deducting rainfall from ET.

Although ET tells you how much water can be lost, how much water is lost depends on the type and size of crop. When a crop is small, most of the ET occurs as evaporation from the soil surface. As the foliage develops, transpiration from the plant increases while evaporation from the soil surface decreases. The difference between how much water is lost from a crop compared to how much can be lost (ET) is given by a number called 'crop coefficient'. These values and other information on irrigation can be found on farmwest.com.

T. J. Nyvall, BCMAFF, Abbotsford

Top corn growers in Agassiz manage nitrogen effectively (2000)

Return to Environment

S. Bittman, C.G. Kowalenko,
Agriculture Canada, Agassiz BC

and D.L.Bates
BCMAFF, Abbotsford, BC

Can farmers grow top-notch corn crops without contaminating their groundwater with nitrates? Results from samples taken during the recent Corn King Competition for the Agassiz Fall Fair show that several farmers know how.

Nitrate left in the soil in the fall is subject to leaching due to our rainy weather in autumn and winter. Most of the nitrate leaching actually takes place soon after the heavy rains begin in November. The lost nitrate is a financial loss to the producer and a threat to groundwater quality. Water containing more than 10 parts per million of nitrogen in the nitrate form is considered unhealthy to drink, particularly for babies.

The three top corn fields for the Agassiz Corn Competition (based mainly on visual assessment of yield and maturity) had relatively low residual soil nitrate levels (see Table). The corn in the two fields with highest levels of soil nitrate did not rate as high. This shows that applying excess nitrogen as fertilizer or in manure is not necessary for top corn production.

Corn Rating

Nitrogen as nitrate in kg/ha*
(cm) 0-15 15-30 30-60 0-30 0-60
(inch) 0-6" 6-12" 12-24" 0-12" 0-24"
Farm 1 84 22 15 34 37 71
Farm 2 83 37 16 29 54 82
Farm 3 82 21 10 8 31 39
Farm 4 81 78 35 117 113 230
Farm 5 80 5 5 6 10 16
Farm 6 80 97 27 30 124 154
Farm 7 80 32 16 26 48 74
Farm 8 79 5 5 4 10 14
Farm 9 79 5 5 4 10 14
Farm 10 78 23 18 30 41 81

A few notes to help you interpret the results in the table: A corn crop needs about 175-225 kg/ha (160-200 lb/acre) of nitrogen. Two fields have enough nitrogen left in the soil to grow another entire corn crop (but of course the nitrogen will be long gone from the soil before next spring).

A fall-seeded cover crop will take up no more than about 20-30 kg/ha (18-25 lb/acre) of nitrate-nitrogen, most of it from the upper 15 cm (6 inches) of soil. Eight of 10 fields had plenty of nitrate in the top layer to support a cover crop so no additional nitrogen as manure or fertilizer was required for this purpose. The nitrate below 15 cm (6 inches) will be lost regardless of the cover crop.

A relay crop (Italian ryegrass) seeded between the corn rows takes up 40-70 kg/ha (35-55 lb/acre) of nitrogen from the upper 30 cm (12 inches) of soil. Such a crop would have cleaned up the nitrate from the top 30 cm (12 inches) of soil in all but two of the fields in the competition. Nitrate left in the 30-60 cm (12-24 inches) layer would be lost even with a relay crop.

How much nitrate is a threat for contamination of groundwater? When a soil with no cover crop contains less than 100 kg/ha (90 lb/acre) of nitrogen in the nitrate form, water percolating through that soil is unlikely to contain more than the critical 10 parts per million of nitrate-nitrogen. As a rule of thumb, Washington State University suggests that fields have recieved too much nitorgen if they contain more than 90 kg/ha (80 lb/acre) of nitrate-nitrogen in the fall. Eight of the 10 corn fields in the Agassiz Corn Competition this year were well within these standards. Note that relatively more nitrogen can be applied to a field that will have a well-established cover crop or better still, a relay crop, that will be harvested the next spring than to a field that will be left bare over the winter.

