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MFGA releases carbon position for Manitoba land

Manitoba's forages, grasslands and cover crops and the healthy soils they grow in is a sure thing for any made in Manitoba carbon plan according to Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association (MFGA). The MFGA fast-tracked the organization's carbon position and a suite of seven key recommendations out to leaders and decision-makers this week.  

MFGA's timing bodes well given last week's call by Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox for input into a Manitoba Climate and Green Plan for Manitobans to have their say on the carbon pricing plan being imposed by the federal government. The key takeaway point of the MFGA position is the MFGA's advocacy for the plants above the soil and the microbial activity below, looping forages, grasslands, cover crops and annual crops as positives on the carbon front. 

The MFGA recommends that the following needs should be addressed with regards to understanding and promoting carbon sequestration in grasslands, forages, cover crops and annual crops and the soils they grow in: 

1. As a producer-led group, MFGA should be involved in all policy and partnership discussions around carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services provided by well-managed forage and grasslands, cover crops and annual crop production. 

2. Soil carbon benchmarking and monitoring should be done across the Manitoba agricultural lands and the potential benefits of increased soil carbon on a landscape scale should be modelled. 

3. Research and testing for Manitoba producers needs to be conducted within Manitoba to quantify the amount of carbon sequestered across a variety of landscapes using forage and grasslands as well as cover crops and perennial stages in crop rotation. 

4. Reward or compensation should be provided for producers who are able to retain or restore forages and grasslands and/or manage their soils to store and sequester carbon via incentive programs such as Alternative Land Use Services. This also applies to any other ecosystem services (water retention, flood prevention, biodiversity, etc.) that forages, grasslands and soils provide to society from Manitoba's agricultural lands. 

5. The MFGA Aquanty Project Model for the Assiniboine River Basin should be used to run simulations for demonstrating the role that organic carbon stored under forages and grasslands plays in flood and drought mitigation. The MFGA Aquanty Project is on schedule for completion March 2018.

6. Rotational grazing, cover crops and zero-till farming practices for soil health should continue to be supported and promoted by government and industry. 

7. An emphasis needs to be placed, in policy and public communications, on the positive linkages of livestock production, well-managed grasslands and sustainably-managed crop lands to soil health, carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services.