Encourager l'agriculture durable directement sur la ferme

Des milliers d'acres de champs agricoles dénudés sont visibles à chaque hiver du haut en bas de la vallée du Fleuve St-Jean. Il s'agit d'un "témoignage triste de la non durabilité des pratiques agricoles conventionnelles; ces sols sont exposés aux ravages de l'érosion et à la perte des nutriments."

David Coon décrit le projet du Conseil de conservation, "Farmers Working with Farmers for Sustainable Agriculture".

On y vérifie la valeur de couvrir leur champ de patates; d'autres expériences
sont effectuées par les fermiers sur leurs fermes dans le cadre de ce projet.

Fostering Sustainable Agriculture On-Farm

 

    David Coon,
    Conservation Council of NB
    1998

 

m.gif (555 bytes)ore than two hundred acres of potato ground will pass this winter under cover to protect it from soil erosion. The thousands of acres of fields that lie bare every winter up and down the upper St. John River valley stand in stark testament to the unsustainability of conventional farming practices, exposed as they are to the ravages of soil erosion and nutrient loss. As part of the Conservation Council's project, "Farmers Working with Farmers for Sustainable Agriculture", four farmers in our on-farm research group are testing the value of covering their potato ground.

farmers_farmers.gif (24691 bytes)
(photo: CCNB)


Much of the cover is provided by a fall planting of fall rye following potato harvesting. The root system of this living mulch will help keep the topsoil in place and take up nutrients that otherwise might leach away. In the spring, the rye will be turned into the ground to add organic matter. Control strips have been left to help evaluate the effectiveness of this cover crop. There is even mention in the sustainable agriculture literature that fall rye can reduce the incidence of potato beetle infestations in the following year's crop, but this will not be examined in these trials.

As rye will not germinate much past October 1st, Conrad Toner, one of the participating farmers, is also experimenting with hay mulch on about 40 acres of potato ground that was dug after this date. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development purchased a piece of equipment called a bale buster this year with funds provided by Canada's Green Plan. It had experimented with hay mulch in small experimental plots and was interested in demonstrating how this approach could work on a field scale. Conrad was able to borrow the bale buster to carry out his own experiments.

Other on-farm research experiments carried out by farmers participating in CCNB's sustainable agriculture project included the following:

- composting strawpack manure to increase its value as a soil amendment

- the seeding of competitive forage species into permanent hay ground to eliminate herbicide use

- mechanical cultivation combined with underseeding cover crops in corn to eliminate herbicide use

tractor.jpg (21479 bytes)
(photo:NBEN-RENB)

Charlie McIntosh, an agronomist and farmer from Bath, joined the project last spring to provide technical assistance and advice. He will be working with the farmers to help evaluate the results of their on-farm research trials. A preliminary report on the on-farm research trials will be available from the Conservation Council in December.

In collaboration with Ecological Agriculture Projects at McGill's Macdonald College, extension education materials are in production dealing with ecological approaches to livestock health, mechanical weed control for grains and oilseeds, and cover crops in potato production. These will all be available next spring, and promoted to farm people through a national advertising campaign in the farm trade papers.

Funding for the Conservation Council's sustainable agriculture project has been provided by the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.