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TopForage and Livestock eNews
Updates and information from across the industry 
March 27, 2009 - Vol 1, Issue 6
Articles In This Issue
Ecological Goods & Services: What's the Fuss About?
Spotlight on Our Sponsors: Pickseed Talks About Alfalfa Winterkill
Alberta Forage Industry Network: A United Voice for Forages in Alberta
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Dear Leanne

New CalfSpring has sprung - according to the calendar anyhow!  I did see a robin in my yard this week, so hopefully his arrival can be taken as a sign of better weather to come.  Although green grass is several weeks away, the busy spring work season will likely be here before we know it.  In this issue of the Forage and Livestock eNews you will find an article on the recent discussions surrounding  ecological goods and services, an article on alfalfa winterkill and information on a newly formed forage network group in Alberta.        
As always, feel free to share this publication with anyone you think may be interested, or encourage them to join our mailing list. 
Please contact us if you have comments or questions about our e-newsletter.  Also, let us know if you have ideas for upcoming issues.  We welcome your input!
Ecological Goods & Services: What's the Fuss About? 

Over the past number of years, Ecological Goods and Services (EG&S) has emerged as a Watershedterm to describe the vast number of ecosystem services that arise from well managed landscapes.  Some examples of EG&S include wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge, erosion control, carbon sequestration, biodiversity and air and water purification.  These important services benefit us all.

Land managers are tasked with the difficult decisions that surround land use.  As the cost of providing EG&S is currently borne by producers and the market signals that producers receive are largely based on productivity, land managers are often placed in a difficult position - preserve EG&S at a cost to their business, or remain profitable at the expense of EG&S?  Many groups agree that it is time to look at ways to compensate producers to restore and preserve EG&S across the Canadian landscape.

A recent symposium on Ecological Goods and Services(EG&S) held in Regina March 25 and 26 brought together producer groups, conservation groups, government agencies and members of various interest groups to look at solutions to the profit versus EG&S conundrum.  Participants heard about the current state of EG&S program development across Canada and globally and engaged in discussion regarding policy and program development.  Speakers included various experts in the field and groups that have worked on EG&S pilot projects.

There was considerable discussion surrounding the development of EG&S policy and the logistics of determining how, who and what to compensate for.  Various pilot projects have taken place across Canada as a way of addressing these issues and seem to suggest that EG&S programs can be an effective way to conserve and restore ecosystem services.  Recommendations from these projects pointed to the importance of determining fair values for EG&S, ensuring that programs are adaptable to regional conditions, ensuring that services are measurable and auditable, and the importance of both producer and public buy-in.