Return to Environment



Bats are Worth 1 Billion to Agriculture (2015)

Corn farmers, look to the sky at dusk and mutter thanks to the bats swooping over your moth-ridden fields: Those winged mammals put more than $1 billion back into your collective pockets, a new study suggests. The first-of-its-kind research used nets to fully enclose 20-by-20-meter fragments of large corn fields at night, thereby excluding foraging bats, throughout the growing seasons in southern Illinois in 2013 and 2014. The team’s analysis focused on damage caused by corn earworms, the crop-damaging larvae of a species of moth (Helicoverpa zea) that lives worldwide and is often preyed upon by bats such as North America’s eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis). (The variety of corn the researchers grew wasn’t genetically modified to produce its own insecticide and thus resist those larvae. Although 84% of the corn grown in the United States does produce such insecticide, 68% of that grown worldwide does not.) Ears grown where bats couldn’t feed on moths had 56% more larvae-damaged kernels, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. On the whole, bats increased crop yield by 1.4%—a benefit that, on average and at current corn prices, adds up to a difference of about $7.88 per hectare ($3.18 per acre) and more than $1 billion worldwide. The drop in damage could be attributed to bats, the researchers say, because the crop-enclosing nets were rolled up during daylight hours to provide access for farmers and pest-eating birds. The team’s analyses didn’t estimate the value that bats provide for other crops afflicted with the same pest, including cotton and soybeans. But the findings do suggest a previously unsuspected benefit: Bat-protected ears of corn had fewer fungal infections and lower concentrations of fumonisin, a fungi-produced toxin that’s a big health hazard to livestock and greatly decreases a crop’s value.

Source: http://news.sciencemag.org/environment/2015/09/bats-are-worth-1-billion-...

Got Bats? (2014)

Citizen scientists throughout British Columbia are being asked to help increase our knowledge of bats.

“Got Bats?” community projects support conservation of bats by providing educational programs, conducting inventories of bats in buildings, working with landowners who have bats in buildings and establishing annual counts, where volunteers count bats leaving a roost site on their property for four nights over the spring and summer in order to monitor populations.

“There is surprisingly little known about local bat species and their numbers,” said Environment Minister Mary Polak. “I encourage anyone with an interest in bats to contact their local project and to get involved, especially by volunteering for this year’s bat count. Your efforts will help us better understand and protect them in B.C.”

B.C. has the highest bat diversity in Canada with 16 of the 19 species found here. Half the bat species in B.C. are listed to be of conservation concern either provincially or federally.

More recently, the emergence of White Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that kills bats during their winter hibernation period, has resulted in the death of more than six million bats across 25 states and five Canadian provinces. The disease is predicted to arrive in B.C. within the next decade, and monitoring bat populations is essential for detecting sudden declines associated with White Nose Syndrome caused deaths.

The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation is providing program funding, and regional partners have secured additional funding and in-kind contributions from a number of sources. The community projects are being modelled after the successful Kootenay Community Bat Project and South Coast Bat Action Team.

To learn more about local “Got Bats?” projects, register for the bat count or get assistance to deal with bat issues, call 1 855 9BC-BATS or visit www.bcbats.ca


Comox Valley Farmers Out-Foxing Fowl (2007)

Return to Environment

The Comox Valley is the winter host to more than 10% of the world's Trumpeter Swan population, tripling from 1,000 birds in the valley in 1990 to 3,000 today. Local farmers welcome the increased numbers, though the return of larger and larger flocks is having an economic and emotional impact.

Damage caused by these fowl could include loss of forage for livestock, reduced drainage in fields, removal of newly-seeded forages, craters the size of bathtubs in vegetable fields and weed growth in bare areas.

"Often up to 700 acres of cover crops are planted each year and each year there is very little left in the spring for the farmer to garner the benefits of planting these crops" says Graeme Fowler, program coordinator and with Ducks Unlimited Canada. "Waterfowl consume these lure crops and then move on to the more abundant perennial forage fields."

