GHGMP News Releases

Compost and direct seeding are focus of Olds field day

Calgary, Alta, July 13, 2005

Producers are invited to a field day in Olds, Alberta in early August for a first-hand look at how manure composting and direct seeding techniques can be used to improve both cereal and forage crop production systems, while reducing greenhouse gases.

The half-day tour on August 3 is organized by the Olds College School of Innovation, with support from both the soil and beef sectors of the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP). The field day, which runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Olds College campus, is free and includes lunch.

Part of the program will include a look at a manure composting project launched by Dr. Abimbola Abiola at the Compost Technology Centre in 2004, as well as follow-up application of compost on both pasture and annual cropland last fall and in early 2005.

"Producers will see demonstration plots of pasture that received broadcast-applied compost, as well as plots where compost was incorporated into the soil before barley was seeded," explains Tanya McDonald, research technician. "Producers will also see side-by-side plots comparing barley and forage crops performance with compost versus commercial fertilizer." Yield data will be collected later this year.

A unique aspect of the composting project involved the addition of volcanic minerals - zeolite and perlite - to some of the compost materials, to help reduce manure odours and minimize production of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. The minerals known as aluminum silicates are used in other applications to filter and absorb gases.

Field day participants will also have a look at three direct seeding demonstrations, explains Rick Taillieu, an agronomist with Alberta Reduce Tillage Linkages (RTL) in Camrose.

The demonstrations include various seeding rates of direct-seeded wheat, direct seeding of oats for swath grazing into pasture sod, and a comparison of dire-seeded annual silage crops such as barley, with a dire-seeded perennial rye for cereal silage.

"Our goal is to demonstrate ways to reduce our overall amount and intensity of tillage through the use of perennial forages and low disturbance seeding systems," says Taillieu.

Anyone interested in attending the field day should RSVP to Kelly at (403) 556-4683 to facilitate planning for transportation and meals.

Along with providing improved production information, the field day will emphasize how the demonstrated farming practices help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Methane and nitrous oxide are two of the greenhouse gases that can be produced in significant amounts during manure storage and treatment. Both gases are more potent than carbon dioxide. The sequestering ability of aluminum silicates may reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions, while later releasing the sequestered ions for use as plant nutrients when the compost is applied to the field. Properly managed aerobic composting of cattle manure was found to produce minimal greenhouse gas emissions, whether amended with aluminum silicates or not.

Increased production of forages and reducing tillage operations also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The techniques, which eliminate or reduce tillage in crop production, play a dual role in capturing and storing carbon in the soil. First, plants such as grain, oilseeds, corn and forage crops take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and through photosynthesis, grow plant biomass.

Second, the absence of tillage slows the breakdown of plant material both on the soil surface and in the root zone, therefore slowing the release of carbon back into the atmosphere. Thus, more of the carbon initially taken from the atmosphere is stored or sequestered in the soil, while also building up soil organic matter.

The GHGMP is a federal government initiative launched in 2003 aimed at demonstrating a wide range of production practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The cattle sector of the GHGMP program is administered by the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA), while the soils component is administered by Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC). More information on their GHGMP demonstration projects can be found at their respective Web sites: for the CCA projects, and for the SCCC projects.

For more information, contact:

Tanya McDonald
Olds College School of Innovation
Olds, Alta.
Phone: (403) 507-7973

Rick Taillieu
RT Linkages
Camrose, Alberta
Phone (780) 679-5174
Pat Walker,
GHGMP Beef Project Co-ordinator
Calgary, Alta.
Phone: (403) 601-8991

Doug McKell,
Executive Director,
Soil Conservation Council of Canada
Indian Head, Sask.
Phone: (306) 695-4212