Project: Low-input Agriculture in Cool Climate Boreal Ecosystems
Funding for this project was provided by the Agricultural Clean Technology Program which brings together support from NL’s Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, and the Federal government.
Attaining food security in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) is a real and complex challenge. Long and severe winter conditions, short and cool growing seasons, and acidic and shallow soils are some of the main reasons behind this complexity. These factors may restrict growth, development, and overall yield of crops, leaving the province in a precarious situation of reliance for both food and inputs for local food production. Because of this, agricultural expansion is a priority for the government of NL, and this has been highlighted as a component in the provincial action plan for economic development and sustainability. The provincial government is aiming to reach a 20% local food production from the current 10% by 2022, which requires integration of resources and management practices to enhance soil quality and health. Increasing soil quality and subsequent fertility, along with the government’s renewed efforts in food production will be essential in reaching food self-sufficiency targets with minimum environmental impacts. However, this strong commitment to increase local food production to 20% by 2022, will require changes to management practices and potentially higher inputs to increase yields, which may lead to greater greenhouse gas emission (GHGE) from the agriculture sector.
There is a need to explore sustainable and innovative strategies to enhance soil physiochemical and biological properties, and soil organic carbon (SOC) to enhance food production in NL while taking advantage of available natural resources. Regional value chains in other sectors such as forestry and aquaculture are generating considerable amounts of by-products that hold potential as soil amendments which may be utilized to improve soil quality. This offers an opportunity to enhance linkages between agriculture and other resource sectors, while significantly reducing waste in landfills and GHG emissions both within and in complementary sectors, all awhile potentially increasing crop productivity.
Within this context, Memorial University, Grenfell Campus in collaboration with Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, and NL’s Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, with financial support from the Federal - Provincial cost shared Agricultural Clean Technologies Program (ACT), Mitacs, and NL’s Department of Industry, Energy and Technology, has been carrying out a research project to explore the potential of utilizing various by-products from the forestry and aquaculture sectors in the agriculture sector and using nitrogen (N) fertilizer stabilizers (urease and nitrification inhibitors) under cool climate conditions. The project aims to aid in the adoption of beneficial management practices to intensify production while improving land, water and nutrient. Specifically, the following objectives have guided the research:
- Determine the effects of different crop management systems on soil health, livestock feed yield and quality, and reduction of nitrogen losses (GHG emissions, ammonia volatilization and N leaching) in agricultural production.
- Investigate the effects of novel natural resource by-product soil amendments on soil health, crop yield and quality, and reducing intensity of GHG emissions in agricultural, forestry, and other resource-based industries.
To achieve these objectives, the project executes an ambitious agenda of applied research, demonstration, commercialization, and adoption activities in western Newfoundland. These activities correspond to the objectives outlined above, and span across the innovation continuum.
The outcomes of these activities will contribute toward a robust, more sustainable agricultural sector with improved food self-sufficiency in NL. Additionally, the research findings will offer valuable knowledge to policy makers, researchers and industry stakeholders in other cool climate, and boreal regions across Canada and worldwide.
Dr. Mumtaz Cheema (Boreal Ecosystem Research Initiative, School of Science and the Environment, Grenfell Campus)
Dr. Lakshman Galagedara (Environmental Science/Boreal Ecosystem Research Initiative, School of Science and the Environment, Grenfell Campus)
Dr. Raymond Thomas (Boreal Ecosystem Research Initiative, School of Science and the Environment, Grenfell Campus)
Dr. Adrian Unc (Boreal Ecosystem Research Initiative, School of Science and the Environment, Grenfell Campus)
Dr. Mano Krishnapillai (Environmental Science/Boreal Ecosystem Research Initiative, School of Science and the Environment, Grenfell Campus)