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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 www.farmwest.com .