To address this problem, the Comox Valley Farmers' Institute is implementing a multi-stepped strategy to help farmers manage the impact of waterfowl in their fields via their Wildlife Mitigation and Compensation Program. With funding support from the Agriculture Environment Partnership Initiative, the program utilizes the planting of cover or lure crops on otherwise fallow fields to keep waterfowl from perennial forage fields between January and March. Other potential mitigation techniques could include improving field drainage to deter swans - which prefer saturated field conditions - or planting forage species that are less palatable to the waterfowl. In addition, "hazing" techniques are utilized when possible and could include: dogs, electronic avian deterrents, noise devices, flags, barrels and decoys to keep swans away from sensitive fields. The success of these techniques varies by field size, location, drainage and surrounding tree cover.

Partial reimbursement is available to farmers who plant these lure crops prior to a fall cut-off date. Farmers can recoup approximately half of their planting costs. This project, which works cooperatively with Ducks Unlimited Canada's Comox Valley Waterfowl Management Program, has just completed its first year and represents the first time Comox Valley farmers have initiated a major project with funding assistance to help address forage losses due to waterfowl.

"Farmers in the valley have been frustrated every fall and winter watching ever increasing numbers of waterfowl devouring their perennial forages and nobody had a solution," says Jill Hatfield, regional agrologist with the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. "This program puts the control in the farmer's hands through their farm organization and, maybe more importantly, acknowledges the financial losses farmers have sustained year after year."

This project - an undertaking of the Comox Valley Farmers' Institute and funding partners including Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Agriculture Environment Partnership Initiative (AEPI) - is an example of how working together can bring awareness, understanding and improvement of issues to both farmers and their communities.

The AEPI provides funding assistance for farmers in B.C. to address environmental issues, enhance environmental sustainability and reduce the impacts of wildlife on agriculture. Funding for the AEPI is provided through the Agri-Food Futures Fund, a joint program of the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. AEPI funds are held in trust with the Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C., an industry-led, non-profit organization established in 1996 whose mandate is to support innovative projects that place the BC agri-food industry at the leading edge, enabling it to seize new opportunities and deal with emerging issues. The B.C. Agriculture Council (BCAC), who represent the majority of agricultural commodities in BC, seeks to foster cooperation and a collective response to matters affecting the future of agriculture in the province and facilitates programs and service delivery for a number of programs that benefit the industry. BCAC manages this program.

Graeme Fowler
Program Coordinator

Return to Environment

Comox Valley Waterfowl Mitigation Project (CVWMP) (2007)

Return to Environment


The Comox Valley consists of over 20,000 hectares of farmland on Vancouver Islands' eastern coastal plain. This farmland is adjacent to nearly 1,000 hectares of estuary habitat. The combination of natural estuaries and assessable farmland has made this area prime waterfowl habitat.

Trumpeter Swans and other waterfowl species find suitable winter habitat in many of the estuaries along the coast of British Columbia. However, the Courtenay River estuary over the years has lost the abundance of aquatic vegetation which supported these birds throughout the winter. The agricultural lands adjacent to the estuary have become critical to the survival of the swans and other waterfowl species. The waterfowl primarily use the estuary for roosting purposes and as a minor source of food when the agricultural fields are covered with snow.

Trumpeter swans, once on the brink of extinction, were scarce in the Comox Valley. Prior to 1963 no Trumpeter swans had been recorded. Since then however, over wintering swan populations have doubled from 1991 until 2002. The Comox Valley is now home to 13% of the Pacific Coast swan population and 30% of the wintering Swans along the BC Coast. [1]

In the initial stages of the CVWMP swan feeding behavior was observed. It was noted that in October to December the Swans feed predominantly on the fallow vegetable fields. In December - January as the crop residues decrease the swans move on to perennial forages and winter cereal crops

Populations of Canada Geese and widgeons are also increasing in the Comox Valley. Feeding habits of these species give cause for concern. Canada geese that reside in the area marshes and wetlands feed on agricultural crops later in the spring and can have significant impact on the spring corn plantings. Flocks of widgeon that can number as high as 500 concentrate their grazing in wet areas of the fields and can cause significant concentrated damage.

Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service have been carrying out mitigation work for the past 15 years. Mitigation, although very important, does not reduce the damage to crops to an acceptable level from the farmers' perspective - hence the need for a compensation program.

