University of Saskatchewan

Organic Research and Extension Website


Semi-arid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre 1st Organic Field Day

SPARC collage

Photos by Brenda Frick. Collage by Jessica Valois.

Mike Schellenberg showed us a variety of C4 grasses. He found that mixtures outyielded monocultures in the early years, and that introduced and native species performed equally well.

Russ Muri showed alfalfa varieties. He found that alfalfa dries the soil out; in 2 years the roots can go to 12 ft. Nitrogen was not very available in the first year after termination, and termination was often difficult: "Alfalfa has such a will to live".

Yantai Gan showed a variety of legumes: yellow pea, green pea, lentil, lupin, dry bean and chickpea. These were to be recropped with durum wheat. The study compares water use, nitrogen fixation and soil microbial community.

Brian McConkey showed different levels of tillage and termination dates for green manure. Brian says "water trumps nitrogen out here", so early termination is often best.

Myriam Fernandez showed us a wheat variety trial on 5 acres set aside for organic studies. She noted that selections were different for organic and conventional trials.

Brian McConkey showed a long term watershed study. He found that there was more runoff in no-till plots, reflecting their greater snow trap. Greater levels of nitrogen were found in the runoff after green manure. Herbicides, especially fall applied herbicides were found in the runoff.

Chantal Hamel led us through a study hoping to create a zero input permanent pasture. She is using alfalfa and purple prairie clover for nitrogen fixation, and blue gramma, wheatgrass, needle grass and bromegrass. She has found so far that brome/alfalfa is most productive.

Myriam Fernandez announced that SPARC would have an organic agronomic trial in 2010 and invited participation of farmers in an advisory board. Martin Meinert, a local organic farmer is the contact person.

Bob Zentner discussed economic results of the Alternate Cropping Study at Scott. Organic systems were 23-50% less productive, but were more profitable and less risky than reduced input (mostly reduced tillage) and high input systems. In wet years, diversified annual crops performed well, in dry years a simplified annual system was best.

Myriam Fernandez discussed Fusarium infections on the Scott ACS study. Pathogens were associated with the high and reduced systems, while saprophytes were associated with organic systems. Organic plots had fewer crown or root rots and less Fusarium head blight.

Chantal Hamel talked about the root as an ecosystem, and its association with mycorrhizal fungi.

Mike Schellenberg asked if the native plant industry had progressed to a viable industry. He sees opportunities in native legumes.