High Legume Pastures featuring Mountainview Sainfoin

IMG_2006Back in January, Grant Lastikwa came to me with the idea of a trial to see how well the science saying that Sainfoin included within an Alfalfa stand could reduce the risk of bloat held up, and how the new variety would hold up in a real world setting under grazing conditions. Grant wondered if I thought it would be a good fit for ARECA to take a lead in the project and work with all the local Applied Research and Forage associations to make it happen. I thought it was a great idea and a great opportunity for our associations.
The project has been named the Higher Legume Pasture Project. It is a multi-pronged project, not only focusing on the actual trial, but including a lot of attention on extension, starting with trying to engage producers to start to look at legumes in a pasture more closely. This will be a shock to you I know, but outside of the associations, there are producers who do not use a lot of legumes in their pastures, and even sometimes (gulp) pay for nitrogen!
ARECA has been contracted to deliver the agronomy part of the project, and has subcontracted with all 9 of our member associations, along with one AOF association who is not part of ARECA, along with a forage association in the BC Peace region.This part of the project will focus on the plot work. We have a standard set of protocols for all 12 sites. They are a 10AC site, seeded to a 60% legume 40% grass stand. We chose this percentage as we felt it would be a realistic percentage producers would actually use. The legume portion is 65% Alfalfa and 35% Sainfoin. 11 of the sites were seeded this past spring, with the BC site being seeded this fall. So far, with some very timely rains, we are seeing good emergence in most of the stands, with weeds being a bit of a challenge to manage in most. Mowing is our weed control of choice as herbicide use is limited with a mixed stand.
The sites will be assessed this fall. Plant counts will be done, and touch-ups will be done if needed. The sites will be fenced, and will be grazed in 2017. We want to see if there are any incidence of bloat, how the Sainfoin will regrow and keep up with the alfalfa, and also if there are any unexpected observations.
There should be a big Thank you to all our subcontractor associations, along with our producer co-operators. Our co-operators are being compensated for all out of pocket costs for this trial, but there is still a sizeable contribution of their time and resources. The Applied Research and Forage associations are all contributing their time as In Kind. There was not enough funding available to compensate them for the work they needed to do, but they all saw enough value in the project for their members that they stepped up to the plate to make it happen anyway. We could not have done this without their efforts.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry is contracting directly with the associations for the extension portion of the project. There are field days all across the province this year using AF staff along with grazing mentors to talk about the “why” of using legumes, their benefits, and our reasons for using them. Next year there are plans to include the grazing portion of the trial into the extension program.
Mark your calendars for the events this year throughout the province.


Ian Murray