The Mitigation program includes reimbursement to farmers' carrying out mitigative techniques to 50% where the compensation is at 80% of calculated loss. Ducks Unlimited's contribution for reimbursement to farmers for mitigation is $15,000. AEI has increased their contribution in this category to $12,500 in 2006 from the $10,000 in 2005

1 Comox Valley Waterfowl Management Project 1991-2002 Evaluation prepared by Dan Buffett, Ducks Unlimited Canada

Return to Environment

The Importance of Farmland to Shore Birds (2000)

Return to Environment

What are shorebirds?

"Shorebirds" is a term used to describe the long, slender-billed sandpipers and plovers that are seen in large flocks during the winter, feeding on the extensive mudflats of the Fraser River.

The two predominant species during the winter are Dunlin (Calidris alpina) and Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola). Up to 30,000 Dunlin and 5,000 Black bellied Plover winter in the Fraser Delta, which represents the northernmost part of their winter range.

Background and study objectives

While it has been known for some time by farmers and local biologists that shorebirds make use of farm fields during the winter, particularly at high tide and at night, many questions remained unanswered, such as:

  • How much of their diet comes from fields?
  • What types of fields do they prefer?
  • How does the management of fields influence their choice of habitat?

My study aims to answer the above questions by surveying fields over the winter to determine which fields are preferred and why. In addition, by capturing birds, measuring them and taking a small blood sample, a technique called stable isotope analysis can be performed to determine how much of their winter diet comes from fields versus the mudflats.

What has been discovered so far?

Factors that have been identified as being important to choice of fields are their distance from shore (with fields close to the shore preferred over those more distant), and the height of vegetation (bare fields and those with shorter vegetation are preferred). Stable isotope analysis on Dunlin captured during the winters of 1998, 1999 and 2000, has determined that fields represent a very important source of winter diet.

These results have shown that on average, about 50% of a Dunlin's diet comes from farm fields, where they prey on earthworms, beetle larvae, and other soil invertebrates. There is therefore clear evidence that fields are important to the entire wintering population of Dunlin in the Fraser River Delta.

Further analysis

Now that the final season of field work is completed, I will be analysing my results to determine which main factors influence shorebird choice of habitat within farmland. This past field season (1999-2000) I was also fortunate to have the cooperation of several farmers in setting up experimental fields in which different treatments (such as application of manure, and plowing versus not plowing) were applied in different strips. Observations of when and where shorebirds were located in these fields will be analysed to determine whether shorebirds are sensitive to fine scale changes in their habitat.

Co-operators and Future Directions

I am most grateful to all of the Delta farmers who have granted me permission to conduct research on their property, and who have volunteered information on the history of their fields. Research on ducks and geese has led to programs like Greenfields that can provide incentives to farmers in recognition of the valuable winter habitat they provide for these species.

Shorebird habitat requirements are different from those of ducks and geese, and these species do not have the same detrimental impact on crops. In fact, shorebirds may contribute to pest control by eating agricultural pest species. Killdeer, for instance, are known to eat wireworm larvae in certain areas. Work is in progress to determine what invertebrates Dunlin and Black bellied Plover are eating in fields by analyzing their feces.

Shorebirds appear to like bare muddy fields, pasture fields, and short grass fields. These are fields that are not currently subsidized as providing wildlife habitat, but nevertheless do provide important habitat for shorebirds.

It is my hope that this research will identify what constitutes good farmland habitat for shorebirds, so that farmland stewardship programs (like Greenfields) could potentially be augmented to include incentives for farmers for providing high quality winter shorebird habitat.

Project supporters and partners

Many thanks to the farmers, field volunteers, field assistants, and supporters who have made this project possible. This project is funded by:

Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust
Simon Fraser University
Dr. Keith Hobson, CWS Saskatchewan
Pacific Field Corn Association
Pacific Coast Joint Venture
Boundary Bay Conservation Society
American Museum of Natural History
American Ornithologists' Union
Cooper Ornithologists' Union
John K. Cooper Society
Government of BC Information, Science and Technology Agency

A report on research by Lesley Evans Ogden, PH.D. candidate, in collaboration with Dr. Shabtai Bittman, Dr. David Lank, Dr. Fred Cooke, and Dr. Bob Elner.

