Reaping What They Show with Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is the growing of “break crops” in the same field in sequential seasons. This practice yields a variety of benefits, from preventing the build up of pathogens and pests to improving soil structure and fertility.

With organic production on the rise and farmers facing increased fertilizer costs, the Delta Farmer’s Institute became interested in using rotation crops such as oat, barley and wheat to increase environmental and economic benefits for local vegetable producers.

The institute collaborated with the University of British Columbia to research and field-test new low input and disease-resistant cereal grain varieties.

They held a series of demonstration trials to share findings with Delta farmers.

Dr. Art Bomke, a recently retired agrology professor who conducted much of the field-testing, is anticipating significant benefits for local farms and the environment.

“Using the new varieties we’ve researched,” Dr. Bomke predicts, “local farmers will be able to reduce their input costs for fertilizers and produce better yields, while at the same time contributing to crop and wildlife diversity.”

The demonstrations are already helping Delta farmers move towards more environmentally and economically sustainable practices. Just ask Ab Singh, an organic vegetable grower on Westham Island, who is experiencing the benefits of rotation firsthand.

“The variety trials showed me which specific grains would work best on my farm, and the yields have definitely been much higher than in previous years,” says Mr. Singh. “I also now have the option to use manure from year to year, so I’m saving a lot on fertilizer costs.”

Delta farmers like Mr. Singh also heard about fertilizer nutrient management practices that will improve the compatibility between agricultural practices and the environment and help them save money.

While the project focused on soil-based farmers on the Fraser delta, it is expected the research results will be applicable to similar farmers throughout the south coastal region.

Funding: $103,000 provided through former federal adaptation programming. (A0573)