Alfalfa - New Alfalfa Can Tolerate Diverse Environments Across Canada (2016)

New alfalfa has 'tremendous potential' in the Maritimes, says scientist

'It can tolerate our diverse environments across Canada,' says Yousef Papadopoulos

A new, high-yield alfalfa variety developed in the Maritimes will go to market in February when Agriculture Agri-Food Canada puts the results of 28 years of research to tender.

Seed companies will get a chance to bid for the right to produce it.

"I think it has tremendous potential," said Yousef Papadopoulos, the federal research scientist who began this search for better alfalfa in 1988.

Better forage crop

The clover-like legume is a key forage food in the cattle industry, prized by farmers for its high levels of protein.

Papadopoulos — a geneticist trained in Guelph, Ont. — started with 2,000 plants, selected the best 50 and then whittled those down to a single variety. That variety, he said, is drought and flood resistant, high yield and even tolerant of hooves. Yousef Papadopolous, a federal research scientist, was trained in Guelph, Ont., as a geneticist. (CBC)

"I know it can tolerate our diverse environments across Canada," he said in an interview at Agriculture Agri-Food Canada's Kentville research centre. "It's got an advantage. It will have a market here and it will have a market elsewhere."

Why it's an improvement

The variety, known as CRS 1001, features creeping root stocks known as rhizomes. Those produce the shoot and root systems of a new plant. The rhizomes improve survivability in watery conditions and when the plant is punctured by hooves.

CRS 1001 maintains alfalfa's traditional deep tap root system, which enables it to withstand dry weather.

It was developed to address challenging conditions in the Maritimes — primarily, high water tables in spring and fall, and compacted poor quality soil. The alfalfa, known as CRS 1001, maintains alfalfa's traditional deep tap root system which enables it to withstand dry weather.

Access for local farmers

It has also been a pan-Canadian project. The seed has been produced in Saskatchewan and grown at farms in Ontario and Quebec. There have been field tests at five Nova Scotia farms and three more on Prince Edward Island.

The key to commercializing the variety will be its ability to grow across Canada, Papadopoulos said.

Still, the tender will require a guarantee that the seed will always be available in the Maritimes.

"We want to make sure the farmers who have been supporting us have access," he said. "Those farmers have been helping us in the real world."

Used by beef, dairy cattle

Alfalfa is the "jet fuel" in forage fed to beef and dairy cattle, Papadopoulos said. Together the industries are worth $130 million a year in Nova Scotia.

Jon Bekkers, a dairy farmer in Grand Pré, feeds 400 tonnes of alfalfa every year to his herd of cows. A milking cow can eat 50 kilograms a day of forage — most of that is alfalfa. The rest of the forage is made up of corn and grass.

Dairy farmer Jon Bekkers feeds 400 tonnes of alfalfa every year to his herd of dairy cows. (CBC) "The modern dairy cow is a high producing animal that needs a lot of energy from its feed sources," Bekkers said at Kipawo Holsteins, which overlooks Blomidon. "The more production we can get out of that animal, the fewer animals we have to milk to get our quota."

More profitable, says farmer

Feed is the single biggest cost on his farm, he said. Bekkers said he is very interested in any improvement in alfalfa, especially a variety resistant to wet weather. "At the end of the day it would make us more profitable if we don't have to bring in more inputs to make up for the energy of poorer alfalfa," he said.



Alfalfa/Grass Research at Ag Canada, Agassiz, BC

This grass/alfalfa trial is ...... SHABTAI

alfalfa 2015

Grass/Alfalfa Trial August 2015

 alfalfa 2015

 Grass/Alfalfa Trial August 2015

alfalfa 2015

 Grass/Alfalfa Trial August 2015

 alfalfa 2015

 Grass/Alfalfa Trial August 2015

alfalfa 2015

alfalfa 2015

  Grass/Alfalfa Trial August 2015

alfalfa trial

July 11, 2016


Ammonia Tunnels at AAFC Agassiz - (2015 update)

ammonia tunnels

(L-R) Derek Hunt, Allen Dobb, Dr. Shabtai Bittman. 

ammonia tunnels

ammonia tunnels 


BCFC "A Guide to On-Farm Demonstration Research ~ How to Plan, Prepare and Conduct Your Own On-Farm Trials" (2017)

A Guide to On-Farm Demonstration Research (full pdf version)

1.1 What Is Demonstration Research?

Before we can discuss ‘demonstration research’ we must first outline the difference between traditional agricultural demonstration studies and research studies. Typically, demonstration studies are used by Agriculture businesses to demonstrate the benefits of using a new practice or product. The research behind the new practice or product has already been conducted and demonstration studies are installed to show the local producers what could be expected by adopting the new practice or product. Research studies are hypothesis driven experiments that follow somewhat standardized protocols that include replication and randomization.

What is demonstration research (DR)? Within this document, DR refers to using a combination of demonstration styled studies with research elements to answer a simple question with some confidence. The benefit of DR is that it is farmer directed, it can be carried out independently, and it uses the resources a typical farmer would have on-hand. Demonstration research allows a farmer to use a small portion of their land to test and identify ways to better manage their resources in order to increase productivity, or to achieve any farming goal they may have.

While the results of DR are not intended to be published or to undergo rigorous statistical review, it is important for those wishing to try DR to understand the foundations of research and how variability influences results. An understanding of the foundations of research will enable you to achieve the best results with your demonstration research.

1.2 Principles Of Research

Research is about predicting future responses. For example, rather than observing that Variety A outperformed Variety B last year; research allows a farmer to state with confidence that it is highly likely that Variety A will outperform Variety B every time they are planted under the same conditions.

One of the challenges of demonstration research is to sort out the true effects caused directly by the research treatments versus the effects caused by “background noise”.

Within a field, or barn, or soil profile there exists a population, or an entire group of similar individuals. The population can be alfalfa plants in a field, cows in a barn, or microbes in the soil. Usually the population is so large that it is not possible to examine every individual; therefore, researchers randomly select a sample of the population and that subset is used to represent the entire population.

How well a population can be represented by a sample depends on the sample size. The larger the sample size, the better it will represent the population.

If you are researching a population of 1,000 individuals, would you trust one person, chosen at random, to provide an accurate, representative measurement of the entire population?

Chances are a single individual would not accurately represent the population. What if your sample contained ten people randomly chosen from the population? That would be better than the one, but not as good as a sample of 100. As the sample size approaches the size of the population, the sample will more closely represent the population. The only way to get completely accurate results is to measure every individual in a population; however this would be time consuming and expensive. Instead, we sample populations and make the assumption that if we sample enough, we will have a fair representation of the whole population.

The second challenge for researchers is related to naturally occurring variability.

In order to reduce the effects of variability, each treatment you compare in an experiment should be done more than once, or repeated (statistically known as ‘replication’). There are different ways to replicate an experiment. One way would be to replicate the exact same experiment on many farms at the same time. Or, you could replicate across time, performing the experiment on the same farm year after year.

FOR EXAMPLE, if you conducted an experiment just once, you might wonder "did I get those results because it was a wet/dry/hot/cold year?", or "were those results specific to this field? What would happen if I conduced this research at different locations?".

Replication across the landscape, or over time, helps you to determine if results are due to your research treatments or due to naturally occurring variation. If one practice is superior to another, it will become evident if you make enough repeated comparisons. In fact, the benefit of one practice compared to another has to be significant enough to overcome the effects of natural variability in order to be worth considering. Figure 1 demonstrates one example of natural variability. Within a uniform field, under identical management, there was up to 9 bu/acre difference between strips adjacent to one another, and more than 15 bu/acre across the whole field. In this example, the variability may be due to differences in soil nutrients, soil moisture, or some other factor.

As Figure 1 demonstrates, there can be a lot of variability within your field due to factors such as differences in soils, topography, or historical management. It is not practical to try to avoid this variability because some level of variability will always be present; instead you can incorporate natural variability into your DR.

The most effective and practical way to reduce the impact of natural variability is to have a long strip for each treatment area. Generally, the larger, in particular longer, the treatment area is, the better the results are likely to be.  IF possible, 500 ft or longer is recommended for each treatment area.

Within this document, we will outline simple research designs intended to test one treatment against another, or A versus B. Farmers wanting to design complex demonstration research or incorporate replication within their field are advised to consult a government agent, university researcher, or a consulting scientist for guidance with experimental design and statistical analysis of data collected.


To read the full 68 page document, please click on the link at the top of this page.

BCFC "A Guide to On-Farm Demonstration Research" - Climate Data Report: "Climate Change - The Need for Adaptation"

Full pdf version of report Click Here.

Table of Contents

Climate Change - The need for adaptation
Water - Critically Scarce
Introduction to the  Weather Stations
Prince George Climate
Results from Weather Stations
Results by Station

  • Carmen Hill
  • Braeside
  • Fraser Lake
  • Southbend

Recommendations for Producers

Although 1 year of data is not enough to develop concrete recommendations for producers in the Vanderhoof area, if the climate patterns recored in 2016 continue there will need to be changes to cropping systms in order to remain competitive.  Some operational options and future research considerations for producer are listed below:

  • To preserve protein values and avoid hay spoilage during July rain events, producers may need to invest in silage equipment. 

  • In general winter injury and summer drought are factors that may be a ecting alfalfa growth. Producers could try alfalfa varieties that are frost and drought hardy; as well, they should also be looking towards other forage species that may be better suited to the new weather conditions, or have wider climatic tolerances. 

  •  Producers could consider planting a mix of alfalfa varieties to ensure a more diverse plant community. In general diverse communities are more resilient than simplified communities. 

  • Producers with irrigation capacity could use soil moisture monitoring equipment to target irrigation with plant demands. 

  • Producers could experiment with management techniques that increase soil organic matter, which in turn benefits soil moisture availability. 

  • Producers could experiment with modifying the critical harvest period in the fall. In order to ensure adequate carbohydrate accumulation the final harvest date is typically 4-6 weeks before the first killing frost. Producers may need to expand the critical harvest period in order 
to reduce winter injury and promote vigorous spring regrowth. 

  • If reduced snow is the new climatic norm, producers could experiment with leaving more than the recommended 15 cm fall stubble. Higher stubble 
heights might translate into better snow catchment for soil insulation. 
Implementation of more climate change adaptation research is desperately needed, not just in Vanderhoof, but Nationally and Internationally. The effects of climate change are unlikely be mitigated; therefore, producers need to research alternative practices in order to succeed under changing climatic conditions. 


BCFC "A Guide to On-Farm Demonstration Research" ~ Case Studies (2017)

Case Study 1 - Testing an Idea Before Betting the Farm on It - Vanderhoof, BC cattle producer Butch Ruiter has always had a short-term goal to grow his feedlot operations but knew that he’d need to increase days on pasture in the fall. Keeping his cattle on pasture later would allow him to have more empty pens in his feedlot that could be filled. In order to increase pasture days, Butch first needed to research alternative, high quality, feed options. 

Case Study 2 - Using Science to Guide Decision Making - There are dozens of forage varieties available on the market today, each advertised as better than the next. How does one decide what to seed? Longtime Vanderhoof, BC hay producer, Traugott Klein, decided to use science instead of guesswork or popularity to guide his variety decisions. 

