With 200 hectares of rich, river-bottom land deluged by the swollen Assiniboine River, staff at AAFC Brandon Research Centre have packed up their plots and headed for higher ground.
“A good number of research plots, in fact, almost all of them, will be relocated,” said Kather ine Buckley, act ing research manager of the experimental farm that lies just west of Brandon’s now evacuated Corral Centre business district along Grand Valley Road.
Scientists at the province’s hardest-hit research farm have had to be resourceful in making alternative arrangements.
The move was already outlined in a contingency plant for the operation, and land was rented in anticipation that the low-lying parts of the farm would be flooded out this spring, she added.
The new site for the barley research plots is located on a farm about four miles north of BRC, and a half section of land in the Justice area that has been used by researchers since 1999 will be used to conduct trials.
Seeding, spraying and field prep has already begun, she added.
“We anticipate buying some feed for the cattle at this point,” said Buckley. “I don’t know if anything will be salvaged from the land that we normally use for making silage.”
Pasture for the beef cattle research program is still available on higher ground, but grazing rotations might be tighter to get through the summer due to reduced acreage, she added.
Scott Day, a MAFRI diversification specialist who oversees the Western Agricultural Development Organization (WADO) research farm near Melita, said that two metres of water covering last year’s plots between the Souris River and the protective dike on the town’s south side.
With so much water on their traditional seeding area, last week WADO staff were mapping out some 2,000 plots on higher ground.
“We’ve moved everything over to a new site by the auction mart here in Melita,” he said. “It looks pretty good here actually.”
The new location is made up of lighter land than their formerly fecund river-bottom location, but at least it’s dry.
After the flood of 2009, WADO had moved its plots to a spot above that year’s high water mark, but even that measure was not enough this year.
With flows at Westhope and Minot, North Dakota, at all-time record highs, Melita residents were bracing themselves for a third or even fourth crest last week following dam releases upstream there and in Saskatchewan after heavy spring storms a couple of weeks ago.
Right now, the biggest concern for WADO staff is getting their plots in before it’s too late. Nevertheless, Day predicted “tons of incredible, amazing things” for visitors to this summer’s annual plot tour, such as experiments aimed at controlling cadmium uptake in flax, and more.
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– KATHERINE BUCKLEY