Return to Environment

Waterfowl Damage to Forage Crops (2003)

Return to Environment

What is the Delta Forage Compensation Project?

Following many years of complaints by forage producers in the Delta area regarding waterfowl damage to local crops resulting in major losses, a project was initiated through the Delta Farmers' Institute (DFI) with assistance from BCMAFF staff in Abbotsford.

A 'Pilot Project' was approved in 2001, and is generally known as the Delta Forage Compensation Project. However, the full mandate of the project is to look at mitigation, monitoring and compensation. The project is run by a local steering committee consisting of BCMAFF, Crop Insurance, WLAP, Delta Farmers Institute, Canadian Wildlife Service(CWS), Ducks Unlimited (Canada), Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust, and the Corporation of Delta.

What is the main concern with waterfowl damage in the Delta area? What species are involved?

The main concern is the problem of migratory waterfowl damage to forage crops. Ducks, geese and lately, swans, are voracious eaters of young forage plants, and target newly established forage grasses, as well as new season grasses each year, starting in the fall, and continuing through early to mid spring before they continue their migration.

While all ducks may cause some degree of damage, the American Widgeon is the species that has a voracious appetite for young forage grasses. Other species, such as Mallards, because of size, can cause soil compaction on damp fields. Geese and swans, also forage eaters, also cause compaction concerns, and all species tend to stay in fields where there has been water pooling as a result of uneven ground, thus foraging for grasses in and around those water pools.

The issue has always been a concern within Delta, but as wetland habitat diminishes within the lower mainland (for example the Vancouver Airport expansion on Sea Island displacing habitat areas), it would appear Delta and parts of Surrey around Mud Bay, have experienced increasing numbers of waterfowl over several years. Certainly if you were to ask forage producers, they would say the problem has always existed, but it would appear to be an increasing problem of late.

How does the waterfowl damage affect agriculture producers in the area?

The effect of uncontrolled grazing of forage results in a direct loss of bio-mass to those involved in the production of forage, and a direct cost to those producers. If the producer is involved in dairy as well, as most are, there are additional costs in supplementing the loss of forage grasses - having to buy product elsewhere.

The 'pilot' project is designed to study these losses within Delta and the Mud Bay area of Surrey, and to ascertain, what, if any, type of mitigation may be available, and to determine the extent of damage to fields from waterfowl.

Is this a seasonal problem? What factors are involved?

Migratory waterfowl are generally a seasonal problem for this area. However some waterfowl may become permanent once man provides sustainable food sources in areas such as protected wildlife or wetland refuges. Generally, the most severe problems occur from October/November (with the arrival of the Snow Geese and American Widgeon) and last through the winter until spring - usually March/April. Specific times will vary depending on many factors, but mostly weather. Harsh winters may find the birds overwintering further south as they seek out climates that will allow feeding. Milder winters tend to allow them to overwinter longer in one area or another. Generally, we do see significant forage crop damage annually - the extent of that damage may vary slightly from year to year, depending on harshness of winter, and of course, the size of the flocks which also may vary from year to year for a host of reasons.

How do you conduct your research? Are you experimenting on working farms?

Each fall, producers 'sign-up' for the project. They must agree to field inspections. They must agree to allow 'exclosures' or other devices to monitor the growth and damage to their forage crops. They must agree to not disturb their fields during the period of monitoring. All areas studied are on working farms - some are purely forage production and some are forage and dairy. Other farms are very diverse and can be involved in many types of farming - forage, dairy, blueberries, potatoes, etc. The only criteria is they must be full-time farming.

Use of 'exclosures' involves placing a small netted device (of variable sizes) on the grass in the fall, thus preventing the waterfowl from grazing within that area. This allows our monitoring team to determine and measure the growth rate within the exclosure versus the growth rate outside the exclosure. From this, biomass loss can be established. It should be noted that not every field will have exclosures. Some fields, due to factors such as location, type of crop, type of soil condition (laser levelled, drained, etc) will be more susceptible to damage than others, although research to date has not been concluded at this point.