Case Study 3 - Detailed Measurements Show What Your Eyes Can't See - For farmer Wayne Ray, on-farm variety and seeding rate research proves well worth the effort. In spring and summer, it's no longer raining at the same time of year or in the same gentle, frequent way it used to.  In 2015, Ray decided to test whether a mixed (five-way) alfalfa blend might fare better than a single variety in these challenging conditions.  And, since he'd heard countless different opinions on optimal seeding rate, he also decied to test wheter a heavier seeding rate would prove benefical or a waste of money. 

Case Study 4 - Even Inconclusive Forage Trail Findings Offer Benefits

Because winter feeding is his largest annual cost, Burns Lake, BC rancher Jon Solecki dreams of extending his grazing season. However, in his harsh, northern climate, the feed value of the forages he routinely grows drops to near zero by mid-fall. In 2015, he decided to test the establishment and productivity of five new-to-him perennial grasses in hopes of finding at least one that would remain nutritious into fall in his growing conditions. Further, he decide to study whether the acres he uses annually to overwinter his cattle, which thereby receive many months’ worth of passively spread manure, might enhance his trial forages’ success.

Solecki conducted his on-farm study in a single field, half of which he’d used annually as an overwintering area for his cattle herd. On each half, he seeded five 60 by 700 foot strips at 20 lbs/ac to one of creeping red fescue, crested wheatgrass, Russian wildrye, western wheatgrass, and meadow brome. He then hoped to analyze forage establishment, quality and yield over two years.


BCFC "A Guide to On-Farm Demonstration Research" ~ Worksheets (2017)

  1. Developing and Prioritizing Goals

  2. Assessing Your Resources

  3. Prioritizing Objectives and Developing Research Questions

  4. Measurements

  5. Sketch Your Field Layout

BCFC Climate Research 2017

Taking charge of climate - Changing weather is hitting these B.C. farmers hard. Now they’re fighting back
By Madeleine Baerg 
Published: July 31, 2017 …

Standing at the window in his kitchen, Fort Fraser, B.C. rancher Wayne Ray watches the heavy grey clouds and he shakes his head. It’s July — haying season — but the rain won’t let him get at it.

Ray is lucky. He hasn’t yet cut his hay yet, so at least it isn’t laying in swaths, rotting with the badly timed precipitation. Yet Ray also knows that every day of waiting means another drop in his forage’s protein and quality, and the long range weather forecast shows the rain is going to continue at least a few days more.

Not so long ago, Ray could expect a fine, dry harvest season with lots of opportunity to bale off a top-quality crop. But there’s a new normal in this part of British Columbia now.

So if you don’t believe in climate change, don’t tell it to this rancher, or to any of his equally frustrated neighbours.

Northern B.C.’s Bulkley-Nechako region is well-known for producing much of Western Canada’s very best quality hay. The roughly 350-square-kilometre region, from Vanderhoof in the southeast to Germansen Landing in the north to Smithers in the west, boasts summertime daylight that stretches 17 hours. The area surrounding Vanderhoof offers the very best arable agricultural land: an ancient glacial lake-bed with rock free, silty clay loam up to 600 feet deep.

Historically, the region has also provided ideal growing conditions for high-protein, high-sugar forages: heavy snowfall in winter provides great spring moisture, and the reliably warm, sunny summer days were always perfect for both growing and harvesting hay.

In the last 15 years, however, the weather has changed drastically. In the eastern part of the Nechako Valley, it’s now significantly wetter than ever before while in Ray’s southwestern part of the valley, it’s now incredibly dry. There have been more than a few years recently as well when the ground freezes long before the snow flies. Without an insulating layer of snow, the barren ground freezes deep and hard, so that when spring finally comes, melting snow runs off the deep frozen ground rather than percolating in. Streams are often full to bursting, while forage fields go into the growing season dry as dust. And it gets worse. Both spring and summer tend to be cooler now than historical norms, and precipitation seems to wait to fall until the worst possible time; right in the middle of haying season.

“Climate experts predicted we’d get warmer and wetter. That hasn’t happened,” says Ray. “In recent years, our summers have been probably five degrees cooler than they were in the previous 30 years. Our winters have been less severe than they used to be but that’s actually harder on the plants because we have more fall rain and less snow in winter. Our springs have been cool, dry and windy. And instead of getting rain in April or May when we need it, now we get it in July and August, October and November, even January and February in the form of freezing rain. It’s harder to establish crops and it’s harder to get good production now.”

Rain that falls at haying time, as it does on this grey day, is both an inconvenience and a challenge. Rain that doesn’t fall when it is desperately needed is an even bigger problem. Since about 2002, Ray says, his farm has received just 20 to 50 per cent of the total annual rainfall that fell on average each of the previous 30 years. The deep drought of 2010 was so severe that it caused the ground to form a hydrophobic layer, he adds, which compounds the moisture problem. 

“Water can lay six inches deep on top of the ground, but if you dig down into the soil four inches, you hit dust. We used to have excessive moisture in the spring but that really made forages grow,” he says.

All told, the changes are wreaking havoc on forage production.

“We used to cut alfalfa between the 10th and the 20th of June and we’d get a second cut in August. Now, we’re not cutting until the second week of July or later and it’s often too late to get a second cut,” he says 

Agricultural researcher and consultant Dr. Catherine Tarasoff agrees, saying weather in the Bulkley-Nechako has changed dramatically.

In Vanderhoof, farmers observed that precipitation patterns became very different than what those farmers were used to. So weather stations were installed in 2014 that appear to validate the farmers’ observations: on average, parts of the region are now seeing about half the winter snowpack and twice the rain in summer compared to what they used to. It’s a big deal.

“Climate change might not be the focus of every conversation but it’s the reason farmers are having discussions about adapting and changing,” Tarasoff says. “Farmers know they can’t just keep doing what they’ve always done because it just won’t work anymore.”

Since there’s no way of changing the weather back to the more farmer-friendly patterns of the past, it’s farmers who will have to change. Unfortunately, declining government and academic research dollars mean there’s little help these days from scientists. Few if any formal research trials are taking place in northern B.C.’s unique growing conditions, and scientific support isn’t likely to come from government anytime soon.

“The budget cuts have really left producers in the lurch,” says Sheri Schweb, manager of the B.C. Forage Council (BCFC). “Saskatchewan has 14 forage specialists. B.C. has none. There used to be one agronomist per community, now there’s one — if that — per regional district. And we’ve lost the federal research farms: the one in Smithers closed in the late ’50s; the one in Prince George closed in the late ’90s. The Range Research Station in Kamloops closed in 2013. The only one that’s left in B.C. is the one in Agassiz, but nothing about the growing conditions in Agassiz is similar to growing conditions in northern B.C.”

A 2013 study commissioned by the B.C. Forage Council reinforces this perspective: it found opportunities to expand B.C.’s forage industry but also identified applied research as a major limitation to growth.

While farmers struggle, producer organizations and academic institutions are looking to stretch available dollars.

Despite modest financial resources, the BCFC is stepping up where it can to fill research gaps. Its solution? On-farm, farmer-led research: small scale, simple, practical, scientifically supported trials that attempt to answer individual farmer’s agronomic questions.

“People think research needs to be complicated,” says Tarasoff, who is working with the BCFC to build farmer-led research capacity. “It doesn’t. The foundation of research is taking something you’ve observed and wrapping a question around it. The more specific and concise the question, the more likely you’ll reach a clear answer. And who better to do the on-farm research than farmers? They’re the experts for their land, they know exactly which questions they’d like answered to improve their farm businesses, and they are the most deeply invested in improvement.”

Yet there’s also a downside to farmer-led trials, admits Schweb.

“Part of me wonders if government will say, ‘Well, if you’re doing the research yourselves, we’ll just stay out of it.’ But, the reality is, the government dollars we used to see aren’t ever coming back.”

Wayne Ray was one of the first producers to jump on board with the BCFC’s push to support on-farm research. Over the past two years, he has compared blended forages in hopes they might better withstand his region’s new, more challenging weather reality. And, since he’s heard countless different opinions on optimal seeding rate, he’s also testing whether heavier seeding rates are beneficial or a waste of hard-earned money 

“This kind of research is useful and it’s doable,” Ray says. “It doesn’t take any complicated tools: I’m using a couple dollar-store hoops, a kitchen scale and some zip-lock bags. It probably takes a couple hours at the front end and maybe four or five hours later in the summer. But down the road, if I can gain another 15, 20 per cent production and I’m going to see that gain over 10 years, that’ll be time very well spent.”

Six and a half hours south of Vanderhoof, a dozen B.C. agricultural producers meet bright and early on a Sunday morning in a basement conference room at Thompson Rivers University’s Student Activity Centre in Kamloops.

The ranchers have travelled to Kamloops — some from close-by, others from the Bulkley-Nechako — for the B.C. Cattlemen Association’s two-day conference and annual general meeting. Now, they’re investing an extra day in an intensive B.C. Forage Council-hosted workshop that will teach them how to conduct their own on-farm research trials.

Though not scientists — few if any of this particular group have university science degrees — there’s no question these producers are experts in their fields (both crop and academic). Their knowledge and experience make them uniquely suited to conduct the on-farm research that they need to make better farming decisions.

Their reasons for being at the workshop vary: Rene, Joyce and Nathan from Telkwa want to extend their grazing season; Greg and Kerry from the mountains above Kamloops are battling wet, alkali soil; John from north of the city wants to improve his forages to allow better rotational grazing. Yet all agree the real reason why they’re here: no one else is going to do the research for them, so they better figure out how to do it themselves.

Two or three to a table and shoulder to shoulder with the agricultural scientists who have volunteered to help this day, the producers work determinedly through the B.C. Forage Council’s newly published on-farm research guide.

Tarasoff, the workshop’s facilitator, repeats one over-arching theme throughout the day: “You can do this. You CAN do this. An on-farm research trial doesn’t have to be onerous; the very best questions are small and precise. But the results? The results will be powerful and informative.”

Several hours in, Tarasoff calls lunch break. Not a single person heads towards the buffet line. For 10 minutes, 20 minutes, almost half an hour more, the teams of producers and scientists talk intently as lunch waits ignored in the lobby. The producers are serious about this workshop and intent on gleaning every bit of knowledge they can; the scientists recognize the workshop as an opportunity to get farm-applicable science right into farmers’ hands.

The B.C. Forage Council is not alone in helping farmers help themselves. The University of Northern B.C. recently began a two-year pilot project to support on-farm, farmer-led forage research.

“We need to not just make farming sustainable but to expand it,” says Serena Black, a new masters in ag science graduate who is working with UNBC on their pilot. “All of the towns up around UNBC identify that logging is going down. All of a sudden, they’re recognizing that agriculture needs to be supported, but there are no government dollars to work with.”

A big part of building this form of research capacity includes figuring out ways to share the learning says Black. “Farmers are masters of land. Forage days, field days and other opportunities for farmers to actually see trials in action; that has to be a huge priority.”

As the BCFC workshop draws to a close, the farmers fold up their farm maps, collect their notes, and ask final advice from the research scientists. As they head up the stairs and out into the bright sunlight, ready for the drive back to their ranches, you can see resolve and — yes — enthusiasm about their upcoming forays into research trials.

