There is a buzz at Northwestern Polytechnic after the school was awarded a $1 million grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada to support regenerative agriculture over the next five years. The applied research project will be led by staff at the National Bee Diagnostic Centre in Beaverlodge.
The focus will be on improving soil health while remaining profitable and creating a network to connect growers in the Peace Region. Grande Prairie – Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin says the concept of applied research is nothing new to farmers in the Peace Country, but this will formalize how what’s learned is shared.
“Applied research is maybe just a new name to trial and error and what is important is that the information that one farmer discovers is then shared with others. That’s what has happened just organically through the decades with farmers sharing with other farmers.”
The practice of regenerative agriculture largely includes reduced tillage, rotational grazing, and cover cropping, which can improve production, biodiversity, and adaptability to climate change. A research team led by Dr. Gail MacInnis and Patricia Wolf Veiga will develop a regenerative agriculture research and education program to boost sustainable production on northern farms.
Dean of Applied Science and Technology Andrew Dunlop adds the funding will go a long way in allowing for other ongoing projects to continue or be modified and expanded. He says grants like this help create more education and awareness of how important the agriculture sector is in the Grande Prairie area.
“I think it affirms the importance of agriculture. It’s not just a sideline as some people think; it’s a core sector of what we do economically. We are very innovative… we’re some of the most innovative producers here in the region as anywhere in the country. Sometimes agriculture is something people are aware of but don’t quite think about, but I think it’s good to remind everyone in the region how important it is for us here.”
The project will involve collaboration with several regional and national organizations in the Peace Country and elsewhere in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Quebec.