Forage Restoration/Establishment Research Project

To establish 4 main forage applied research sites and up to 10 observation sites across Manitoba to showcase different restoration and establishment methods and different forage mixes. The 4 main sites will be managed in as scientifically sound manner as possible to permit collection of data with scientific merit. Each site will contain at least one 10 acre plot (some may have 2 or 3 plots depending on the management practices available to measure) and will showcase different forage restoration and/or establishment methods and forage mixes. Ten additional less intensive monitoring sites without exclosures (observation sites) will be developed to observe and measure additional management practices being conducted by Lake Manitoba area producers that may not be measured at the 4 main applied research sites.  These observation sites will require less MAFRI investment and limited samples will be collected.

The 4 main applied research sites will be located as follows:
•  on the northwest side of Lake MB (Crane River)
•  on the east side (the Narrows)
•  on the southwest side (Lakeview)
•  on the south side (Delta)

The intent is the applied research and observation sites will be one of many extension tools to assist farmers and ranchers with the establishment of forages on their farms.

Farmers and Ranchers experienced unprecedented flooding in 2011 across most of the agricultural areas of Manitoba. Areas that were hardest hit were areas surrounding Lake Manitoba, Assiniboine and Souris River watersheds, Lake Winnipeg and the Interlake.

Pastures and hay lands were underwater for an extended period of time, killing both tame and native legumes and grasses. In many circumstances particularly close to Lake Manitoba, fences, water systems and other infrastructure were also severely damaged or destroyed, requiring redesign and replacement. Further, several undesirable species such as bulrushes, foxtail barley, and toxic grasses such as Seaside Arrowgrass have since invaded once productive pasture and hay land and now exploration of best management practices for mitigation and/or control of such undesirable species is required.

The areas affected have a wide diversity of soil types and topography that often will not work well for conventional methods of reseeding. New and different ways will need to be tested and developed in these areas. There are many different methods and equipment that may work. All the technical aspects will need to be tested and shared amongst producers and ranchers. The extension and information sharing will be a very important element to the success of this program.

Area and Producers affected:
The 2006 census data (chart below) for Manitoba identifies the total forage acres at 7,100,204 acres. It assumes that 1/3rd of the “natural land” in the census is native hay 1,204,962 acres and the other 2/3rds 2,448,016 acres is native pasture. In the areas along Lake Manitoba, the ratio of native acres to tame acres is much higher.

2006 Census Data – Forage Acres
Rest of MB RMs Bordering Lake MB Grand Total
Native Hay

902,761

302,201

1,204,962

Native Pasture

1,830,462

617,554

2,448,016

Tame Hay

1,890,776

361,598

2,252,374

Tame Pasture

1,059,242

135,610

1,194,852

Grand Total

5,683,241

1,416,963

7,100,204

Lake Manitoba Estimate:
Forage Acres – The estimate is 75,000 acres native forages, and 45,000 acres of tame forages along the lake remains unproductive and in a slow recovery process, some requiring special restoration techniques.

Project activities:
Four main establishment sites will be identified throughout the province that will be representative of the soil types, topography and other features of the general area. The project coordinator will work closely with local MAFRI staff to identify the sites that will be contributed by local farmers.  The MFC will source and purchase seed and distribute to each site.

Treatments to be established at each site include one or more of the following:
•  Continuous vs. twice over grazing, including exclosures (rest/control areas)
•  Native hay vs. tame hay, including exclosure (½ native hay and ½ tame hay in each exclosure)
•  Control of bulrushes with burning vs. no control measures, including exclosure (½ over burn area, ½ no treatment)
•  Late season mob grazing vs. burning vs. cutting vs. no control measure
•  Late season mob grazing vs. regular rotational grazing
•  Synthetic fertilizer vs. manure vs. no manure application
•  Herbicide application (i.e. Puma, Ally on foxtail barley) vs. no herbicide application

Measurements to be collected at each site include:
•  Forage/weed species composition
•  % cover with species
•  Forage/weed yield
•  Soil sampling – nutrients and salinity
•  Forage nutrient analyses
•  Producer records
•  # head on each site
•  # days/rotation
•  Fertilizer applied or not, if so, how much was applied
•  Date started grazing on pasture, date cattle off pasture
•  Date hayed, etc.
•  Photo records – set up cameras in precise areas using GPS to accurately measure progress over the time span of the project

MAFRI specialists will assist with the selection of forages and forage mixes to be established at each site. Field days and tours will be organized to showcase the applied research sites. Farmers will contribute the machinery and labour to establish the site where available, otherwise equipment will be rented from local grazing clubs, RM’s, CD’s. All sites will be tested for soil fertility and salinity issues, and all forages collected from the sites will be analyzed for nutrient composition. The project will cover the seed, fertilizer, and some equipment costs, and MAFRI will assist in organizing the extension activities to showcase the site, including tours and various communication efforts.

Project Contact: Wanda McFadyen, MFGA, Executive Director
Ph: (204) 475-2241
Start Date: Project is ongoing
Completion Date: 2013
Funding Partners:  Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD), Growing Forward – Agri-Extension Business Program (AESB)
Project Results: 

Lake MB Forage Restoration Progress Report – November 2013