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Alberta Soil Benchmark Project

In southern Alberta, contact: Trevor Deering

There is an undeniable benefit to an Alberta soil benchmark project that begins monitoring soil health in Alberta and the mechanisms that ensure it stays healthy and productive.

Chinook Applied Research Association (CARA) Soil Health Lab, under the direction of Dr. Yamily Zavala, provides a unique service that evaluates soil health. CARA launched the soil benchmark project in 2018 to take advantage of her expertise to develop a biological and physical baseline for soils in Alberta. It will provide a framework that defines strategies for managing and improving the productive capacity and sustainability of our soils.

soil microbes
There is an entire ecosystem in our soils.

A diverse micro-biological underground community contributes to overall healthier soil, including improved carbon sequestration. Improved aggregation stability will also contribute to enhanced carbon levels in the soil.  Healthy soils produce healthy plants resulting in a higher quality food product. 

Often, the agriculture community looks at soil fertility more often than its physical and biological properties. It has more experience and knowledge on how to measure chemical components in soil, such as nitrogen, than it does soil biology. Nor has the community paid much attention to soil’s physical properties and how that may change under various management practices.

Some US laboratories recently began evaluating biological soil characteristics and even more recently eastern Canada. Dr. Yamily wants to put this type of soil analysis to use on Alberta soils.

To this end, CARA began a project in 2018 to benchmark Alberta soils and Farming Smarter joined the project to bring southern Alberta soils to the project. The project runs until 2022 and a final report isn’t likely before spring 2023.

Here are the three main objectives of this project

  1. Improve the understanding of soil health parameters among Alberta producers.
  2. Establish soil health benchmarks by quantifying the level of various soil health parameters at 200 sites across Alberta which encompass a broad range of soil types and management systems.
  3. Monitor how management practices affect soil health parameters during a 3-year time frame.

Keep up to date on this project here