Interestingly, the one conversation that hasn’t come up all day is frustration towards declining government research dollars, or a feeling of being left high and dry by government. Perhaps this isn’t surprising. After all, farmers are used to dealing with lumps and bumps, what “is” rather than what could be. And at least one rancher wonders if farmer-led research isn’t the more financially appropriate method of research anyway.

“I’m not opposed to people paying their own way,” says John Greenall, a rancher from north of Kamloops. “As a taxpayer, I’m not so sure farmers should expect the government to carry all the weight for research.”

He’s more than ready to do his part. After the day’s workshop, he’s itching to get home so he can get started on laying out the seven comparison plots he’ll use to determine the best forage varieties for his rotational grazing needs.

“I came here this morning with an idea of what I wanted to find out for my farm. I’m leaving with a plan,” says Greenall, who also happens to be president of the Kamloops Stockmen’s Association. “The workshop really did clear up how I need to go about doing a trial on my farm. I would have made it much more complicated than it needs to be.”

Greenall sees huge value in the day he’s just spent designing his research project.

“These are the kind of discussions that open up your mind,” says Greenall. “It’s like taking a first aid course. Sitting in a room and thinking about first aid for a couple days makes you more aware of safety in every aspect of your work and life, and that’s a good thing. Today’s workshop is going to help me implement the farm research project that I planned out today, but it’s bigger than that.”

“This is important stuff because, at the end of the day, you either evolve so you can stay in the game… or you don’t.”

BCFC Project: Demonstrating Innovative Forage Production Practices to Increase Climate Change Adaptation (2014-2017)

Project Summary:  This project will assist in the development of on-farm adaptations focused on producing high quality forage under a variety of conditions.  Through the development of a weather station network within the production area, the evaluation of production techniques using on-farm trials, and the creation of a manual for conducting on-farm trials, this project seeks to increase the information and management options available to producers as well as provide for the long-term ability to respond to changes in growing conditions.  This project will also result in weather information from currently under-represented geographies being made available to those involved in climate change adaptation. 

Project Cash Funding:  Farm Adaptation Innovator Program, Nechako-Kitamaat Development Fund, Omineca Beetle Action Coalition
Project In-Kind Funding:  BC Ministry of Agriculture; Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada; University of Northern BC; International Plant Nutrition Institute; Glen Dale Agra Services Ltd; Tophay Agri-Industries Inc; Nechako Valley Agri-Enterprises

Project Advisory Committee:  Dave Merz (Producer); Art Wiens (Producer); Dr. Shabtai Bittman (AAFC); Derek Hunt (AAFC); Dr. Bill McGill (UNBC); Brent Barclay (BCMA)


1. Fort Fraser – 75 acre field ~ 10 km south of Fort Fraser

  • Project – compare yield of ‘Top Hand’ alfalfa to a mix of 5 varieties that represent a variety of growth forms (creeping, upright, tap rooted).  One half of the field will be planted with Top Hand while the other half will be planted with a 5-variety mix.  Both will be seeded at a rate of 20 pounds/acre.
  • Goal – To determine if a 5-variety mix provides better establishment rates while meeting or exceeding yield and forage quality as compared to Top Hand.
  • Year 1 Results November 2015
  • Link to project PHOTOS.

 2. Braeside – 299 acre field ~ 5 km north of Nechako River

  • Project  – compare quality and maturity (not yield) of 5 varieties:  Stealth, WL, Top Hand, Leader, Dalton grown under irrigation for 2 years
  • Goal – to determine which variety matures the soonest and which produces the highest forage quality.
  • Year 1 Results November 2015
  • Link to project PHOTOS.

 3. South Bend ~ South of Francois Lake

  • Project – to study late season forage quality of five perennial grasses; creeping red fescue, crested wheatgrass, Russian wildrye, western wheatgrass, and meadow brome; and secondly to determine if establishment, quality, and yield are affected by passive fertilization (cow manure from winter feeding)
  • Goal – to determine if the grazing season can be drawn later into the season through the use of grasses and a legume that maintain forage quality through dormancy.
  • Year 1 Results November 2015
  • Link to project PHOTOS.

 4. Carmen Hill Road – 35 acre field ~ 25 km northwest of Vanderhoof

  • Project – to compare forage quality of Brassica spp. through the growing season and into dormancy, species and varieties to be determined
  • Goal – to determine if the grazing season can be drawn later into the season through the use of Brassica spp. that maintain forage quality through dormancy.
  • Year 1 Results November 2015
  • Link to project PHOTOS.


October 20, 2015

  • Summary
  • Photos


Summer 2016 Update (link to entire document)

Kale as a winter feed source.  Last year, the farmer grew one variety of kale (late maturing).  We found that the kale grew very well and kept its nutritional qualities till late in the season (December 17 – Relative Feed Value of 425).  This year, the farmer is growing both an early and a late maturing variety to see if he can increase utilization by feeding early and late in the season.  He will also measure yields to see if feeding 2 times in the season results in greater forage utilization rather than waiting till the end of the season.

Late season grasses as winter feed as well as the effect of passive fertilization.  Last year, the farmer seeded 5 species of grasses (crested wheatgrass, creeping red fescue, western wheatgrass, meadow brome and Russian wildrye) in an area where he winter fed his cows for the past 10 years (passive fertilization) versus an area where the cows did not feed.  Last year was an establishment year and with most of the grasses the passive fertilization appears to have improved establishment rates.  However, early monitoring this year indicates that western wheatgrass did not survive the winter conditions.  Survival will be measured this summer.  As well, the farmer will measure forage quality into the winter months as well as yields.

Forage quality, yield and maturity rates of 6 varieties of alfalfa.  Last year, the farmer seeded 6 varieties (Stealth, Hybrid 2410, WL 319 HQ, TopHand, Dalton, and Leader) in an irrigated field.  In year 1, WL319 HQ had the best combination of establishment, protein and relative feed value.  Because it was an establishment year, the germination was inconsistent.  However, in Year 2, we have been able to better track maturity rates.  We sampled forage quality of each of the varieties at each stage of maturation and the forage samples have been sent for analysis.  We also have yield measurements taken at first cut.

Determine optimal seeding rate and seed mix of alfalfa.  Last year, the farmer divided his field into half and seeded one half with 12 pds/acre of Vision versus 12 pds/acre of a 5 variety mix.  On the other half of the field he seeded 25 pds/acre Vision versus 25 pds/acre of the 5 variety mix.  The higher seeding rate resulted in twice the germination rates and twice the establishment rates.  As well, at both the low and high seeding rates, the 5 way blend resulted in better germination and establishment.  This year, the farmer will measure yields and final establishment rates.

Fall 2016 Project Summary - Forage Practices Form Foundation of On-farm Research Toolkit

The impacts of climate change will be felt differently in different regions.  In the Central Interior, four producers are running on-farm forage trials that will help to inform a new farm research toolkit intended to assist forage producers across BC to evaluate opportunities for new crops or agronomic practices for climate change adaptation.  The project includes the installation of weather stations, the evaluation of production practices through on-farm trials, and the production of a manual to assist producers with conducting their own on-farm tirals.  Data from the new weather stations is available to producers through .  





PHOTOS - "Forage Quality of Grasses and Legumes for Late Season Grazing"


Overview of Plot Field.  Cow patties in foreground (passive fertilization via cow manure).  February 22, 2015.

creeping red fescue

Creeping Red Fescue.  October 14, 2015

crested wheat grass

Crested Wheat Grass.  October 14, 2015

crested wheat grass

Crested wheat grass up close.  October 14, 2015.

Meadow Brome

Meadow Brome.  October 14, 2015.

Russian Wildrye

Russina Wildrye.  October 14, 2015.

Western Wheatgrass.  October 14, 2015.


Overview of plot area.  Lots of weeds, but grasses are coming.  October 16, 2015.

PHOTOS - "Using brassica species to extend grazing". Plot located at Goldie Road

Field Prep

Field preparation, February 2015.

July growth

July 2015 - Field Growth

July growth

July 2015 - Field Growth

Butch in front of kale

Butch Ruiter in front of kale.

Field Day 2015

Field Day October 20, 2015.  Audience at Butch Ruiter's kale plot.

Field Day

Field Day October 20, 2015.  Butch Ruiter's kale plot.

PHOTOS - Field Day October 20, 2015

photos here

PHOTOS - Fort Fraser

July 28

July 28, 2015 - One of the few places with visible difference between seeding.

July 28

July 28, 2015 - From NW Corner

Aug 19

August 19, 2015 - From NW corner before cutting weeds.

Aug 19

August 19, 2015 - From NW corner after cutting weeds.

Sept 19

September 19, 2015 - Ring in good germination area.

PHOTOS - Quality & Maturity of Alfalfa


August 21, 2015 - Dalton establishment.

Hybrid 2410

August 21, 2015 - Hybrid 2410

edge of plot

date? - Edge of plot and surrounding field.



Southbend Year 1 Report - "Late Season Grazing and Passive Fertilization"

Late season grazing and passive fertilization

The project is two fold: First, to study late season forage quality of five perennial grasses; creeping red fescue, crested wheatgrass, Russian wildrye, western wheatgrass, and meadow brome; and secondly to determine if establishment, quality, and yield are affected by passive fertilization (cow manure from winter feeding)

Year 1 Seeding
The study was a split plot design. The main plot was split into 2 halves – one half was fertilized and the other was not fertilized. Then, the two halves were further divided into 5 strips each (60 ft * 700 ft). Each strip was seeded with one of the grass species. Each of the 10 resulting strips is just under 1 ac in size and all species were seeded at 20 pounds/acre (Figure 1)


Figure 1. Research lay-out to study the effects of fertilized versus unfertilized areas on establishment, forage quality and yields into the winter season of 5 species of grasses.


After germination, the number of plants per area were measured in 8 random places (plots) in each of the 10 strips. The number of established plants per area were statistically compared to see if passive fertilization (manure from feeding cattle) increased establishment success by a statistically significant amount.


There was no significant effect of passive fertilization on seedling establishment; moreover, the effect of passive fertilization on establishment was not consistent across the five grass species tested.

The table below outlines that passive fertilization did improve establishment of crested wheatgrass, creeping red fescue and Russian wildrye, but not to a statistically significant level. Crested wheatgrass and creeping red fescue benefitted equally from passive fertilization, followed by Russian wildrye and then western wheatgrass. Meadow brome did not benefit from passive fertilization.

Species                                   Fertilization                    Plants/acre          
Creeping red fescueYes2,362,250
Creeping red fescueNo1,700,820
Crested wheatgrass Yes 2,078,780
Crested wheatgrass No 1,417,350 
Meadow brome Yes 448,828 
Meadow brome No 585,838 
Russian wildrye Yes 1,275,615 
Russian wildrye No 803,165 
Western wheatgrass Yes 661,430 
Western wheatgrass No 614,185 

Next Stages - Year 2
Year 1 was an establishment year and therefore no yields were collected. In year 2, the fields will be monitored for forage quality and yields into the fall/winter season.

