MFGA Releases Carbon Position for Manitoba Agricultural Lands
Made-in-Manitoba solution trumpeted; Manitoba needs a clearer focus on soil health for carbon capture
Winnipeg, Mb (March 7, 2017) - Manitoba's forages, grasslands and cover crops and the healthy soils they grow in are the ace in the hole for any Made-in-Manitoba carbon plan according to Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association (MFGA). And wanting to get that strong message out there is the exact reason the MFGA fast-tracked the organization's carbon position and a suite of seven key recommendations out to leaders and decision-makers this week.
"As an agricultural producer-based group focused on natural solutions, the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association (MFGA) recognizes that Manitoba's forages and grasslands provide a highly practical and strong economic opportunity to absorb and store carbon," says Dave Koslowsky, MFGA chair. "MFGA advocates for the role of forages, grasslands and cover crops and the soils these plants grow in for reducing greenhouse gas accumulation while increasing the resilience of the landscape to climate extremes and improving the profitability of Manitoba farmers and ranchers."
MFGA's timing bodes well given last week's call by Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox for input into a Manitoba Climate and Green Plan for Manitobans to have their say on the carbon pricing plan being imposed by the federal government. MFGA's position and seven key recommendations were distributed to key government, agricultural and conservation leaders. The key takeaway point of the MFGA position, says Koslowsky, is the MFGA's advocacy for the plants above the soil and the microbial activity below, looping forages, grasslands, cover crops and annual crops as positives on the carbon front.
Much has been said by many groups about the importance grasslands and connecting to the obvious grassland benefits. In fact, it is a cluttered theatre with numerous groups hailing their own grassland play. However, not as much attention about the role croplands can play in carbon health has hit the airwaves. Advocating for the soil health portfolio within the carbon dialogues, says Ryan Boyd, MFGA Finance Chair and one of the province's leading experts on well-managed grasslands, cover crops and soil health, is exactly where the MFGA producers and organization's position can make a difference.
"Livestock are an essential component of a well-functioning, carbon sequestering grassland ecosystem. Grazing animals can stimulate the plants, which in turn stimulates the soil microbial population, thereby leading to more rapid carbon accumulation in the soil," says Boyd. "These soil microbial populations can also be established on annual crop land with the addition of cover crops, though the rate of carbon accumulation is slower. MFGA believes croplands need to be managed more sustainably with cover crops and perennial stages in crop rotations."
According to Boyd, as carbon is added to the soil, soil structure improves, greatly enhancing water infiltration and water holding capacity of the landscape. Over time, carbon changes in the soil can be monitored using standard soil tests measuring soil organic matter. The MFGA position also includes a suite of seven recommendations including the presence of MFGA at key discussion tables and the inclusion of the MFGA Aquanty Project - a HydroGeoSphere model being completed in the Assiniboine River Basin to determine the role of forages and grasslands in times of flood or drought and the potential the project has on soil measurements.
FULL MFGA CARBON POSITION:
MFGA CARBON PLAN RECOMMENDATIONS:
The Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association (MFGA) recommends that the following needs should be addressed with regards to understanding and promoting carbon sequestration in grasslands, forages, cover crops and annual crops and the soils they grow in:
* As a producer-led group, MFGA should be involved in all policy and partnership discussions around carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services provided by well-managed forage and grasslands, cover crops and annual crop production.
* Soil carbon benchmarking and monitoring should be done across the Manitoba agricultural lands and the potential benefits of increased soil carbon on a landscape scale should be modelled.
* Research and testing for Manitoba producers needs to be conducted within Manitoba to quantify the amount of carbon sequestered across a variety of landscapes using forage and grasslands as well as cover crops and perennial stages in crop rotation.
* Reward or compensation should be provided for producers who are able to retain or restore forages and grasslands and/or manage their soils to store and sequester carbon via incentive programs such as Alternative Land Use Services. This also applies to any other ecosystem services (water retention, flood prevention, biodiversity, etc.) that forages, grasslands and soils provide to society from Manitoba's agricultural lands.
* The MFGA Aquanty Project Model for the Assiniboine River Basin should be used to run simulations for demonstrating the role that organic carbon stored under forages and grasslands plays in flood and drought mitigation. The MFGA Aquanty Project is on schedule for completion March 2018. (Link)
* Rotational grazing, cover crops and zero-till farming practices for soil health should continue to be supported and promoted by government and industry.
* An emphasis needs to be placed, in policy and public communications, on the positive linkages of livestock production, well-managed grasslands and sustainably-managed crop lands to soil health, carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services.
For More Information:
Duncan Morrison, MFGA Executive Director
interacts with tens of thousands of Manitobans through our communications,
collaborative projects, and outreach that promote the importance and well-being of Manitoba`s forages
and grasslands. On a national scale, MFGA proudly partners with like-minded groups across Canada.