Fraser Valley Soil Nutrient Study Update (2005)

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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

30

20

12

17

5

Corn

12

12

-

-

-

Potatoes

-

5

-

-

8

Raspberries

-

-

12

-

-

Blueberries

-

-

5

6

5

Vegetables

-

8

-

-

5

Nursery

5

-

-

5

-

Total = 172

47

45

29

28

23

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.

Acknowledgements

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

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