Conduct Your Own On-Farm Research

Farmers and ranchers seeking to cut production costs or improve their stewardship of natural resources often experiment with new methods. Devising and carrying out research tests with an organized design can bring reliable, valuable answers to some of your most pressing production questions. This bulletin describes how to conduct research at the farm level, with practical tips for crop and livestock producers as well as a comprehensive list of more in-depth resources.

pdf format


Enhancing soil infiltration reduces gaseous emissions and improves N uptake from applied dairy slurry (2009)

Rapid infiltration of liquid manure into the soil reduces emissions of ammonia (NH3) into the atmosphere. This study was undertaken to assess the effects of two low-cost methods of assisting infiltration of applied dairy slurry on emissions of NH3, nitrous oxide (N2O), and on crop N uptake. The two methods were removing of solids by settling-decantation to make the manure less viscous and mechanically aerating the soil. Ammonia emissions were measured with wind tunnels as percentage of applied total ammoniacal nitrogen (TAN) while emissions of N2O were measured with vented chambers. Mechanically aerating the soil before manure application significantly reduced emissions of NH3 relative to the non-aerated soil in spring (38.6 to 20.3% of applied TAN), summer (41.1 to 26.4% of applied TAN) and fall (27.7 to 13.6% of applied TAN) trials. Decantation of manure had no effect on NH3 emissions in spring, tended to increase emissions in summer and significantly decreased emissions in fall (30.3 to 11.1% of applied TAN). Combining the two abatement techniques reduced NH3 emission by 82% in fall, under cool weather conditions typical of manure spreading. The two abatement techniques generally did not significantly affect N2O emissions. Uptake of applied N by Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.) was generally significantly greater with decanted than from whole manure but the effect of aeration was generally small and not significant. The study shows that low cost methods that assist manure infiltration into the soil may be used to greatly reduce ammonia loss without increasing N2O emissions, but efficacy of abatement methods is affected by weather conditions.

Bhandral, R., Bittman, S., Kowalenko, C.G., Buckley, K.E., Chantigny, M.H., Hunt, D.E., Bounaix, F., and Friesen, A.J. (2009). "Enhancing soil infiltration reduces gaseous emissions and improves N uptake from applied dairy slurry.", Journal of Environmental Quality, 38(4), pp. 1372-1382. doi : 10.2134/jeq2008.0287 . Click here to access source.

Greenhouse gas emissions from a novel technology for efficient use of manure nutrients (2012)

by Kristina Selvig
Click here to read entire report in pdf format with references.

Purpose: To measure greenhouse gas emissions of nitrous oxide from manure and fertilizer applications that has been applied with a more efficient technology.

Background: The research team in Agassiz at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Station, determined that nutrients applied to a single point or field will affect and become a part of the cycle in that field. Nutrients applied to fields enter the whole system through losses and removals in the air, water, and city consumption, which spiral throughout farm and larger ecosystems. Due to this interaction, the attempt to make meaningful gains in the nutrient budget of a regional nutrient sink cannot be solved by simply looking at the field management. The scales in nutrient cycling studies consist of regional scale (optimizing agricultural and urban zones) > whole farm scale (optimizing feed inputs on dairy farms) > field scale (optimizing dairy waste inputs) > soil scale (optimizing inputs in real time), where regional is the largest and soil is the smallest. At each level, leading edge ideas are explored and the integrated regional optimization is in itself a novel approach to tackling the challenge of regional nutrient loads. The Lower Fraser Valley (LFV) is an excellent case study because of its clear geographic and political delineation and high densities of people (2.5 million) and animals; the results from this case study will be relevant to other agro-urban regions. This report pertains to the field scale where nutrient inputs are optimized in dairy waste.

Field Scale:  To optimize dairy waste inputs, liquid slurry manure from dairy and swine feeding operations is an important nutrient bio-product that can be strategically used to replace chemical fertilizer. Efficacy of slurry manure use for providing crop nutrients has improved but there are still many farms that have excessive amounts of animal manures (Webb et al., 2010; Schröder et al., 2005, Bittman et al.1999a, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011). These excessive amounts of animal manures are increasing the nutrient concentrations in the soils near livestock operations and thus there is an increasing need to transport manure further from the source.

The nutrients in the animal manures which is in excess consists of phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N). The excess amounts of P and N and their ratio in manure when applied to crops, leads to the accumulation of P when it is applied to meet the N needs of crops. There is always more P than N in manure because inevitably, N will be lost in housing, storage and spreading due to NH3 volatilization and denitrification (Sheppard et al. 2010). Due to the increase of P in soils near livestock operations, farmers are paying for their manure to be hauled away (Oseil et al. 2008). Transportation of slurry manure which contains 90-98% water, away from animal housing is very costly, energy intensive and it impacts roadways and traffic which contributes to rural-urban conflict. The best way to reduce transportation costs and pursue sustainability is to find a way to reduce the amount of P in manure so that the manure can be applied without the increase in soil P accumulation. This can be done with solid liquid separation of manure.

The solid fraction of manure consists of faeces, bedding and waste feed whereas the liquid portion is mainly urine and waste water. The nutrient composition of the urine and faeces depends on animal and diet. Inorganic P is particularly prone to leaching but organic forms may also leach if colloidal P sorption sites are saturated by organic matter, while both forms are susceptible to surface runoff (Sharpley and Moyer 2000). Incidentally, manure solids contain the majority of the organic N and both P forms so the liquid fraction often has less nutrients and lower P:N ratio (Vetter et al. 1987). Therefore, removing solids will lower P concentration but it will also remove organic C, altering C:N ratio, but leaving behind soluble carbon, including volatile fatty acids which support denitrification and release of N2O. Removing solids also lowers viscosity, enhancing infiltration and ammonia retention from applied manure, hence reducing the effective P:N ratio for crops (Sommer and Olesen 1991, Stephens and Laughlin 1997, Bittman et al. 2011).

With applying manure, it’s important to look at the environmental impacts of it; for example the greenhouse gases. It’s been determined that efficient uptake and utilization of N is key to minimizing environmental impact of applied nutrients. Practices that reduce NH3 emission without improving crop nutrient uptake can lead to other losses such as nitrate leaching. Efficient utilization of manure N for crop production is particularly challenging due to the chemical form of the N and the proportions of other nutrients because plants need a specific amount of each nutrient. To assess crop response to manure, long-term studies are needed to ensure that the residual effects from previous applications are fully accounted (Schröder 2005). Application of slurry to maximize crop production led to accumulation of both P and organic N in the soil. A 3-year study on broadcasting swine slurry on grass in Quebec showed that removing solids by settling/decanting or filtering reduced ammonia volatilization and improved N uptake on sandy loam but not on loam soils (Chantigny et al., 2007). A recent study by Bittman et al. (2011) showed that removing solids from the liquid fraction by settling/ decanting greatly increased the N uptake by a forage crop over multiple years, although even with the low emission spreading technology the N recovery rate of the separated liquid fraction was significantly less than mineral fertilizer. The effect of long-term application of separated liquid fraction on soil N, P, C and P, and other elements, and quality was not yet determined and is the subject of the current study.

One way to apply manure efficiently is to place it close to the seed for silage corn. Silage corn which is frequently grown for dairy feed requires P fertilizer early on in growth so that it may advance ultimately to maturity. Early maturity is valuable for reducing storage losses, enabling use of high yielding hybrids and also enabling early planting of winter cover crops. Even on high P soils, seed placed P generally improves crop maturity and sometimes yield (Bittman et al. 2006; Bittman et al. unpublished on-farm data). The long term effects of injecting manure sludge on soil release and crop capture of P and N from organic manure fractions and the effect of the injected sludge on GHG emissions and soil nutrient loss is not known.

This project contributes to several Environment Canada Program Activities that includes water resources, substances and waste management as well as climate change and clean air. Water resources are affected positively because farmer management and planning are enhanced to better utilize N from manure thereby reducing nitrate leaching to ground water and runoff to surface waters. Substances and water management is improved because the novel technology for efficient use of manure nutrients will inform management decisions and will improve the development and use of environmental farm plans and nutrient management plans reduce nutrient loading to the environment. Finally, climate change and clean air is improved because due to the better utilization of N from manure, the greenhouse gas emissions with be reduced and the environmental performance will be improved.

Materials & Methods:  The novel technology for applying manure to lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower to eliminate the amount of chemical fertilizers used includes the separation of some of the solids from the liquid manure. Over several years the research group at Agassiz has made a number of significant strides to improve this technology and they have found a system that works. This system include the application of the liquid manure on grass because it is a good nutrient source for it. The remaining semisolid fraction of manure is then used as a source of phosphorus for corn through the process of precision injection.  In this method the greenhouse gas emissions are collected and analyzed consistently over a long period of time to ensure that the emissions of nitrous oxide does not increase. Nitrous oxide is a potent gas that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and manure application is a significant source of this gas. Since the proposed methodology for using manure increases uptake of both key nutrients for crops and environment, it addresses the single most important strategy for reducing contamination of waterways, both above and below the ground surface.

General Duties Performed:  During the internship, the duties performed consisted of general field management work, plant and soil sample collection, and measurement of emissions of nitrous oxide from the field and laboratory analyses (extractions, flow injection analyzers and gas chromatograph). Soil water and soil temperature were also monitored through the use of data loggers. Also, data was compiled, processed and run through statistical analysis.

Specific Scientific Learning Experiences:  Learning experiences from the internship included a variety of duties that took place inside and outside the laboratory. Environmental research was conducted in the field which included the collection of samples. Nitrous oxide gas samples were collected from vented chambers. These gas samples would then be run on the gas chromatograph which was operated by the students. Soil temperatures and soil samples were also collected. Soil temperatures were measured by placing temperature probes in the soil at different depths. During the field work, good practices and detailed record keeping and observational skills were learned. Some soil samples were weighed into the oven and drying room to determine the amount of moisture content; other soil samples were used to find the pH, thus the pH meter was used. Other soil samples were extracted for nutrients by mixing it with a salt solution and filtering. The soil samples which came from the drying rooms were ground into a fine powder and left to be tested for nutrients. Manure application and corn/grass harvests also took place during the internship in which the students helped out. Some of the corn and grass samples were used to determine their amount of P. This was done through the process of digestion, dilution and analysis with a spectrophotometer. Weekly, resin strips, which act like plant root systems, were implanted and extracted from the soil. These resin strips were extracted with a salt solution and analysed for nutrients to represent what nutrients were being absorbed by the plants. The data collected was inputted into excel and organized into its respective folder. Overall a good understanding of hypothesis and hypothesis testing was learned as well as good research practices related to replication and randomization. 

Conclusion: In this internship greenhouse gas emissions of nitrous oxide from manure and fertilizer applications, which was applied with a more efficient technology, were measured. This technology includes separating the liquid and solid fractions of the manure and applying the different fractions to different fields where it is the most useful. This system includes the application of the liquid manure on grass because it is a good nutrient source for it. The remaining semisolid fraction of manure is then used as a source of phosphorus for corn through the process of precision injection. The idea is to be able to completely replace fertilizer with manure as well as decrease the amount of greenhouse gas emissions of nitrous oxide. Lots of samples, including gas samples and soil samples, were collected throughout this internship but the results have not yet been determined/summarized.