What solutions are being researched?

Solutions to the problem are not easy to come by. Obviously, eliminating either the waterfowl, or the growing of forage crops, would provide relief to the problem, but neither of those are going to happen. Our committee is charged with looking at mitigation opportunities, and we have investigated lure crops (planting palatable grasses away from the forage fields), laser levelling, relay cropping (part of the lure crop opportunity).

Relay cropping uses a corn field and allows a secondary crop of Rye grass. Corn is first planted, and after the corn is about six inches tall, forage grass seed is planted between the rows of corn. The corn continues growth, while the grass seed roots and remains dormant. Once the corn is harvested in the fall, the grass seed shoots up, and provides a lure crop for waterfowl.

Laser levelling assists in removing low spots thus reducing the pooling of water. This works well in years where rainfall is not excessive, but may not work as well in very wet years. Reducing the pooling assist in stopping the waterfowl from staying in the field for a longer period of time, thus reducing the damage to the crop.

The committee will also research laser beams as a means to distract the American Widgeon from landing in the field during the night time hours - their preferred eating period. Work on this has just begun, and we do not have sufficient research as of this time, although the American Wildlife Service has done some work in this area with geese in Colorado, and has enjoyed some degree of success.

When do you expect to have this project completed and the results published?

The 'Pilot' project is for a three-year term. The project started in the fall of 2001, and was to finalize this spring, but we have been given a two-year extension. We will still file a final three-year report to wrap up the initial three-year period. However, with the extension being announced, we will also continue research and monitoring over the next two years. The two-year extension allows us to expand further into Surrey (along the Serpentine) to assess damage in that area. To achieve this we have met with the Surrey Farmers' Institute, who are receptive to the proposal to be included. While our initial report will generate some recommendations and some opportunities to explore, we will continue our research over the next two years, with a final report now due in the summer/fall of 2006.

How is your organization funded?

Funding is provided by the two senior levels of government (provincial & federal), through BCAC's AEPI (Agriculture Environmental Partnership Initiative). Claims for damage are paid directly thru crop insurance, while administration is paid from AEPI directly. The Corporation of Delta contributes some funding for the monitoring portion within Delta only. The Canadian Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited provide additional funding for the monitoring of this project as well. BCMAFF has given us tremendous support over the period, and we are indebted to them for their efforts.

Is there concerns over waterfowl destruction in other areas of the province? What advice can you offer other areas of the province who may be experiencing similar concerns?

We have heard there are other areas of the Province that experience waterfowl damage, for example Courtney, Creston, Maple Ridge and Richmond. By far though, the most damage occurs in the area around Mud Bay, Boundary Bay and the mouth of the Fraser River. We believe the work on our Pilot Project will provide an opportunity for mitigation to those other areas, and the possible extension to those areas should the program become permanent in the future. Certainly, if there are other areas that believe the problem is just as serious, or more so, than Delta, they can approach BCAC AEPI as well. And, once our report is final, I am positive the recommendations will be available to anyone in the Province that may be experiencing similar problems.

Robert Butler

DFI Administration

Phone/Fax: 604-940-2024

The Delta Farmers' Institute (DFI) is very active in promoting agriculture within Delta. Robert Butler has worked for the DFI, doing their administrative work, since 1997.

Return to Environment


Agriculture, Environment & Wildlife Fund Announced (2009)

Return to Environment

Enhanced environmental stewardship on B.C. farms will be the result of a new fund announced today by the B.C. Agriculture Council (BCAC) and the Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C. (IAF).

Over $800,000 has been committed to the establishment of the Agriculture, Environment and Wildlife Fund (AEWF). Funded by the IAF with the support of industry groups, the AEWF will continue to strengthen the successful partnerships between industry, government and funding partners that have evolved through recent joint agri-environmental initiatives.

