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Mixing Livestock into Organic Crop Rotations

03 February 2009
Manitoba Pork Council


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Manitoba Pork Council and Sask Pork

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MANITOBA, CANADA - Research being conducted at sites at Carman, Manitoba and Oxbow, Saskatchewan is examining the value of introducing livestock into organic cropping rotations.

According to Bruce Cochrane, researchers with the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences are about to kick-off a three year study which is examining the feasibility of grazing the green manures planted as part of organic cropping rotations to bring nitrogen into the system.

Agronomy professor Dr. Martin Entz says organic farmers regularly grow legume species, either by themselves or with grasses, as a green manure but the problem is that land is left out of commercial production for a whole season.

"We've done green manure work in the prairies for 60 years and at the University of Manitoba we've had a program running for the past ten to 12 years now.

"What's different about this project is we're going to be not only growing the green manures and working it into the ground or rolling it, we're actually going to also graze it.

"The idea is that the animals will benefit from some of the nutrients of those green manures and they will grow and farmers can make some income off that.

"We are also interested in finding out, if the animal utilizes some of that green manure plant, how much is left over for the next crop.

"We know the theory is that animals will send 70 to 80 percent of what they consume right out the back end and so can we have a win-win situation where we have some grazing and then the questions how much is left over for the next crop.

"Our hypothesis is that quite a bit of the nitrogen that is consumed by the animals will actually be returned to the land as urine and feces and so it could in fact be a win win situation."

Dr. Entz says, in year one, scientists will grow a variety of green manure crop combinations which will be grazed by sheep and, in year two, wheat will be grown on that land.

He says scientists will track the nitrogen through the system to find out how much was lost to the sheep and how much was returned to the soil.

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