By Harsha Marambe, PhD, PAg, CFS, Senior Research Specialist, Agriculture Research Branch, Regina
One of the Government of Saskatchewan’s goals for 2030 is to deliver on Prairie Resilience, the provincial climate change strategy. In 2022, the governments of Canada and Saskatchewan invested $3.2 million on a five-year research project to investigate carbon sequestration in perennial forage and pastures in Saskatchewan. Funded through the Strategic Research Initiative program, this project will be co-led by Dr. Angela Bedard-Haughn of the University of Saskatchewan and Dr. Cameron Carlyle of the University of Alberta.
We asked Dr. Bedard-Haughn and Dr. Carlyle about the project and the benefits to the industry.
What do you plan to do in this project?
The project is focused on two major areas. First, soil carbon will be mapped in Saskatchewan forage lands, including native grass lands, tame pasture and hay lands. Secondly, best management practices that help to sequester more carbon into the soil at a regional level will be identified.
What are the expected outcomes from this project and how will they benefit our agriculture sector?
The project will generate robust baseline soil carbon maps and will show how different management practices align with soil carbon levels. These maps will be developed with the support of remote sensing tools, predictive soil mapping techniques and soil spectral libraries. The maps will be accessible through the online Saskatchewan Soil Information System (SKSIS) platform and will support ongoing monitoring of carbon changes across our landscapes. The data will also be used to update and improve the HOLOS model, a software program that feeds into the National Inventory for greenhouse gas.
These outcomes will help the livestock sector better understand their land’s capacity to store carbon, where there’s room for improvement, what management practices to adopt to maximize soil carbon levels and how to improve soil health, soil microbial composition and forage quality.
Quantifying the carbon value of the forage and grassland landscapes will contribute to the conservation of these lands. The tools and knowledge generated in this project will support broad range of carbon mapping initiatives, which can be applied across other landscapes.
How will this project help Saskatchewan to mitigate the effects of climate change?
The project will identify management practices that increase carbon sequestration—thereby offsetting livestock emissions while enhancing soil health and ecosystem services. In addition, improved carbon sequestration will enhance soil water and nutrient retention and will mitigate flooding by improving water infiltration into soil. This will make livestock operations more resilient to challenging climate events such as drought and floods.
The project findings will help policy makers make decisions around made-in-Saskatchewan climate solutions. The co-leads have already started conversations with producer groups and will continue the engagements with producers and policy makers throughout the project. They will conduct producer surveys and collect samples from around 400 different sites covering a large area in the province.
The knowledge created from this project will be transferred to producers and policy makers through annual meetings, producer group meetings, field days, newsletters and social media posts.