Agronomy Update – May 18th

Hi everyone,

Amazing how quickly the grain and grass perks up after even a small spring rain.  Lots of fields are “greening up” on my drives to and from work this week, and most growers I’ve been talking to are well into planting potatoes.  I hope that everyone is staying safe and having success with planting.

A few things to pass along today:

New On-Farm Climate Action Fund – open for applications

Many of you will have seen that the PEI Federation of Agriculture sent out details on Monday on the new On Farm Climate Action Fund (OFCAF) program that they are administering.  There is a very significant amount of money available for PEI producers to make on-farm changes to production practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

I have attached the guidelines document as well as the application form.  Information on how to submit applications is included.  Note:  applications do not come to me, they go to the PEIFA.  There is not a deadline for applications, and applications will be assessed on merit by a committee, not by being submitted first.  That being said, there is not an unlimited amount of money available, so consider applying sooner rather than later.

There are 3 main project areas that you can apply for funding:  Cover Crops, Nitrogen Management and Rotational Grazing.

Under Cover Crops, producers can get $75/acre for the cost of cover crop planting up to a total of $20,000.  Eligible expenses would be:

  • Seeding/broadcasting a winter cover after harvest of potatoes or another annual crop
  • Interseeding/broadcasting a cover during the growing season for crops like corn & soybeans
  • Seeding/broadcasting a winter cover following late summer/early fall termination of forage crops (ie. ahead of potatoes)

In this program, underseeding cereals or seeding cover crops that will be harvested (ie. winter wheat) are not covered.  Full details in the guide.

Under Improving Nitrogen Management, there is a lot of flexibility for getting funding for practices aimed at reducing emissions, including use of enhanced efficiency fertilizers, split application of fertilizers, purchase of equipment to improve placement of fertilizer/manure, increasing legumes in rotations, and improved management of manure/compost.  Program will pay 75% of eligible project costs up to a maximum of $45,000.  Exceptions are that they will pay 85% of planning/assessment costs (ie. nutrient management plan), 60% of price difference between regular N products and enhanced efficiency products, and 50% of the project of equipment/upgrades.  Again, see the guide for more details.

Finally, under Rotational Grazing, there is a program to pay 75% of eligible cost up to a maximum of $30,000 to pay for grazing infrastructure (fencing, watering systems, etc), pasture refurbishment, and planning/assessment services.  This may not effect a majority of potato growers, but it may be applicable to someone that you rent/trade land with.

There will be a webinar tomorrow at 1 pm to share more details on the OFCAF program.



Erosion Control

Every spring, I get out into a lot of fields as part of soil sampling for our different trials.  Again this year, I see a lot of fields where there has been significant challenges with erosion.  Sometimes it is relatively minor rill erosion in one corner of the field, while other times it is much more severe, with gullies right down to the subsoil.  Any program to improve soil health, organic matter and fertility is instantly defeated by soil erosion.

I believe that every farm received a copy of the newly updated Soil Conservation for Potato Production manual last year.  If you didn’t, there should be some hard copies available from the PEIDAL.  It is also available as a PDF here.  This is a very valuable resource that all growers should take the time to review.  Kudos to the PEI Agri-Watershed Partnership and the PEIDAL for making this happen, especially Gwen Vessey.

There are a large number of pro-active growers who have fields that have previously installed soil conservation structures (berms, grassed waterways, etc) a number of years ago that are now in need of maintenance.  Take a look at your fields this spring and summer and see if you have any fields that might be in need of maintenance to ensure that you’re keeping soil from moving.  In many cases, it might not require a lot of work to spruce up those erosion control structures and grassed waterways.

Another way to reduce erosion is to improve the water infiltration rate of your fields.  If your soils can absorb and drain water more quickly, that reduces the amount of water that run across the surface.  For many fields, the big culprit here is soil compaction.  There are a number of good resources linked on the Agronomy website on the topic of soil compaction, including some resources on subsoiling and preventing soil compaction.  We are doing additional trials on compaction detection and mitigation through AIM that we will more results to share with you after this growing season.

That’s enough for today.  All the best during planting!