Greenhouse gas emissions from a novel technology for efficient use of manure nutrients (2014)

 The Pacific Field Corn Association Hires Project Intern

Lillian Fan is currently working as an intern for the Pacific Corn Field Association, where she participates in a project investigating the relationship between nitrous oxide emission and fertilizer and manure application. Lillian assists in the collection, preparation and analysis of air, groundwater, plants and soil samples. This internship will give Lillian valuable hands-on experience working in her field of interest; more importantly, it helps her develop greater determination for becoming an environmental biologist.

Lillian Fan

Lillian, a registered Biologist in Training and Environmental Professional in Training, is a recent graduate of Simon Fraser University with a double major in Biological Sciences and Physical Geography. While engaged in her studies, Lillian worked two years as a research assistant in various professional environments, including a greenhouse, an avian ecology laboratory, and a soil laboratory. With a strong academic background and passion for ecology and natural sciences, Lillian aspires to become an environmental biologist.

Lillian sampling in the field.

Air samples are collected from chambers that are installed throughout the field. Depending on the trial, each chamber is sampled three times at 10-15 mintues intervals. The samples are then placed in a Gas Chromatography machine, which allows us to determine the nitrous oxide concentration. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas with a high global warming potential. Agricultural activities such as manure and fertilizer application contributes a large amount of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. By collecting air samples, we can determine how much nitrous oxide is being emitted by various treatments of manure and fertilizer. Moreover, results can be used in agricultural soil management, with goals to improve plant growth and decrease greenhouse gas emission.


 Environment Canada


Low Emission Manure Spreader

A low emission manure spreader developed jointly by scientists at Agassiz Research and Development Centre,  Holland Hitch of Woodstock, ON and Vogelsang Inc. of Germany. This manure spreader allows for less ammonia loss and less odour with minimal soil disturbance even on challenging sloped and stony fields.

manure spreader

August 2015 - low emission manure spreader



Miscanthus x Giganteus - a giant grass with potential use as a biofuel

Miscanthus is a perennial C4 rhizomatous grass originating from Asia.  Miscanthus giganteus is a sterile hybrid between M. Sinensis and M. sacchariflorus.  It has be trailed as an option for biofuel in Europe since the 1980's.  It can grow to heights of more than 3.5 meters in one season. 

The perennial grasses can be classified as either C3 or C4 plants. These terms refer to the different pathways that plants use to capture carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. All species have the more primitive C3 pathway, but the additional C4 pathway evolved in species in the wet and dry tropics. The first product of carbon fixation in C3 plants involves a 3-carbon molecule, whilst C4 plants initially produce a 4-carbon molecule that then enters the C3 cycle. 

These differences are important because the two pathways are also associated with different growth requirements.  C3 plants are adapted to cool season establishment and growth in either wet or dry environments.  On the other hand, C4 plants are more adapted to warm or hot seasonal conditions under moist or dry environments.  A feature of C3 grasses is their greater tolerance of frost compared to C4 grasses.  C3 species also tend to generate less bulk than C4 species; however, feed quality is often higher than C4 grasses. 


miscanthus 2015

August 2015 - located in Agassiz, B.C.

miscanthus 2015

August 2015

miscanthus 2015

August 2015

miscanthus 2016

July 2016 - This stand located in Agassiz, B.C. has not been fertilized in 5 years.


NLOS Model Web Interface

NLOS is a dynamic soil Nitrogen simulation model for agricultural conditions with a daily time step. The model uses climate data, soil information and management factors such as crop type, tillage, irrigation, fertilization and application of organic compounds entered by the user. NLOS simulates the major soil processes involved in the N-cycle of agricultural soils: nitrification, denitrification, volatilization, mineralization, immobilization, runoff losses, crop uptake and leaching.

Extensive output data can be viewed within NLOS or exported to other applications for further analysis. View website at


Project Summary:  This project will help the dairy sector and other producers of forages in the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island by providing a modern tool-kit of practical adaptive management strategies to improve yield and quality of the forage crops under future scenarios of changing climate and increasingly variable weather. Efficient forage production is at the heart of profitable cattle operations.  Through a series of on-farm trials, the project will develop a compliment of integrated cropping strategies to enable farmers to adapt to changing climate by improving the yield and quality profile of their crops, to secure and improve farm profitability. The strategies are based on maximizing and balancing summer and winter crop production, including introducing advanced, sustainable agronomic and irrigation practices. 

Cash Funding Support:  Farm Adaptation Innovator Program, BC Dairy Association, Pacific Field Corn Association
In-Kind Support:  Agriculture Canada, BC Ministry of Agriculture, BC Forage Council, Holberg Farms, Quality Seeds West, Premier Pacific Seeds

Project Advisory Committee:  Holger Schwitchtenberg (Producer); BC Dairy Association member (producer); Dr. Shabtai Bittman (AAFC); Derek Hunt (AAFC).

Objective 1: To address climate change scenario with increased annual temperatures, and higher total annual precipitation, which threaten to increase erosion risk, delay spring planting, and lower yield through probability of a shorter growing season with prolonged hot dry periods. The adaptation goal is to identify new corn hybrids and winter annual species, which will stabilize and increase overall crop yield and quality per ha of land by exploiting the weather improvements  (increased heat units) and mitigating risks. We will be identifying corn hybrids suited to late planting and/or early harvesting and that are heat and flooding tolerant and winter crops that are amenable to a range of planting and harvesting dates.

Corn hybrid and winter annual photos: click here

Farm demonstation of winter annuals photos: click here

Objective 2:  To address climate change scenario of extended hot dry periods during the growing season through judicious use of irrigation that is both profitable and sustainable.

Irrigation project photos: click here

Objective 3:  is to utilize for: a) Weather calculators to help track weather and advise farmers and b) As a dissemination vehicle to report project status, interim and final results, study experiences, promote on-line factsheets, co-ordinate field days and solicit agri-business and producer input and feedback. 






Corn Hybrid and Winter Annual PHOTOS


corn plots

June 25, 2015

corn plots

September 1, 2015

corn plots

September 1, 2015

September 11, 2015

September 11, 2015

FAIP 2016

July 11, 2016

FAIP 2016

July 11, 2016

winter annuals

May 9, 2017 - On May 9, quadrat samples were taken of nine 200' long strips growing at the Tuyttens Road location of the Holberg Farm test site.  From left to right the strips contained Hollandaise brand winter wheat, Hollandaise brand winter wheat with Italian ryegrass, Yukon brand winter wheat with Italian ryegrass, Trical brand winter Triticale with Italian ryegrass, Yukon brand winter wheat with Italian ryegrass & hairy vetch, Yukon brand winter wheat with Italian ryegrass & winter peas, Red Tag winter wheat with Italian ryegrass, Pintail winter wheat, and Terralink winter wheat.  The strips showed vigorous growth and were similar in height.  The producer had cut the Italian ryegrass surrounding the plots on May 6, 2017.


hairy vetch

May 9, 2017 - Hairy vetch was only present at about 1 plant for every 0.5 m2 Yukon brand winter wheat with Italian ryegrass & hairy vetch.



winter pea

May 9, 2017 - We only found one winter pea plant in the whole strip of Yukon brand winter wheat with Italian ryegrass & winter peas.


rust on winter wheat 

May 9, 2017 - Rust was present on the Pintail winter wheat, and to a lesser extent on the Hollandaise brand winter wheat.



Kincaid Plots Tuyttens Road - On May 9, 2017 quadrat samples were taken of 16 25’ x 5’ plots growing adjacent to test strips at the Tuyttens Road location of the Holberg test site.  These plots contained four replicates of Hollandaise brand winter wheat, Tapper radish, fall rye, and Pintail winter wheat.  The Tapper radish did not survive the winter but the other plots did well.


Agassiz Avenue location - On May 10, 2017 quadrat samples were taken of the Italian ryegrass that the producer had planted at the Agassiz Avenue location of the Holberg Farm test site. 

Farm demonstration PHOTOS

FALL 2015

The farm demonstation portion of the project is LOCATED ON A WORKING DAIRY FARM IN AGASSIZ, B.C.  The farm has two sites, one on Tuyttens Road, and the other on Agassiz Avenue.  On each site, corn is grown with winter annuals in a multi-year rotation.  Plant, manure, and soil samples are used to investigate nutrient dynamics and yields.

Tuyttens Road Site:  This site demonstrates early maturing corn (CHU 2350) with a number of winter annuals in a multi-year rotation.  The main winter annuals grown on this site are Hollandaise winter wheat with Italian ryegrass, Hollandaise winter wheat with Cypress winter Peas, Hollandaise winter wheat with Italian ryegrass and Cypress winter Peas.  There are also a number of smaller plots investigating a number of other winter annual combinations.  

Agassiz Avenue Site:  This site demonstrates later maturing corn (CHU 2500) with a number of winter annuals in a multi-year rotation. The main winter annuals grown on this site are Hollandaise winter wheat, Yukon winter wheat, Dawson winter wheat, and a winter triticale. There are also a number of smaller plots investigating a number of other winter annual combinations. 

demo site

October 2, 2015 - Planting winter annuals on the Agassiz Avenue site.


demo site

October 2, 2015 - Winter annuals emerging on the plots

demo site

December 9, 2015 – Winter annuals emerging on the Agassiz Avenue site.

Our winter annuals are planted in a field where the producer has planted a mixture of Italian ryegrass and winter wheat.  The stakes show the trial area.  Flags show the separation between rows.  To the left are two rows of small plots investigating a number of winter annual combinations.  The next four rows of crops are winter triticale, Dawson winter wheat, Yukon winter wheat, and Hollandaise winter wheat.  The large plots are doing well.  Some of the small plots on the very left contained vetch which had poor germination and coverage.


demo site

December 9, 2015 – Winter annuals emerging on the Tuyttens Road site.

Our winter annuals are planted in a field where the producer has planted a mixture of Italian ryegrass and winter wheat. The stakes show the trial area.  Flags show the separation between rows.  To the left are two rows of small plots investigating a number of winter annual combinations.  The next four rows of crops are winter triticale with Italian ryegrass, Hollandaise winter wheat with Italian ryegrass and Cypress winter Peas, Hollandaise winter wheat with Cypress winter Peas, and Hollandaise winter wheat with Italian ryegrass.



Photo above:  Agassiz Avenue site in mid-March of 2016.  The stakes show the trial area which is surrounded by Italian ryegrass.  On the far left are large plots of Hollandaise winter wheat, Yukon winter wheat, Dawson winter wheat, and winter triticale.  These all over-wintered well and were showing growth by February.  By the end of March the Hollandaise and Dawson winter wheats were showing signs of rust, although the yields did not appear to be affected.  On the far right of the trial area are small plots containing fall rye, Italian ryegrass, and vetch in addition to winter wheat.  The vetch did not over-winter well and these plots were overtaken by weeds.  The vetch was sparse and small.  These are the plots that appear quite a bit shorter on the right of the trial area.  On April 7 we collected quadrat samples of all the plots.  By April 16 the producer harvested the field.


