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
Sustainable Agriculture On-Farm
Conservation Council of NB
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.
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
- mechanical cultivation combined with underseeding cover crops in corn to eliminate
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.