The goal of the AEWF is to reduce agricultural impacts on the environment through improved on-farm management practices, while simultaneously mitigating the impact of wildlife on the economic viability of agricultural operations. The new fund will support a broad range of projects including environmental stewardship, wildlife impact mitigation, agricultural by-product management, invasive species management, area planning, education and awareness, technology transfer, and research related to its objectives. Eligible applicants include producer, agricultural, environmental and related organizations, as well as regional and local governments.

In announcing the AEWF, BCAC Chair Garnet Etsell comments, "The continuing support by the IAF for environmental initiatives sends a very positive signal to the public about the commitment of the agriculture industry to address environmental issues."

"The approval of this fund will allow the Agricultural Environment Initiatives Management Committee, which is responsible for the delivery of the program, the opportunity to be responsive to the high priority issues and be more proactive in building the partnerships needed to respond effectively to industry concerns," states Committee Chair George Hamilton.

Funding for the AEWF is provided by the Investment Agriculture Foundation through the Agri-Food Futures Fund, a trust jointly funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.

"This funding will allow the agriculture industry and its many partner groups to continue their collaborative efforts to address immediate concerns while providing long term benefits to both the environment and agriculture in B.C." said B.C. Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Ron Cantelon.

Producer groups are encouraged to apply for funding for projects that increase producer and public knowledge and understanding of issues related to agricultural and environmental stewardship. For AEWF funding guidelines and application forms, please visit the BCAC website at www.bcac.bc.ca.

The AEWF is managed by the B.C. Agricultural Research and Development Corporation (ARDCORP), a subsidiary of the B.C. Agriculture Council.

For further information, media may contact:
Brian Baehr, Coordinator
Agriculture Environment Initiatives,
BC Agriculture Council- ARDCORP


Bohdan Zajcew
Public Affairs
Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C.

Return to Environment

Wildlife Damage Compensation

2008 Interim Wildlife Damage Compensation Program (2008)

Return to Environment

The 2008 Interim Wildlife Damage Compensation Program (IWDCP) will compensate qualifying cattle and forage producers whose unharvested forage crop intended for livestock feed has been damaged by wildlife.

The 2008 IWDCP augments the "pilot" programs currently operating in specific areas around the province by filling in the regions the pilots are not covering. The pilot programs are continuing to operate for 2008.

The 2008 IWDCP will include wildlife damage caused by deer, elk, moose and bear.

The IWDCP covers both perennial forage crops and annual forage crops used for livestock feed that is in standing crop.

Producers are required to report wildlife damage as soon as identified and a minimum of 7 days prior to harvest.

Crops must not be harvested before adjustment.

Contact your nearest Ministry of Agriculture & Lands office for more information on the 2008 IWDCP. Read the entire brochure (information subject to change). 2008 IWDCP Brochure

The losses in forage production fields due to wildlife depredation can be difficult to calculate without a comparison to an undamaged portion of the field. Forage enclosures are a way for the producer to help the adjusters get the most accurate calculation of their field losses. Without grazing enclosures, the adjuster is forced to estimate loss based on comparisons with other portions of the field which may have also been impacted by wildlife depredation. The 2008 IWDCP Grazing Enclosures Brochure provides details on the considerations when building enclosures, the number of cages needed, location, possible building materials and placement.

Contact your nearest Ministry of Agriculture & Lands office for more information on the 2008 IWDCP.

Return to Environment


Reaching for the Wind: Capturing the wind to create targeted climate change in the Okanagan (2007)

Return to Environment

Harness the Power of the Wind
By Deborah Greaves

Orchard & Vine Magazine, Summer 2007

Climate change isn’t always a negative. When induced on an acre-by-acre basis by determined human beings, climate change on a micro level can save entire crops from damage, even complete destruction. One of the effective ways to achieve targeted, localized “climate change” is to use a wind machine.

One of the fastest ways capricious Mother Nature can take a bite out of a season’s fruit crop and its profits is with an unexpected freeze-drying session. Cherries, a petite, rotund and soft-skinned fruit, are particularly susceptible. Grapes too are affected. Though grapes can often withstand a frost, the long-term health of the vines – as well as the flavour and quality of the fruit – can be compromised when the temperature drops at the wrong time.