Photo above:  Tuyttens Road site in mid-March of 2016.  The stakes show the trial area which is surrounded by Italian ryegrass.  On the far left are four large plots.  The first plot contains Hollandaise winter wheat mixed with Italian ryegrass.  The second plot contains a mixture of Hollandaise winter wheat mixed with Cypress winter peas.  The third plot contains a mixture of Hollandaise winter wheat, Italian ryegrass, and Cypress winter peas.  The fourth plot contains winter triticale with Italian ryegrass.  The Cypress winter peas did not over-winter well.  Although they germinated and seemed to be getting established in the fall, by January 2016 they seem to have all but disappeared from the plots.   The small plots on the right side of the trial area contained vetch, Italian ryegrass, fall rye, and Hollandaise winter wheat mixed with Italian ryegrass.  As in the Agassiz Avenue site, the vetch did not over-winter well and these plots were overtaken by weeds.  On April 7 we collected quadrat samples of all the plots.  By April 16 the producer harvested the field.


Photo above:  Agassiz Avenue site April 7, 2016. The winter annuals other than vetch and Cypress winter peas on both the Agassiz Avenue and Tuyttens Road sites appeared to be doing well.  There was noticeable rust on the Hollandaise and Dawson winter wheats.  Quadrat samples from both sites are currently being analyzed.  The producer appeared to have a substantial harvest of winter annuals from these fields on April 16.

FALL 2016
Winter Annual Planting at Schwichtenberg's Farm

  • The Tuyttens Road site (early planting - early harvest) was harvested mid-September.  In the subsequent days manure was applied, and it was disced and culti-packed.  On October 3, the site was seeded with 13 different mixtures.
  • The Agassiz Avenue site (late seeding - late harvest) was harvested in the first week of October.  Unfortunately rain delayed manure application until October 10.  The producer was able to seed the area with Italian Ryegrass on October 12, 2016.  We felt that preparing the area for seeding different varieties was too late in the season and we will analyze the producer's Italian Ryegrass planted on the site instead.


Photo above:  A Kincaid seeder was used to seed sixteen 25' by 5' plots with four different mixtures of seeds on the Tuyttens Road site.  The photo was taken on November 29, 2016 (Mount Cheam in the background).  The mixtures seeded were Hollandaise Winter Wheat, Pintail Winter Wheat, Tapper Radish, and Terralink Fall Rye.  All have emerged and are growing.

drill seeder

Photo above:  A drill seeder was used to plant nine strips 10' wide and 200' long on the Tuyttens Road site.  The photo was taken on November 29, 2016.  The mixtures from left to right are:

  • Terralink winter wheat
  • Pintail winter wheat
  • Red Tag winter wheat with Italian ryegrass
  • Yukon Brand winter wheat with Italian ryegrass and winter peas
  • Yukon  Brand winter wheat with Italian ryegrass and hairy vetch
  • Trical Brand winter triticale with Italian reygrass
  • Yukon Brand winter wheat with Italian ryegrass
  • Hollandaise Brand winter wheat with Italian ryegrass
  • Hollandaise Brand winter wheat

All have emerged and are growing.  The Italian ryegrass shows better growth than the winter wheat at this stage.

 hairy vetch

Photo above: Hairy vetch (the plant with pinnate leaves) emerging along with Italian ryegrass and winter wheat on the Tuyttens Road site.

 winter peas

Photo above: Winter peas (the small plant with the tendrils) emerging with Italian ryegrass and winter wheat.


FALL 2017 - Agassiz Avenue Location
Ten types of winter annuals were planted on October 6, 2017 at the Agassiz Avenue location.

From left to right:

  1. Premier Pacific Fall Rye
  2. Premier Pacific Winter Wheat
  3. Richardson Fall Rye
  4. Hollandaise Winter Wheat + Italian Ryegrass
  5. Fraser Yukon Winter Wheat
  6. Terralink Oats
  7. CDC Austenson Barley
  8. Fraser Trical Winter
  9. Italian Ryegrass Relay
  10. Northern Brand Italian Ryegrass

This order was repeated in an adjacent area in the field.

planted October 2017

The picture above was taken on November 22, 2017.  All crops germinated well, and are comparable to the surrounding Italian Ryegrass that the producer planted in the field.  There were no clear winners among the varieties.

FALL 2017 - Tuyttens Road Location

On September 21, 2017 nineteen 10' by 200' strips of cover crops were planted at the Tuyttens Road location.
From left to right the plantings were:

  • Premier Crimson Clover
  • Northern Blend Italian Ryegrass
  • Fraser Trical Winter
  • Austenson Barley

  • Fraser Hollandaise Winter Wheat+ Italian Ryegrass+ Vetch
  • Fraser 83% Trical Winter + 17% Northern Brand Italian Ryegrass + Vetch
  • Fraser Winter Wheat and Ryegrass and Peas
  • Premier Winter Wheat
  • Richardson Fall Rye
  • Austenson Barley
  • Fraser Trical Winter
  • Northern Blend Italian Ryegrass
  • Premier Crimson Clover
  • Alexis Nitrocoat Berseem Clover

  • Fraser Hollandaise Winter Wheat+ Italian Ryegrass+ Vetch
  • Fraser 83% Trical Winter + 17% Northern Brand Italian Ryegrass + Vetch
  • Fraser Winter Wheat and Ryegrass and Peas
  • Premier Winter Wheat
  • Richardson Fall Rye

(Alexis Nitrocoat Berseem Clover was the only seed not duplicated in two strips - we ran out of room in the field).

fall 2017
The photo above was taken on November 22, 2017.  All strips had germinated.  The seeding at this site was 15 days earlier than the Agassiz Avenue location and the plants were noticeably more developed.  The strip of tall, yellowish plants is of Austenson Barley. This was quite a bit more developed than any of the other varieties.



The photo above was taken on November 22, 2017.  It shows the clovers planted at the Tuyttens Road location are doing well.  



The photo above was taken on November 22, 2017.  It shows the vetch in the mixtures at the Tuyttens Road location has germinated.


The above photo was taken on November 22, 2017.  It shows the winter peas in the mixtures have germinated at the Tuyttens Road location.

Irrigation Project PHOTOS

Irrigation Project Overview: The adaptation goal is to identify optimal combinations of irrigation triggers, irrigation saturation, and nitrogen fertilizer levels to increase crop yields and improve nitrogen fertilizer uptake.  We are also comparing traditional vacuum-gauge tensiometer probes with electronic tensiometer probes.  Tensiometer probes installed at various depths indicate soil moisture.  We have constructed moveable rectangular tables holding parallel hoses with drip emitters which conveniently irrigate plots of grass.  If, when, and how much irrigation a plot receives depends on its treatment.  Irrigation in some plots is triggered when shallow tensiometer probe readings indicate low soil moisture, whereas irrigation in others is delayed until deeper tensiometer probe readings indicate low soil moisture.   Some plots are irrigated until shallow tensiometer probes indicate high soil moisture, whereas irrigation in other plots is prolonged until deeper tensiometer probes indicate high soil moisture.  Various nitrogen fertilizer levels and controls add to the complexity of the treatments. 

irrigation project

July 27, 2015


July 27, 2015 - Irrigation tables are custom-made to fit over the plots.  Pressure-compensating drip emitters ensure an even distribution of water over the plot


irrigation project 

August 19, 2015


irrigation project

August 19, 2015


irrigation project

August 19, 2015 - 


irrigation project

August 19, 2015 - Irrigated and fertilized grasses were visibly more robust and green than control grasses.


irrigation project

August 19, 2015


irrigation project

August 19, 2015



 Looking underneath the irrigation pipes.



August 19, 2015 - Controllers allow timed irrigations.  The tables have a fixed number of pressure-compensating emitters which emit water at a fixed rate.  Thus water volumes applied to plots are easily estimated with irrigation times.




Summer 2015


August 19, 2015 - Irrigation and fertilizer effects are obvious even at a distance.

irrigation project

July 11, 2016 - Irrigation trial plots clearing showing fertilization effects.  Irrigation tables have been removed to add tensiometers to the system.  Irrigation has not yet started for 2016.


July 11, 2016 - Tensiometers are being set up in the plots.  A tensiometer measures soil moisture.  It measures the tension or suction that plants' roots must exert to extracct water from the soil. This tension is a direct measure of the availablity of water to a plant.  

Project Interim Report: Optimize water applications to maximize forage yield during dry summers while at the same time minimizing nutrient losses (March 2017)

Overall Objectives

The overall objective of this study is to enhance and stabilize farm production of feed and feed nutrients through strategic and judicious use of irrigation water.

Specific Objectives

The specific objectives of this study were to:

  • Optimize water applications to maximize forage yield during typically dry summers in the Lower Fraser Valley while at the same time minimize nutrient losses.
  • The approach is to find the ideal combination of timing and quantity of water application using various water deficit indictors.


Some of the overall impacts of climate change for BC agriculture have been identified as follows:

  • More frequent occurrence and severity of summer drought; water shortages in more regions. Hotter and drier summers.
  • Decreased snowfall in alpine areas leading to reduced snowpack and to water shortages
  •  Increased precipitation (frequently through more extreme events) and subsequent vulnerability to flooding, erosion, nutrient loss. Wetter and milder winters.
  • More frequent and intense “extreme” weather events (wind-storms, forest fires, hail, droughts and floods)
  •  Increase in growing degree days (heat units) and a longer frost free season. Hotter summers with milder winters.
  • Potential for broader range of viable crops in some regions. Milder winters.
  • Increase in pest and disease pressure due to winter survival of pests.

Previous Study

Previous work at Agassiz showed annual yield increases of 13 to 35% from summertime irrigation for different grass species and varieties. The work showed substantial potential to increase grass production with irrigation during the dry summer months. See Table 1.

Table 1. Grass yield with and without irrigation for two years at Agassiz (t DM ha-1)

SpeciesVarietyNo IrrigationWith IrrigationIncrease in Yield (%)

 Annual yield (t DM ha-1)

Orchardgrass Hallmark 15.0 17.7 17.7 
 Prairial 13.8 15.5 12.7 
 Mobite 11.5 14.8 28.8 
Tall Fescue Johnstone 13.4 16.4  22.4
Perennial Ryegrass Frances 10.0 11.7  17.1
 Melle 8.9 11.0  23.6
 Bastion 9.2 12.5  35.3
 Condesa 9.7 11.8  22.3
Timothy Toro 13.2 16.3  24.0
Reed Canarygrass Palaton 10.5 13.3  27.3
Meadow brome Regar 12.5 14.5  16.1


Study Materials and Methods

The study examined four combinations of water application on an orchardgrass crop planted in 2015. Different soil moisture sensors were used in 2016 to monitor soil water deficit measured in units of water potential (negative pressure or suction) called centibars (cbar). At 80 cbar most of the easily available water is gone so growth slows down. If the deficits are short-lived plants can compensate. Most of plant roots are in the top 15 cm of soil, so water lower down is less rapidly available.

Different degrees of soil moisture deficit were then used as triggers for irrigation. Four water application strategies were compared to no watering for both 2015 and 2016.

