HOW BENEFICIAL MANAGEMENT PRACTICES ARE HELPING BOTH OUR SOIL AND OUR ENVIRONMENT.
Islanders know that as often as they see plants growing in our fields, there's also large numbers of fields which are home to livestock happily grazing.
Soil First Farming recognizes that positive livestock integration - what livestock is doing on the soil -- is very important to what is happening IN the soil.
Grazing is known to increase soil carbon and nitrogen in the soil. As an animal grazes, it sends a signal to the plant to pump out sugars through its roots into the surrounding soil. These root sugars (developed by the plant through photosynthesis) are food sources for the microorganisms in the soil. The action of grazing jump-starts the microbial activity and increases nutrient cycling, making nutrients available to plants.
By PEI farmers managing their livestock to graze where and when they want based on close monitoring and beneficial management practices, they are returning valuable nutrients and organic matter back the soil.
Trampling is another way to feed our Island soil biology as animal trampling can accelerate the physical breakdown of plant materials.
Trampling by heavy animals such as cattle and horses help to plant seeds, plus adds organic matter, crop residue, and soil-building microbes to the soil. This results in a mulching of the soil surface that helps it capture more rainfall so seeds can germinate and thrive.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MANURE
While soil organic matter is a mixture of soil minerals, nutrients, microbial communities, insects and plant and animal debris, much of the carbon-based organic matter is also made up of living organisms; aka nutrient matter that comes from manure.
Manure is recognized as an excellent source of the plant nutrients nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Manure also returns organic matter and other nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and sulfur to the soil, building soil fertility and quality.
Additionally, grazing ensures that organic manure is evenly spread across the landscape, as natural manure application can positively impact infiltration rates, soil aggregation, water holding capacity, and crop yields.
Soil First Farming also considers how to safely store on-farm manure; be it solid, semi-solid or liquid. This includes:
- Safety Fences/Walls at required heights to protect liquid storages
- Concrete Liquid Manure Storage Covers
- Locking Devices for Covers
- Defined minimum separation distances for the location of the storage in relation to neighbours, streams, wells and groundwater
- Beneficial management practices for odour control
GREENHOUSE GAS MITIGATION
It's vitally important for PEI farmers to include beneficial management practices in their cropping plans to capture atmospheric carbon (CO2) into the soil.
This capturing of atmospheric C02 is not only central to the Island's CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION STRATEGY, but contributes to soil health. All the beneficial management practices in this strategy have components tied to greenhouse gas mitigation and healthier soil as atmospheric carbon and soil carbon are intrinsically linked.
EXAMPLES OF CURRENT PEI CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION PROGRAMS
LIQUID MANURE STORAGE COVERS
PEI Department of Agriculture and Land offers funding to construct storage covers for liquid manure. These covers help prevent volatilization (off-gassing) of greenhouse gases, such as Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), and Carbon Dioxide (CO2). These covers also help preserve the amendments, giving farmers more ability to choose the right time to spread.
IMPROVED GRAZING MANAGEMENT PRACTICES
Improved Grazing Management Practices are designed to aid cattle operations in improving their grazing strategy through the purchasing of fencing or inputs (seed, fertilizer, etc.). Improving fencing allows grazing to be done more efficiently, ensuring the animals are rotated in areas of pasture that can benefit the most. By re-invigorating the pasture, ruminates are able to eat younger, healthier grasses, which can also cut down on methane production.
DEMONSTRATION OF FEED ADDITIVES IN RUMINANT LIVESTOCK DIETS
There are many types of feed additives, and recently some have been developed to reduce methane production in the gut of ruminants. These products attempt to alter the microbiota of the rumen (cow gut) by introducing bioactive plant based extracts, including metabolites from garlic and seaweed.