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Agri-Environmental Risk Assessment

As a condition to access program funding, applicants are required to review the applicable sections of this Agri-Environmental Risk Assessment before beginning their project.

Identifying and addressing agri-environmental risks and opportunities on your operation through an Agri-Environmental Risk Assessment improves farm/business health and safety, adds value to property, provides a healthy landscape for next generations, maintains market access, reduces costs and improves competitiveness.

An Agri-Environmental Risk Assessment evaluates practices in soil and nutrient management; crop and pest management; water, biodiversity and land use; handling and storage of farm inputs; waste, by-products, pollution and energy efficiency and livestock and feed management.

Soil and Nutrient Management

Adoption of sound soil management techniques ensures crops can take full advantage of available moisture and nutrients. Soil health, including organic matter, can be improved and maintained by using reduced or minimum till, eliminating the use of summer or chem-fallow, properly applying manure, preventing water and wind erosion, minimizing soil compaction, using soil-building crop rotations and practising the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Principles.

Soil and nutrient management plans are an important part of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Principles of the right source of nutrients applied at the right rate, right time and right place. A good plan considers target yields, crop type and field history, soil type, problem areas, organic matter, soil test results and any potential residual nutrient carryover. Regular soil testing is critical to ensure no excess nitrogen is applied; using enhanced efficiency fertilizers reduces nitrogen losses through volatilization or denitrification. Remember to never broadcast nutrients such as synthetic fertilizers and/or manure when the ground is frozen or snow-covered.

Crop and Pest Management

For crops to reach their yield potential, an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy is essential. IPM considers the use of pest-resistant crop varieties, biosecurity practices, diverse crop rotations, practices favouring beneficial organisms, practices discouraging pest resistance and herbicide residual issues, recommended seeding and fertilizer rates and proper identification of pests in the field. Invasive species management is also important.

Pesticides used according to label recommendations provide safe and effective pest control with a minimal negative effect on the environment. It is important to choose appropriate products, follow label directions and consider current recommendations and market needs while respecting economic thresholds, crop stages and timing of application. Always record information related to pesticide and fertilizer use, including application rates, land locations and weather conditions.

Water, Biodiversity and Land Use

Sound management practices are important to help protect vital water resources on the farm. These practices include frequently testing your water, providing off-site watering for livestock, protecting riparian and wetland areas, storing and handling possible contaminants in a thoughtful manner, and conserving irrigation water.

Leaving all natural native trees, forest and grasslands intact and/or properly managing them enhances biodiversity potential, protects water quality, offsets greenhouse gas emissions and helps gain access to certain markets. Leaving buffer zones adjacent to riparian areas minimizes impacts while maintaining shelterbelts provides shelter for important pollinator species and improves soil moisture retention. It is essential appropriate approvals and licences are held when working next to or in protected aquatic areas and when planning any type of drainage.

Handling and Storage of Farm Inputs

Farm inputs are important for food production; however, they can also impact health and the environment in cases of leaks, spills or improper use. Always store and handle pesticides, fertilizers and petroleum products according to regulations. Ensure any mixing and/or loading does not take place near a drinking water source or water body. Clear emergency procedures and instructions should be communicated so everyone on the farm is aware of the risks and knows what to do in case of a leak or spill. Farm health and safety should always be top of mind and personal protective equipment available and used as intended.

Waste, Byproducts, Pollution and Energy Efficiency

Proper waste disposal is important to ensure that health risks and impacts to soil and water quality are minimized. Farm wastes that require special care include pesticide packaging, scrap tires, used oil, plastic waste, and expired animal health products. It is also important that livestock carcasses are disposed of in a safe manner to prevent disease spread or environmental contamination. Processing wastes may require pre-treatment or special disposal methods, yet minimizing waste or finding productive uses for by-products may be the optimal solution.

Agriculture and value-added processing can be energy-intensive industries; however, measures can be taken to improve energy efficiency and save costs. These include using energy-efficient lighting whenever possible, monitoring heating and ventilation systems for inefficiencies, shutting off engines, motors and electrical equipment when not in use, considering alternatives for energy heavy operations and looking at utility bills to see where energy use can be reduced.

Livestock and Feed Management

Good livestock management ensures that any environmental impacts, such as from manure storage and silage storage, are minimized. Ensure wintering sites have natural drainage, have evenly distributed surface groundcover and are rotated annually. It is important to limit livestock access to water bodies and follow proper grazing management techniques to maintain healthy ecosystems that support diverse plant and animal communities and protect sensitive species. If managing an intensive livestock operation, ensure all regulations are being followed.

Completing biodiversity evaluations such as riparian or rangeland health assessments can help prevent invasive weeds while ensuring a healthy balance of grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees. Designing proper feed ration plans can also ensure adequate supply is available during times of drought.

More information on these topics can be found by calling the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377 or by contacting your local Saskatchewan Agriculture regional office.

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