In 2015 the newly seeded orchardgrass crop was watered using the following strategies: Frequent & Light, Frequent & Heavy, Infrequent & Light, Infrequent & Heavy. In 2016 soil sensors were installed at three depths and used as a guide for water applications as follows:

  • 15 cm depth  -30 cbar trigger,  Frequent & Light
  • 30 cm depth -30 cbar trigger,  Less Frequent & Heavier
  • 45 cm depth -30 cbar trigger,  Infrequent & Heavy
  • 15 cm depths  -10 cbar trigger,  Very frequent & Light

Nitrogen fertilizer was applied at 50 kg N/ha (45 lb/acre) to all harvests proceeding the dry summer months (one application for Cut 1 in the 2015 establishment year and two applications for Cuts 1 and 2 in 2016). For the anticipated dry summer months nitrogen fertilizer was applied at three rates (0, 50 and 100 kg N/ha) to each of the five watering treatments (one application for Cut 2 in 2015 and two applications for Cuts 3 and 4 in 2016). Other nutrients (phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, magnesium, micro-nutrients) and Calpril lime were applied according to soil test recommendations. Statistically, the design of the study is a randomized block design with 5 watering treatments and 3 nitrogen application rates. Each individual study treatment was repeated four times.


For each grass harvest dry matter yield, moisture content and nitrogen content were measured. Nitrogen capture is important because it means less lost to the groundwater and more in the plant contributing to protein formation. There is a direct relationship between plant protein and plant nitrogen.

Soil was sampled immediately after each grass harvest and analyzed for moisture, nitrate and ammonia content. Soil moisture sensor data, weather data and Evapo-Transpiration (ET) were recorded throughout the study. Evapotranspiration is available on


2015 Grass yield - Irrigation increased yield on a single cut of newly established orchardgrass stand by about 1.7 t DM/ha for N application rates of 0, 50 and 100 kg N/ha. This is over 10% increase for total annual yield. This equates to a yield increase for this single cut of 217, 112 and 94% for N application rates of 0, 50 and 100 kg N/ha respectively. See Figure 1.

2015 Soil nitrogen - Irrigation resulted in less soil N through the soil profile at the 0 and 50 kg N/ha rates. While irrigation method did not affect yield, it did affect soil nitrogen levels. The ‘Heavy’ irrigation also resulted in less soil N at the 100 kg N/ha rate (see Figure 2). Net of both removal of nitrogen by the crop (as protein) and soil nitrogen provided by the soil,  there is more  nitrogen lost below the root zone for the ‘Heavy’ irrigation as shown in Figure 3 for nitrogen ‘missing’ from the soil profile. The results suggest that there is an interaction between water and nitrogen fertilizer which has economic and environmental implications.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Grass yield on a newly established orchardgrass stand as affected by nitrogen and water applications, 2015.

 figure 2

Figure 2. Amount of nitrogen left in the soil at the end of the season first season, 2015. Note that the tow heavy irrigations leached N from the 100 nitrogen rate but apparently not form the lower nitrogen rates. The light irrigations did not leach nitrogen. (See also Fig 3 below)


Figure 3 

Figure 3. ‘Missing’ nitrogen calculated from what was supplied by fertilizer and the soil and what was removed by the grass crop.

2016 Grass yield

Irrigation increased summertime yield by 0.5, 1.0 and 1.2 t DM/ha for N applications of 100, 50 and 0 kg/ha respectively in 2016. There was a significant interaction between Irrigation and N rate with irrigation increasing yield by 10, 25 and 75% for N applications of 100, 50 and 0 kg/ha respectively. See Figure 4.At the middle N rate there was about an 8% increase in annual yield. Note that soil nitrogen data for 2016 are not yet complete.

2016 Water use efficiency

Water Use Efficiency (WUE) was greatest for “Infrequent & Heavy” strategy (45 cm -30 cbar) which applied overall the least water. Improvement was 19, 26 and 27% for nitrogen applications of 0, 50 and 100 kg/ha respectively over the other three watering strategies. See Figure 5.

Figure 4

Figure 4. Dry matter yield of Cuts 3 and 4 2016 as influenced by water and nitrogen treatments.

 Figure 5

Figure 5. Water use efficiency for harvests 3 and 4 in 2016.


Results from the first two years indicate:

  • significant potential to increase yields in drier summer months
  • there is a water x nutrient interaction which has significant economic and environmental implications
  • need to modify watering criteria in terms of quantity and timing
  • criteria will vary with decision tools (ie differences between sensors)
  • criteria will vary with soil types


Project Interim Report: Optimizing corn–cover crop systems for production of dairy feed in a changing climate in B.C., Canada (March 2017)

Interim Report March 2017


Aerial view of complexity of agriculture in the south-coastal region of British Columbia with high winter rain and moderate air temperatures

Overall Objectives
The overall objectives of a series of Pacific Field Corn Association Projects can be summarized as follows.

  1.  To increase the adaptive capacity of producers by helping them balance the use and management of the summer and winter season crops through species / variety selection and planting / harvesting dates. This approach will enable farmers to adapt to changes in overall weather as well as seasonal weather (e.g. milder, wetter winters / warmer and drier summers).
  2. To increase adaptive capacity of producers by providing tools to optimally balance land allocation of perennial and annual crops so as to maximize and stabilize production of essential farm nutrients (crude protein, neutral detergent fiber, digestibility etc.).
  3. The adaptive capacity of farmers will be helped by reducing dependence on imported feeds and reduced burden of excess nutrients.

Specific Objectives
The specific objectives of this corn-cover crop study were to:

  1. optimize year-round production of corn and winter cover crops to help dairy farms in south-coastal BC reduce dependency on feed imports.
  2. find the ideal combination of corn maturity, corn planting date, corn harvest date, and cover crop species to maximize year round production of quality dairy feed.

Modern dairy operations often depend on significant amounts of purchased feed to meet nutritional needs of high producing cows. These feed imports add economic and often environmental burdens, especially if land is limited.

In south-coastal BC, dairy production is intensive due to expensive land. About 60% of feed is grown on the farm and consists primarily of grass hay and grass and corn silage production. About 40% of feedstuffs are imported which includes mostly concentrates such as distillers grains, rolled barley canola meal and soybean meal. Some purchases may include straw for supplemental fiber and alfalfa.  On-farm corn yield can range from 15 to 25 tonnes of dry matter/ha/year providing highly digestible, high energy silage. Grass production is mostly from orchardgrass and tall fescue with some perennial ryegrass crops. The grasses are usually preserved as hay, haylage or silage providing fiber, energy and protein for the cow’s diet. Grass is often cut 4 to 6 times annually with yields ranging from 8 to 16 tonne DM/ha/year.


Figure 1. Simplified overview of typical dairy feeds.


The study is designed to examine all combinations of 2 planting dates x 2 harvesting dates x 2 corn maturities matched with 4 winter cover crops grown in the periods between corn harvest and corn planting. The study was conducted on a well to moderately drained silt loam soil. The two silage corn hybrids were Pioneer P7443R (early maturity, 2100 CHU Canada, 70 day USA) and Hyland HL SR35 (late maturity, 2700 CHU Canada, 88 day USA). The four cover crops were:

  • Farm standard = Winter wheat
  • Legume = Common winter vetch
  • Highest yield = Fall rye
  • Highest feed quality = Italian ryegrass

      Total fertilizer nitrogen application for the entire year was 300 kg N /ha (270 lb/ac) applied as ammonium nitrate (no manure or manure history in this trial). This was split as 1/3 applied late winter/early spring to the winter cover crops and 2/3 applied pre-plant to the corn crop. Other nutrients (phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, magnesium, micro-nutrients) and Calpril lime were applied according to soil test recommendations. The study was started in spring of 2015 and this report covers all the data to date: two production years (2015 and 2016) for corn silage and one for winter cover crops (2015-2016). Statistically, the design of the study is a split-split plot, with the main plot being harvest/planting date, the sub-plot as corn hybrid and the sub-subplot as winter annual crop. Each individual study treatment was repeated four times. In all, there were 32 combinations: 2 planting dates (early and late) x 2 harvest dates (early and late)  x 2 corn hybrids (low and high heat unit) x 4 winter annuals (fall rye, winter wheat, Italian ryegrass and winter vetch).


 farm calendar

Figure 2.  Study Farm Calendar – showing one corn hybrid with four winter cover crops and 16 combinations.


Figure 3

Figure 3.  Corn plots 2015 showing early corn growth from two planting dates.


Figure 4

Figure 4.  Corn plots 2016 showing mid-season corn growth from two planting dates.


Figure 5

Figure 5.  Corn/Annual plots 2016 showing early corn growth and late harvested winter annuals.


Figure 6

Figure 6.  Corn plots 2015 showing late harvested corn plots and early planted winter annuals.



Results from the first two season of corn production and the first winter of cover crops are presented in Tables 1 to 4.

For corn silage production there was no significant effect on corn silage yield from previous winter annual for 2016. Highest corn yield was obtained for the ‘Early’ planting / ‘Late’ harvest system for both the low and high CHU hybrids in 2016 and the high CHU in 2015. See Table 1.

Table 1. Corn Silage yield (t DM ha-1) 

Plant Harvest Early Maturing Corn (Low CHU)Late Maturing Corn (High CHU)Early Maturing Corn (Low CHU)Late Maturing Corn (High CHU)
EarlyEarly9.5b 10.7ab 14.8b  15.0b
EarlyLate9.7b 12.4a 16.1a 16.9a 
LateEarly9.5b 10.3ab 12.1d 11.7d 
LateLate10.7ab 12.0ab 14.2c 13.6c 

      * means with all different letters are significantly different within a year (P<0.05).  This table shows that highest corn yields with early corn planting and late corn harvest especially with a late maturing corn hybrid. For late planting and early harvest, which is sometimes a necessity, early hybrids have lower yield but much better grain content and better cover crop yields (see tables below). Early corn plus cover crop is a climate-smart strategy. Late corn with cover crop will be best in a great year but carries more risk.


The early maturity corn hybrid (Low CHU) had significantly higher grain percentage than the late maturing hybrid (High CHU) in both 2015 and 2016. Highest grain percentage was obtained for the ‘Early’ planting / ‘Late’ harvest system for both the low and high CHU hybrids in 2016 and the high CHU in 2015. See Table 2.  Poor grain contents are highlighted.

Table 2. Grain percent

PlantHarvestEarly Matuing Corn (Low CHU)Late Maturing Corn (High CHU)Early Maturing Corn (Low CHU)Later Maturing Corn (High CHU)
EarlyEarly60.1a41.5d38.9c 18.3e

       *means with different letters are significantly different within a year (P<0.05)

There was no significant effect on winter annual yield from previous corn hybrid. Highest yields were obtained from Late planting/Early harvest of corn which equals Early planting/Late harvest of winter annual. Highest yields were obtained from Fall Rye and Winter Wheat. See Table 3.

