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Progress Report on Reducing Fertility Costs for Cereals

Trial Site: Fairview Research Farm

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2017 Annual Report

Proper nutrition is essential for crop growth and production. Nitrogen is the most common limiting nutrient for crop production systems. In Alberta, the recent direct input expense reports showed that fertilizer costs constitute up to 25% of the total variable costs in cereal production, and up to about 30% for canola. Fertilizer alone had the highest of any single input cost. High fertilizer costs and the price volatility of cattle and grains are causing producers to look for alternate ways to manage farming systems that will improve soil health without sacrificing yields. Options to cut production costs could possibly include use of cocktail cover crops (CCC) in cropping systems, and the use of foliar fertilizer to nurture the soil food web, stimulate the activity of soil micro-organisms and improve nutrient cycling. CCC mixtures can cut fertilizer costs by contributing N to the next crop, and by scavenging and mining soil nutrients. Inorganic fertilizer use contributes to a rise in atmospheric nitrous oxide (N2O), a major greenhouse gas contributing to global climate change.

This year, PCBFA started a short-term rotation project that will examine the agronomic and economic benefits of including cocktail mixtures, legumes (hairy vetch, peas and crimson clover) and tillage radish in rotation with a cereal crop (barley or oats) for grain and silage production. The goal is to test the effectiveness of cereal-leg