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Soil Health in a Changing Climate: A New Research Project

11:30 am Tuesday, January 16

MNP Theatre

Photo of Steve Crittenden


Which farming system will be more resistant to changing growing conditions? Climate change is expected to bring more frequent summer drought to the Canadian Prairies so crop growing conditions will be increasingly stressed and risk of yield losses and failure could increase. Crops need water to grow and the supply of nutrients is reduced under drought conditions, thus growth and yield are lessened. Heavy rainfall washes away nutrients, seals soil, and damages crops. Reduced soil tillage intensity systems (e.g., no-till) lessen soil disturbance, which promote soil structure that shifts water and nutrient fluxes. Crop irrigation relieves water stress and promotes plant growth increasing soil organic matter input to soil. Reduced tillage systems and irrigation may on one hand promote healthy functioning soils that result in higher crop yields but on the other hand disease pressures and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions may increase. A balance must therefore be struck between practices beneficial for water and nutrient fluxes and risks involved with greater potential for Fusarium head blight (FHB) and GHG emissions. The proposed project will evaluate the impact of soil tillage intensity and irrigation on soil health, GHG emissions, soil and microbial biodiversity, and incidence and severity of FHB under drought and heavy rainfall conditions.