Table 3. Yield of winter cover crop as affected by corn management, in spring yield 2016 (t DM ha-1)

Corn Dates Planting-Harvestingdays plant to harvestFall RyeItalian RyegrassWinter VetchWinter Wheat
Low heat unit corn     
Early - Low - Early2284.
Early - Low - Late 210 3.3 2.4 1.3 3.1 
Late - Low - Early 242 6.6 5.4 2.6 7.8 
Late - Low - Late 224 5.8 4.7 2.5 6.2 
High heat unit corn     
Early - High - Early 228 4.1 3.3 1.5 4.5 
Early - High - Late 210 3.5 2.1 1.3 2.9 
Late - High - Early 242 6.5 5.7 2.5 7.2 
Late - High - Late 224 5.8 4.5 2.1 6.0 

Table 3 shows highest cover crop yields with late corn planting and early harvesting because this gives the cover crop the most time to grow. Second best and almost as good is late planting and late harvesting of corn. This shows the importance of allowing time for cover crops to grow in spring when days are longer and growth rate is faster than in fall.  

Highest overall yields over 18 months were obtained with “Plant Early” Late Maturity-High CHU and “Harvest Late” combined with Fall Rye or Winter Wheat. Significantly higher Grain % was obtained with “Plant Early” Early Maturity-Low CHU and “Harvest Late” combined with Fall Rye or Winter Wheat which has significant implications for feed energy value and digestibility. See Table 4.

Table 4. Corn and cover crop yields and 18-month totals for low corn heat unit corn harvested early and high heat unit corn harvested late (t DM ha-1).  All corn was planted early.

 Low CHU corn Harvested EarlyHigh CHU corn Harvested Late
Corn Yield 20159.512.4
Corn Yield 201614.816.9
Winter Wheat4.53.1
Fall Rye4.23.5
Italian Ryegrass3.32.4
Grain % 201560.153.2
Grain % 201651.827.7
Total Yield (2015-2016)  
Corn + Winter Wheat28.832.5
Corn + Fall Rye28.632.9
Corn + Italian Ryegrass27.731.8

This table shows that late harvest of high heat unit corn yields more than early harvest of low heat unit corn but cover crop yield reduces the difference and provides a measure of insurance against poor summer weather. 


figure 7

Figure 7. Total yield of corn (2015, light blue and 2016, dark blue) and cover crop (2015-2016, winter wheat, light green; winter vetch, yellow; Italian ryegrass, dark green; Fall rye, purple) of all 32 cropping combinations. Description on the left indicates: corn planting date (Early or Late) followed by Corn heat unit rating (Lo or Hi) followed by corn harvest date (Early or Late). Total yields ranged from about 21 to 33 t/ha over this period.


 ‘Early’ planting / ‘Late’ harvest system produces highest yields for corn. ‘Late’ planting/ ‘Early’ harvest system produces highest yields for winter annuals. Combinations of corn maturity, planting date, harvest date, and cover crop species significantly change total yields of year round feed produced for dairy operations. Different management combinations produce significant differences in corn silage grain percentage and maturity stages of winter annuals which are expected to affect quality of feed produced.







PFCA Summer Student 2018


July 1, 2018

The Pacific Field Corn Association has hired a summer student to conduct vital pest and crop research to support Fraser Valley forage producers.

Emily is currently in her third year of the Agriculture Technology program at the University of the Fraser Valley. Growing up in a large farming community, Emily found the agriculture industry highly intriguing. In her final year of high school Emily worked on a dairy farm and really enjoyed it.

With a passion for cattle and the agriculture industry as a whole, Emily is very excited for the opportunity to work with the Pacific Forage Corn Association as a summer student. Throughout the summer Emily will be monitoring  army worm and corn root worm populations in forage fields around the Fraser valley, as well conducting a weed survey in these forage crops to monitor for crop competition.

Throughout the remaining weeks of summer Emily will be posting weekly field findings on this page.


July 31, 2018 - Corn root worm traps have been set up around the Fraser valley to monitor population numbers of both males and females.  Be sure to check corn fields for this pest.


August 7, 2018 - Over the past few months traps have been set up in a few dairy barns around the Fraser valley. These traps produce a light which attracts the flies and contains a fan to draw them into a container where they are collected. The purpose of these traps is to see the Fraser valley has a specific biting fly that can vector blue tongue disease which can affect cattle and sheep. Although the Fraser valley doesn’t have the pathogen that causes blue tongue it is an important to know if there is a chance of potential outbreak if we do get the pathogen. Taking precautionary measures for monitoring pests that can vector disease can potentially reduce the chances of out breaks.



August 31, 2018

As the forage season slowly comes to an end so do high level if pests. Corn root worm females are getting ready to start reproducing and laying eggs in the soil. These eggs will overwinter and be the start of next years populations. To prevent large populations in crops the following year, rotating crops or even switching varieties can help. Monitoring this years population was done to predict what next season would be like. All traps have been removed as some fields have began to harvest. During the monitoring season things such as weather conditions and temperature was seen to impact the numbers of specimens found. It is unclear if there is a connection at all.





Raspberry Fertilization Trial in the Fraser Valley

Which is the best soil amendment to use when replanting raspberries?  

Derek Hunt and Shabtai Bittman at AAFC Agassiz Research and Development Centre are testing a number of local products that lower the risk of nitrate leaching into aquifers. Preliminary results show that solids from dairy manure may be a cheap source of organic matter for raspberry growers with limited nitrate accumulation in soil.

raspberry 2016

July 2016

Slurry Manure Injector Developed at AAFC in Agassiz (2015)

 Two-row slurry manure injector

manure spreader

A two-row slurry manure injector was developed by technician Frederic Bounaix and fabricated with the help the AAFC Research Centre mechanic. The slurry injector is for use on research corn plots. The purpose of the injector is to test the concept developed by Derek Hunt and Shabtai Bittman at AAFC in Agassiz to use dairy slurry to replace the ‘starter’ commercial fertilizer typically used for cornThe injectors are set to corn-row space, and designed to deliver a constant rate of manure; the corn is planted as close as possible to the injection furrow a few days later by following the tire tracks. Our research has shown that dairy slurry placed close to corn roots will provide sufficient nutrients to fully replace commercial starter fertilizer. The farmer saves money and avoids overloading the soil with nutrients. Our technique has been adopted in northern Germany, confirmed by researchers in the Netherlands and undergoing evaluation in Denmark.


Farm scale precision manure injector – field position

manure injector

This 6 row injector at 30 inch row spacing applies liquid manure in narrow bands to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.  Chopper distributer ensures no plugging and even distribution.  Corn is planted a few days later over top of injection rows, with no tillage between manure injection and corn planting.


Farm scale precision manure injector – transport position

manure injector 

A fold up wing mechanism was fabricated to enable road transport of tank with mounted manure injection toolbar.


Soil phosphorus vulnerability index indicating environmental risk to surface waters (2014)

The Pacific Field Corn Association Hires Project Intern

 In a partnership between the Pacific Field Corn Association and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Jordan was hired to assist in the development of a soil phosphorus vulnerability index. The main objective of this project is to clearly define a critical concentration range of phosphorus in soil solutions that would indicate low, medium and high risk for leaching into the environment.

Jordan Tam

Jordan recently graduated from Simon Fraser University with a BSc. in Physical Geography, specializing in the fields of soil sciences and hydrology. Jordan is currently an articling agrologist (A.Ag) with the British Columbia Institute of Agrologists (BCIA) and hopes to gain full professional designation by 2017.

Jordan sampling

Aside from working in the laboratory, Jordan routinely engages in the collection of water, air and soil samples in the field. In this photo, Jordan is collecting water samples from lysimeters installed in a treated agricultural field in Agassiz, BC. The lysimeters are pumped and pressurized causing water within the surrounding soil to pass through a ceramic membrane at the bottom of the device. Water samples are analysed via an automated flow injection analysis method after preparation in the laboratory. This method determines concentrations of nitrate, ammonia and other nutrients. This process allows for insights into how different types of fertilizers affect nutrient leaching, ground water contamination and the movement of nutrients within the soil profile.

Environment Canada

Thompson Rivers University Speaker Series (2016)

As part of the TRU Applied Sustainable Ranching Program, we will be hosting a series of seminars for the students with presentations from both local and international industry specialists. These Speaker Series will follow the topics that the students are currently learning. To leverage the benefit of this program to ranchers and agriculture producers in the community and to enhance the student experience, we invite you to attend any or all of these seminars that are of interest to you.

April 1 - Strategic Marketing
April 8 - Land Resources - BC Governance, Aboriginal Rights and Title
Apirl 15 - Leadership and Succession Planning
April 22 - Communications, Conflict Resolution and Crisis Management

Location: TRU Williams Lake Campus

To view entire pdf: Speaker Series April 2016

With Designer Bacteria, Crops Could One Day Fertilize Themselves (2017)

For the last 100 years, ever since German chemists Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch figured out how to pluck fertilizer out of thin air with brute-force chemistry, farmers have relied on an imperfect product to make their plants grow: fertilizer. Production of the stuff burns through 3 percent of the world’s natural gas annually, releases tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and runs off into rivers and streams and aquifers. Relying on fossil fuels to grow food was never exactly sustainable. But as the world thinks about what it will take to feed 9 billion people in a rapidly changing climate, it’s become unconscionable.

One solution would be for everyone to start eating a lot more legumes.

Peanuts, peas, and many types of beans are climate-friendly because they basically make their own fertilizer. They play host to a special class of microbes called nitrogen fixers that invade the root hairs of their host plants, forming knobby nodes and converting free nitrogen in the soil to ammonia. That's the stuff plants need to make food for themselves via photosynthesis.

Most of the world’s biggest food crops—corn, wheat, rice—aren’t so hospitable to nitrogen-fixers. Which is why they require so much artificial fertilizer to grow.

Or, you could engineer a host of microbes that have all the nitrogen-fixing power of the peanut’s follicular friends, but with the ability to colonize the roots of any plant. Then you could paint that bacteria onto shelf-stable seeds and ship them anywhere in the world.  That’s what a new startup, boasting the largest seed investment of any ag tech company so far this year, plans to do. On Thursday, German biochem giant Bayer announced it was joining forces with Ginkgo Bioworks, a Boston-based synthetic biology shop, to create a new venture to wean the world off fertilizers.

“We fundamentally know that microbes will provide benefits to plants that chemicals cannot,” says Mike Miille, head of biologics for Bayer Crop Science, who will also be the new company’s interim CEO. “But these nitrogen-fixing microbes have been limited in what they can do by which plants' evolution has pushed them toward. We’re trying to change that.” The company (which is so far unnamed) will operate jointly out of Ginkgo’s soon-to-be-completed automated DNA foundry and Bayer Crop Science’s R&D center in West Sacramento. Bayer’s science team has already started screening its microbial library for candidate critters to ship to Boston. With hundreds of thousands of bacteria to sift through, they hope to pull together a diverse set of nitrogen-fixers for scientists at Ginkgo to begin sequencing as early as next month.

This prospecting phase could give them a good idea which genes are most important for nitrogen-fixing. (Though, without a rich set of soil microbe reference genomes, this is going to be a serious fishing expedition.) But if it works, they plan to use that genetic roadmap to design and synthesize custom DNA for new microbes they can grow and study in the lab.

Ultimately, this group is trying to design a bacteria that combines nitrogen-fixing skills with seed coat strengths—it’s got to be able to survive without water for long periods of time and then activate as soon as it gets wet. It also has to like growing in a petri dish (most wild nitrogen-fixers don't). Oh, and it’s got to stand up to industrial production and formulation processes, too.

Complete Article: Click here