Clearwater County

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County Services Agriculture & Community Services

Agriculture & Community Services

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The Agricultural Services Department is governed by the Agricultural Service Board (ASB) on the basis of Council approved programs and budgets. The ASB operates within guidelines provided by the provincial Agricultural Service Board Act.

Community Building, Relationship, Enhancement
 
Agriculture and Community Services administers programs that strengthens relationships in the rural areas as well as relationships with urban communities. This includes promoting the bi-annual Farm Family Award and the annual Rural Beautification Awards.

Current Issues

 

Vitamin E Supplies

 
Producers are having a hard time sourcing Vitamin E both in the mineral and inject-able form. The sudden decrease in supply is due to the loss of the vitamin plant to fire in Germany in October 2017. See link for further information. The latest update suggests that the plant should be re-opening in April 2018 and supplies return to normal be September 2018. In the mean time balancing rations for Vitamin E has been challenging. Producers who have been using mineral all along and who's cows are in good shape should not be significantly impacted. 

 

Soil Health

 
Farmers are becoming more and more aware of the importance of improving their soil. The Western Canada Conference on Soil Health and Grazing held in Edmonton, Alberta, the first part of December 2017 was very well attended, and many local producers took in the three day event.

Crop diversity, cover crops and rotational grazing are all ways to start building soil health. The grey wooded soils of Clearwater County are notoriously renowned for low organic matter and building this precious resource has become of key concern to many in the area. When we build quality organic matter in the soil, microbes and earthworms will return to the soil. With the return of soil microbiology, natural soil fertility returns.

There is much research being carried out globally to support the idea that fertility and mycorrhizae (naturally occurring soil fungus) go hand in hand. Mycorrhizal fungi link the plant to the soil by acting as agents of nutrient exchange. The fungi receive carbohydrates from the host plant root and the fungi passes nutrients from the soil to the plant roots. This process also enhances and builds soil aggregation, key to a healthy soil structure. As these fungi are attracted to high quality organic matter the use of cover crops to improve organic matter is making a huge comeback.

The ultimate goal in utilizing cover crops is to have plants growing in the soil throughout the growing season. Tillage Radish in Clearwater CountyCover cropping can be full season, part season or short season growth, depending on goals. A cover crop can be simple or a complex blend of diverse species. With more diversity comes more stability. For producers looking at cover crops for the first time, simplicity usually takes some of the stress and intimidation out of getting started. As a producer gains experience cover cropping, new goals can be added.
 
Cover crops have traditionally been used to help hold the soil when transitioning between different types of cash crops and are often plowed under before planting the next crop — to add organic material and fertility to the soil. Farmers with livestock often select cover crops that can be grazed, adding an additional benefit as feed and the advantage of animal manure.

Interest in grazing cover crops such as tillage radish, turnips, winter wheat, fall rye or forage peas is increasing in the area and producers are starting to experiment with seeding these species either as a companion to or after an early silage or greenfield field has been harvested. This type of system will enhance soil health and provide a lot of fall/winter grazing for livestock.
Clearwater County has been researching the use of tillage radish and has learned much about successfully growing it (see research tab). Now staff plan to run trial plots featuring distinct varieties of cover crops and cover crop cocktails. Stay tuned.