The Okanagan Valley and other regions are known for late spring frosts so, to protect their crops, growers plan and work constantly to keep one jump ahead. When installed in the correct location, wind machines can make a crucial difference.

“If the temperature suddenly drops to 17 degrees Fahrenheit just after the first swelling of fruit,” says wind machine retailer Don Cachola, “it can mean a 10 per cent kill of that crop. If the temperature drops to 5 degrees F, up to 90 per cent of the crop can be killed.”

Cachola speaks in degrees of Fahrenheit rather than Celsius because most of the wind machines he sells and services through Okanagan Wind Machines are built in the U.S., where tens of thousands of the wind units are in regular use, particularly in California.

Some growers say climate has always been unpredictable, while others maintain the weather is becoming more erratic. Despite the current over-all warming trend, temperature drops such as the minus 20’s of November 2006 are expected to make the growing of tree fruits and grapes a delicate gamble for years to come.

“Grapes are a little more resistant to spring frost,” Cachola says, “but in fall, grape vine leaves should be retained for as long as possible. This helps sugar levels in the grapes and changes the flavour, which makes them more valuable.”

A freeze can cause grape vines to loose leaves too early, agrees grower Rod King of King Family Farms. “If you lose leaves, you lose photosynthesis and all ripening of the grapes stops,” says King. “When you keep the leaves, the ripening of the fruit is assisted and so is the storage of carbohydrates in the canes to nourish the plant through the winter. Carbohydrates act as a sort of antifreeze.”

In spring, when fruit is at a crucial stage, just a few degrees can have a drastic effect on profits. Cachola says cherry crops at the first white stage suffer a four per cent loss at a temperature of 27 degrees F, but a drastic loss of 90 per cent at a temperature of 24 F.

“cold air is heavier, and sinks to the lowest levels of an orchard, where it can cause the most damage to fruit when there’s a frost,” says Glen Luca of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association. “If the fruit has been pollinated when the frost hits, the fruit will be marked and unmarketable.”

This challenge, says Lucas, is the reason most orchards and vineyards are situated on hillsides. The slope helps to encourage cold air to flow down and away from the fruit.

What worries growers are those times that natural flow isn’t enough and the cold air settles in. “On a clear night with no cloud cover and no wind,” Don Cachola says, “the cold air lied close to the land and keeps the crop chilled. A standard wind machine can move warm air over 10 acres of land.”

For some Okanagan growers, that pulled-down, naturally-warmed air can provide a layer of insulation over their profits, as well as their fields.

It Can Pay to Intervene with Nature

Though the number of wind machine in use in the Okanagan Valley is currently small, grower Rod King of King Family Farms knows from experience that it can pay to intervene in Mother Nature’s frost plan.

King Family Farms just installed its third wind machine. At $25,000 retail for a new machine and at least $16,000 for a used one, it’s a hefty investment.

“Before installing wind machines,” says King, “we used water to reduce temperatures in our vineyard, because water releases heat as it freezes. However, you’re restricted on water use, so you can’t protect an entire vineyard. Also, the fruit absorbs some of the water, which dilutes the acids and flavour.”

Water, King says, can cause other problems. In Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes, with their small, tight clusters of fruit, moisture in the cluster can create a climate for disease.

King says this has been a good year, but recalls just four or five years ago a frost on May 23.

"Last spring and fall in particular,” says King, “we had very warm days, as high as 20 degrees Celsius, with cold nights as low as minus five degrees Celsius. The wind machines were useful.”

What does a wind machine do to assist growers? Perhaps not what you imagine.

Wind machines move wind, but not often by blowing it. “The gear box of the wind machine is set at a six-degree angle,” supplier Don Cachola says, “so it isn’t blowing the wind, it’s actually sucking warm air down, from as high as 75 feet in the air above the crop.” The warm air then bathes the fruit and plants, protecting them from the frost effects.

There are other uses for wind machines when danger of frost has passed: The tall, imposing-looking units can aid in drying cherries and other fruit after rain or irrigation, cooling off cattle, and even controlling fumes from landfills.

Return to Environment