By Graydon Garner, Ducks Unlimited Canada
Enrollment for the Marginal Areas Program (MAP) wrapped for the 2023 growing season with:
- 19 producers enrolled
- 660.9 acres of cropland converted to forages
- 775.8 acres of upland habitat retained under agreements
- 1,436.7 total program acres
We set out this year with a goal of reaching 1500 acres and missed it by the skin of our teeth. Although we fell short of our goal, we had a tough time with losing producers who decided not to seed because of the drought, or seeded and had a failed stand that are going to try again next year. There’s not much we can do about the lack of moisture, and I’ve learned in the ag industry that you need to learn to live with drought because it’s a reality.
Graydon (left) presenting landowner Kirk Deeg with a Yeti cooler. The cooler was part of a Facebook promotion for the program.
A nice win for this year was the number of producers enrolled, with the previous year only being at 8. We also saw an expansion in the areas of the province where we delivered ranging from Hairy Hill to Foremost.
Going into the 2024 growing season, I remain hesitant to set very lofty goals. If we get lucky and run into a (much needed) wet spring, I think it will be a bonanza of producers enrolling in the program, as the risk of a forage stand failure will be greatly reduced. We have approximately 800 acres that producers decided not to seed due to drought this year, on top of approximately 400 acres of intended seeding from new producers who have contacted me this winter. A wet spring could bring all of those acres on top of new projects yet to be flushed out and we may crack the 2000 ac mark.
However, most forecasters in their infinite wisdom are calling for another year of drought. As much as we’re in a cold snap as I’m writing this, the snowpack is critically low and it’s going to take a heck of a lot more snow and a big spring of rain to bring soil moisture back up to levels we’re used to. If it’s very dry in May as it was last year, I’m not sure how many producers are going to take the leap of faith and try to seed forages down. The only saving grace may be the fact that due to drought, record high input costs, and falling grain prices, producers may just say ‘enough is enough’ of trying to farm marginal acres and enroll in the program regardless of moisture.
Our plan moving forward this year is to expect a drought but hope for rain. I’m already on the offensive with MAP marketing, with plans to promote the program at events on a weekly basis until April. I’m already gaining some traction with irrigated farmers in the south/southeast part of the province, and that’s a trend I’m hoping will continue. It’s a great program that makes sense to a large percentage of producers, so now it’s time to put our farmer hats on and pray for moisture.
Photos by Graydon Garner
As a partner of MAP in Alberta, Pheasants Forever Canada (PFC) will help DUC provide farmers with a financial solution to areas of unproductive land. MAP offers an incentive of $125/acre to producers who plant perennial cover in marginal areas of annual cropland.
Pheasants Forever’s investment will help boost this incentive offer to producers and expand awareness of Pheasants Forever and our Save the Edges campaign in Alberta.
Increasing perennial cover on the landscape benefits upland game birds such as grey partridge, pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse. Perennial cover also benefits biodiversity, beneficial insects, waterfowl and other wildlife species. Environmental benefits also include carbon sequestration and improving soil and water quality.
MAP will provide establishment advice and a bonus pollinator-friendly seed pack. The Pollinator Powerpack is a blend of insect-friendly flowering forage species.
MAP is a unique offer for Alberta growers to increase the profitability of marginal areas which are becoming easier to delineate through precision farming technology.
In addition to the incentive and pollinator bonus, MAP also offers access to Echelon from Nutrien Ag Solutions. Echelon’s crop advisors work with producers to create a precise picture of their fields, giving them the confidence to make better decisions in both planning and execution.
Thanks to our supporters, Pheasants Forever Canada is able to invest in Ducks Unlimited Canada’s (DUC) Marginal Areas Program (MAP).