“Healthy soils are vital for growing food on B.C. farmland, and our government is committed to supporting producers move toward regenerative agriculture practices that will improve soil health,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture and Food. “Regenerative agriculture is a strong defence against the effects of climate change and implementing these practices will help ensure we have a resilient ecosystem, while strengthening local food security.”
The $150,000 project will provide educational support and offer funding for specific programs that promote the sustainable use of agricultural land in Metro Vancouver, including:
- grassland set-aside program promoting the incorporation of perennials in annual crop rotations to improve soil health;
- winter cover crop program in which participants plant cover crops after the summer harvest to improve soil fertility and protect soils from erosion over the wet, winter months;
- blueberry rest program, which will offer financial assistance to blueberry growers who remove blueberry fields that have become unproductive due to scorch virus and plant soil-regenerating cover crops; and
- climate-focused soil health educational materials featuring annual field tours, printed resources and online content.
The project will contribute to healthier soils, increased food production and stronger local food security over the long term.
Aman Singh, MLA for Richmond-Queensborough –
“The rich soil of farmland surrounding the Fraser River estuary is what made a lot of farmers choose Richmond or Delta as their home. By working with local organization like the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust to implement regenerative agriculture practices, we can maintain this area’s legacy of food production and its bird and wildlife habitats for generations to come.”
Ravi Kahlon, MLA for Delta North –
“Through climate-focused initiatives like regenerative agriculture, we are strengthening the legacy of complex ecosystems like the Fraser River estuary. The importance of soil health is front of mind as we work towards creating a strong and secure future for Richmond/Delta farmers and wildlife alike.”
Christine Schmalz, executive director, Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust –
“We are pleased to partner with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to support farmers in implementing regenerative practices. The funding will result in hundreds of acres of winter cover crops within the Fraser River estuary.”
Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust: https://deltafarmland.ca/
Blueberry Scorch Virus: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/agriculture-and-seafood/animal-and-crops/plant-health/phu-blueberryscorchvirusss.pdf
Minister’s Advisory Group on Regenerative Agriculture and Agritech: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022AF0043-000949
Two backgrounders follow.
Facts about Fraser River estuary funding
- The Fraser River estuary is one of Canada’s most important areas for birds, with millions of birds migrating there annually.
- Many species of birds are dependent on farmland for resting and food and these projects support wildlife habitat and healthy soils for food production.
- Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust is a non-profit organization that promotes the preservation of farmland and wildlife habitat in the Fraser River estuary.
- Since its establishment in 1993, more than 89,000 acres of winter cover crops, 14,600 acres of grassland set asides and 10 kilometres of hedgerows have been planted and maintained.
- Blueberry scorch virus was first detected in B.C in 2000 and is spread by aphids or infected plants, causing severe blossom and leaf blighting and reducing productivity. Infected plants do not recover.
- In June 2022, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food launched an Advisory Group on Regenerative Agriculture and Agritech.
- Through the ongoing work of the advisory group, opportunities to support regenerative agriculture projects like this are highlighted.
Regenerative agriculture programs supporting soil health
The Fraser River estuary is home to a biodiverse environment that is important for farming, wildlife and our food economy. The partnership project with Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust will help growers produce food and nurture farmland, while improving soil health for food production and adding to food security in the province.
The planting and incorporation of cover crops and “set-asides” into crop rotations increases the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices that can improve soil health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change.
Grassland set-aside program:
Grassland set-asides can improve soil health by relieving compaction, increasing carbon sequestration and enhancing soil structure. Grassland plantings remain in place for up to four years, with participating growers receiving annual cost-share payments. These payments assist with offsetting a portion of the costs for field preparation, seeding, management and leasing the land.
Winter cover crop program:
Winter cover crops are planted in late summer/early fall and establish dense vegetative covers that protect soils from erosion, improve soil fertility and reduce nutrient leaching. Growers participating in the program are eligible for a cost-sharing payment to assist with the costs of planting and managing a cover crop.
Blueberry rest program:
Blueberry scorch virus requires the removal of infected plants providing an opportunity to incorporate cover crops until replanted with new, virus-free blueberry plants. Benefits of the Blueberry rest program include rebuilding soil health by relieving compaction, increasing drainage, improving soil structure, and sequestering carbon. Growers participating in the program are eligible for an annual cost-share payment.