Saskatchewan-based project to map carbon sequestration of Prairie soils

Stock photo of forage research in Saskatchewan.

A five-year research project that will work to determine best-practices when it comes to carbon sequestration in perennial forage and pastures has received a $3.2 million grant from the government’s of Canada and Saskatchewan.

The project will focus on identifying carbon stocks within forage acres throughout Saskatchewan and then further decipher if certain farming practices positively or negatively affect those stocks. It is being led by Dr. Angela Bedard-Haughn, with the University of Saskatchewan, along with Dr. Cameron Carlyle of the University of Alberta. The research will be based in Saskatchewan.

Bedard-Haughn says at the end of the five years, they hope to have detailed maps that depict estimates of carbon stores within Saskatchewan’s pasture and rangelands.

“We’re going to be using predictive digital soil mapping approaches that combines some of our sensing techniques and machine learning approaches, along with infield sampling,” she explains. “And that infield sampling is really going to be looking at different management approaches that are being implemented by by producers and looking at the most typical suite of approaches and trying to understand which of these has advantages or disadvantages when it comes to the carbon stocks that are being sequestered therein.”

With the conclusion of the study, Bedard-Haughn says they hope to then translate the information into beneficial management practices, best management practices, recommendations, as well as possibly influencing some of the policy decisions that are in place.

She says Saskatchewan is an excellent cross-section of soil to conduct their testing on as very similar soil conditions can be found in Manitoba and Alberta, depending on what area of Saskatchewan is being tested. Because of the similarities, project leaders are confident the information gathered will be able to be mimicked across the western provinces as a whole.

The project stands to have a significant impact on the future of carbon sequestration as 80 per cent of all Canadian farmland is in the prairies and 30 per cent of that is under pasture forage.

Bedard-Haughn says the next, and first, step will be to start working with their already identified producer partners to start outlining what key management practices will be focused and also, the top priorities that will develop the sampling strategy.