It will remain to be seen if EG&S programs are adopted in Saskatchewan, but from the discussion at this symposium it appears that other provinces are moving in that direction.  For that reason, expect to see more about EG&S in the future!
Spotlight on Our Sponsors:
Pickseed Talks About Alfalfa Winterkill
As a frequent feature in the Forage and Livestock eNews, "Spotlight on Our Sponsors" will highlight information provided by a Saskatchewan Forage Council sponsor.  The Saskatchewan Forage Council acknowledges the support of our sponsors, without whom publications such as this e-newsletter, would not be possible!
One crucial fact about alfalfa is that it will tolerate temperatures as low as -12C.  Once below this temperature, water left within the alfalfa taproot cells will freeze and form ice crystals that may puncture the cell membranes.  When the alfalfa roots thaw, the plant dies because water and cell contents leak from damaged cells.  Generally freezing rain and thawing in late winter can be particularly lethal to alfalfa.
When looking at factors that affect alfalfa winterkill consider snow cover and ice sheeting.  Temperature fluctuations and risk of heaving occur much less under snow cover, resulting in less freezing damage to cells and fewer plant deaths.  Snow cover insulates the soil and also reduces winter injury to alfalfa crowns.
Ice sheeting is one of the more risky factors affecting alfalfa winterkill.  In the winter or early spring, rainfall or the fast melting of snow followed by cold temperatures can result in ice sheeting that smothers alfalfa stands.  Ice sheeting also freezes alfalfa due to the poor insulating property of ice.
Winterkill should be assessed in the spring when the alfalfa breaks dormancy.  At this time, alfalfa roots that are dead or injured will show signs of root discoloration (brown) and rot.  Slow and uneven growth of the alfalfa plant is a sign of winter injury as well.
Improving winter injured stands can include seeding more alfalfa into the stand if the alfalfa was planted the year before.  For older stands, seeding a grass and/or another legume is recommended over existing alfalfa.  This is because well-established alfalfa plants release a compound that is toxic to new alfalfa seedlings. 
The best option to help reduce the chance of winterkill is to select a variety of alfalfa that has been tested in Western Canada for persistence and winter survival.
For more information contact: 
                                           Terry ScottPickseed logo
  Director of Western Sales
  Phone (204) 633-0088
Alberta Forage Industry Network: A United Voice for Forages in Alberta
Commonalities certainly exist between the forage industry industry in Saskatchewan and in other provinces.  For example, the project being lead by the Saskatchewan Forage Council to assess the value of the forage industry in the province is being looked at by neighbour Alberta.  In Saskatchewan this project is being conducted to highlight the impact of forages on the economy as well as look at opportunities for growth and development of this diverse industry.  The newly formed Alberta Forage Industry Network (AFIN) has expressed interest in conducting a similar project to value the forage industry in that province.
As in Saskatchewan, gaps in forage industry representation in Alberta had some concerned about the ability of the industry to move forward and flourish in changing times.  A stakeholder meeting was held in November of 2007 to discuss the potential of a forage network in Alberta.  At this meeting it was decided to go ahead with a phase one project to gauge interest and potential involvement in such a group.  After more than a year of meeting with key forage industry stakeholders and collaborating with producers, the Alberta Forage Industry Network (AFIN) has now been established to represent the estimated 30, 000 individuals involved with forages in Alberta. 
The goal of the AFIN is to bring issues of importance regarding economic and environmental impact on forages to the attention of funding bodies and policy makers throughout the province.  During its inaugural Annual General Meeting in February 2009, stakeholders gathered to discuss topics of concern to the industry and to elect the network's first board of directors.  Leading the team as chair is Doug Wray, a rancher from southern Alberta who has long been behind the charge to give forages the profile he feels they need and deserve. 
"The forage industry has a significant impact on the economy in Alberta.  Forage producers in this province manage more than eleven million hectares of land in forage, managed range and bush," said Wray.  "It is our goal to bring together representatives from across a very diverse industry, and create awareness of the importance of forages for producers and consumers alike."

The recently launched website www.albertaforages.ca will be the hub for AFIN members and is a development priority for the group.  The website will include information on forage news and events, will host a discussion board that gives members an opportunity to discuss and collaborate on emerging issues, and will provide links to organizations providing leading-edge forage research and extension.  Membership in AFIN is open to anyone involved in forages - producers, industry representatives, post-secondary institutions and local agricultural/forage associations.

"By coming together under one banner, we can elevate the profile of forages in Alberta and bring attention to the need for expanded research and extension," said Wray.  "It is time for the forage industry to be heard."

Many of the comments and concerns brought forward by the AFIN have been heard in the Saskatchewan forage industry as well.  There will likely be opportunity in the future for groups on both sides of the border to work together on the common goal of advancement of this industry.

Congratulations to the AFIN on formation of this important group and good luck in your future efforts!

For more information on the AFIN, visit their website or contact:

Doug Wray                or                 Grant Lastiwka
Chair                                             Forage Program Manager
Alberta Forage Industry Network      Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta
Ph: (403) 935-4642                         Ph: (403) 227-6392
dlwray@hotmail.com                      lastiwka@areca.ab.ca

Alfalfa mix field

Leanne Thompson - Editor
Forage and Livestock eNews
Forage and Livestock eNews is published by the Saskatchewan Forage Council (SFC).  Opinions
and information are provided by the authors and publication does not imply endorsement by the SFC.
The Saskatchewan Forage Council recognizes the support of our Annual Sponsors: 

     Ducks Unlimited Logo                  Friendly Acres logo           DOW AgroSciences logo

Proven Seed/Viterra logoProven Seed/Viterra logo     SeCan logo    Sask Crop Insurance logo
 BrettYoung logo                   Pioneer logo           Northstar Seed logo        
SWA logo         Encana logo          Pickseed logo
Financial support for this project has been provided by:
the Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan through the Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food
Saskatchewan (ACAAFS) program.  Funding for the ACAAFS program is provided by Agriculture and
Agri-Food Canada

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